Prince Kemal El Din monument

  • László Almásy, Récentes Explorations dans le Desert Libyque, Cairo, 1936

Prince Kemal el Din Hussein could have become the king of Egypt, but he declined the throne in favor of living his own life, exploring the desert. He pioneered the use of motor vehicles for desert exploration. With his special purpose built Citroen half-tracks he criscrossed the vast unknown expanses, first in pursuit of new hunting grounds, but eventually for the sheer pleasure of exporing the unknown. He re-discovered Rohlf's cairn at Regenfeld with the document left by the German explorers, and only two years after Hassanein, drove his cars till Jebel Uweinat. A year later, in 1926 while on a second trip to Uweinat, he discovered a vast plateau to the north of the mountain that he named "Gilf Kebir", the Great Wall, on account of the wall like cliffs bordering it's eastern flanks.

Following Almásy's 1932 expedition with Robert Clayton to the Western Gilf, Almásy was introduced to the Prince by Ahmed Hassanein Bey. The Prince offered to finance Almásy's further explorations in search of the mythical Zarzura oasis. However just a few months later the prince died, and Almásy was left once more without patron and financer. With much difficulty he did manage to pull together support for a further expedition for the spring of 1933, during the course of which he erected a marble tablet at the southern tip of the Gilf Kebir in honour of his dead patron.

We have managed to relocate the monument, some 3 kms from the point marked on the Survey of Egypt map on the November 1998 expedition.

The tablet reads:

"In the memory of His Royal Highness Prince Kemal el Din Hussein, the great explorer of the Libyan Desert. This monument was erected by some who appreciate his great efforts"

The first known post-war party to visit the monument was apparently an Austrian group, on the 22nd September, 1982. They found the tablet fallen from the rock on which it was originally placed, and broken into several pieces. Hidden inside the rock there was a chocolate tin containing a note in Arabic, and a flag of the Royal Automobile Club d'Egypte. The note dated 28th March 1934 was left by the 1934 spring Almásy expedition. The Austrian party built the cairn on the rock pedestal that can be seen to this day, to aid future finding. In 1998 we have found the chocolate tin with many recent notes, but the original note and the flag was gone. On our last visit in 2002 spring, the tin itself was missing...

Photos courtesy Friedrich Brimmer

The note reads:

Visit Memento

On 28th March, 1934, the El-Ahram Newspaper and the Royal Automobile Club expedition visited the commemorative inscription, located at the eastern edge of the El-Gilf El-Kebir, of Prince Kamal El-Din Hussein, God rest his soul, the most important Libyan Desert pioneer and the discoverer of the El-Gif El-Kebir.

Expedition Members:

Henrich Hiller Hassan Sobkhy L. Almasy

Many thanks to Ahmed Badr for the translation !