The Western Desert Alliance

 

In 1978 the ring road connecting the four major oases of the Western Desert to the Nile Valley was completed. The required infrastructure was then put in place. Now, twenty-five years later, the desert needs help. A number of interested parties, from tourist operators to agriculturalists and antiquities authorities to environmentalists, have devised plans for the desert. These plans often conflict, are sometimes harmful to the environment, and most often neglect the indigenous people. There is no overall, cohesive plan; this is where the Western Desert Alliance comes in. The focus of the organisation is to bring together and facilitate the plans for desert development, while keeping restrictions at the minimum and the environment intact. Its further mandate is to keep the public informed and promote awareness of the desert, its peoples, its natural world, its antiquities, and its needs.


Long Term Goals of the Western Desert Coalition


Goal 1

To facilitate, mediate, assist and create a forum for various desert organisations, groups, and individuals, to discuss, plan, and implement sound policy and clear, cohesive plans for the desert development and continuity. Objective: To hold a conference of desert peoples to discuss their mandate, their history, their successes, their problems, their services. Objective: To apply for and assist or supervise others in applying for grants that serve the interests of the desert. Objective: To not duplicate projects but to go to people who are already involved with projects and join forces.

Goal 2

To inform and promote the desert and its needs Objective: To consult with and involve the indigenous communities, keep them informed of activities in their desert and let their voices be heard. Objective: To promote desert awareness (its peoples, its natural world, its antiquities, and its needs) via the media, a newsletter, a library, speaking engagements, etc. Objective: Set up and maintain a system for educating the public about the desert, providing information about various desert activities and projects to both local inhabitants and visitors.

Goal 3

To keep things simple

Goal 4

To do all of this while focusing on the fragile and dynamic desert environment and its needs. Objective: To facilitate studies of various kinds related to flora and fauna, ecosystems, etc. Objective: To facilitate expeditions to various parts of the desert to study the environment and historical needs.


Economic Projects of the Western Desert Coalition


Organiser

To help the various desert-orientated businesses and organisations form alliances of their own and devise simple, easy, non-invasive plans, i.e. a hotel coalition, a travel coalition, a nature coalition.

Folk Art

To work with existing organisations and establish new ones to re-establish desert folk art traditions in such skills as: basketry, cookery, weaving, rug making, sewing and designing clothing, jewellery making, pottery, painting and other arts and crafts. To coordinate between the artists and desert and Nile Valley outlets.

Artists

To work with local and national artists to develop skills and create exhibitions dealing with the desert and desert themes.

Desert Travel

To work with tour-guides to help them provide accurate information about the desert to tourists, and assist them in purchasing the correct equipment and advise them on desert safety.

Start-up Grants

These will be small grants (L.E. 1,000 to 1,500), granted to individuals to help them set-up a small business or to purchase equipment for an existing small business. There will be a determined number of them given in each oasis every 6 months, as long as funding is available. These grants could be for a new sewing machine required by a desert tailor, cash to buy a donkey, or seed to sew, a new tool for a farmer, purchase land for a new desert museum, art supplies for a desert artist.

Artist Project

To establish at least one artists’ colony in one of the abandoned villages in the oases. This would be rented out for a small fee and provide housing, atelier, coffeeshop, and exhibition space.

Organised Special Desert Trips

Small trips using member tour companies, to see ‘the Geology of the Faiyum’ or ‘the flora and fauna of Bahariya Oasis’.


Environmental Projects of the Western Desert Coalition


Service State and National Parks

To help establish protected areas in the desert that do not infringe on the rights of the people of the desert, nor on the development of the desert, and do not require too many restrictions.

Ancient Sites, Monuments and Artefacts

To help protect and preserve the sites, monuments and artefacts in the desert by assessing their needs and formulating plans to deal with such requirements. Assess and learn the best ways of protecting the rock art of the desert. Help promote archaeological desert sites for survey and excavation. Finance guards for remote areas.

Volunteer Desert Watch

Set up and monitor a network of volunteers, probably tour operators, to monitor endangered or vulnerable sites in the desert. Catalogue and report information to responsible agencies.

The Desert Fox Volunteer Clean-up

Once a year sponsor a desert-wide clean-up with local, national, and international volunteers. This project has already been initiated.

Activities Friends of the Desert

To establish a Friends of the Desert organisation throughout Egypt where people can volunteer to bring their expertise to the desert to help it make the transition it is currently undergoing, i.e. town planners can volunteer time to help communities like Bawiti grow.

Environmental Project

To perform at least one environmental project a year related to the desert’s needs, i.e. pilfering of artefacts, such as fossils and Prehistoric lithic tools, which is a major problem in the desert. Set aside an area in an Oasis, such as the Faiyum, seed the area with fossils and lithic tools (perhaps replicas), and allow tourists and fossil collectors to conduct hunts, for a set fee. Participants will return the seeded replica fossils and stone tools they have collected to a small museum where they will learn about the material they have collected, see the original fossil or stone tool, and have the opportunity to buy a reproduction tool or fossil. This same kind of project can be done with rock and desert flora and fauna.


Information and Research Projects of the Western desert Coalition


Dissemination of Information

Establish and maintain a system for education, disseminate information about various desert activities and projects to both local inhabitants and visitors.

Establish a Desert library

Set-up and maintain a desert library, housing information and books about the desert to aid scholars. To also act as a depository for published and non-published materials, old maps and new maps, etc, on all aspects of the desert, from arid lands to history to ethnography. This will be open to anyone, without affiliation.

Maintain an Internet Presence

Build and maintain a desert website with information about all aspects of the desert including tourism, scholarships, environment, etc. To make web links to Western Desert information from around the world.

Independence Projects

In each of the desert oasis the Western Desert Coalition office will have a special long-term project to implement. For example in Bahariya Oasis the purchase, restoration and use of a deserted village.

Oral History Project

To work with established institutions to begin to collect oral histories about, families, communities, events in the desert.

International Contacts

To establish international contacts with desert organisations to share information and facilitate an exchange programme, i.e. rock art organisations in the American Southwest.


Services of the Western Desert Coalition


Scholarship

To act as a viaduct between scholars and the community.

Contact

Cassandra Vivien at cass@telerama.com




 

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