Situated along the coast of the Mediterranean, Alamein is one of Egypt’s most breathtaking locations, and also one of its most dangerous.
Today, a convoy of UN representatives, diplomats, government officials and NGO workers made its way to the desert of Alamein, on the north western coast of Egypt. The trek will mark the United Nations’ International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed annually on 4 April. Members of today’s procession were scheduled to visit minefields and attend conferences held by military officials to discuss efforts to clear Alamein of mines.
In 1942, the barren landscape was heavily scarred by the two Battles of Alamein, which saw Rommel’s Panzer army crushed by the Allied forces. The celebrated battles may have been a turning point in the Second World War, but they were also the origin of a further history of violence that continues to unfold nearly seven decades later.
To this day, Alamein remains filled with landmines, scattered haphazardly by the dueling field marshals to compensate for the flat, exposed topography of the battlefield. Shifting sand dunes have since made it virtually impossible to locate remaining mines–estimated to be in the millions–even with the help of the wartime maps and charts according to which they were laid out.
Today, the uncovering of mines is mostly down to the Bedouins of the area, who, due to their nomadic lifestyle, often stumble upon the hidden detonators–with frequently tragic results.
The remaining landmines also represent a substantial obstacle to any further development of the region, which has the potential to grow into one of Egypt’s premier tourist destinations.
Furthermore, the area is said to contain a wealth of natural resources–currently inaccessible due to the mines littering the desert sands.
Activities for the UN’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action are also scheduled in a further 29 countries affected by the presence of landmines.