The Libyan Desert > Rock Art > Wadi Sora


Wadi Sora
The real "Cave of Swimmers"



Almásy at Wadi Sora in 1934.

Wadi Sora is located in south-western Egypt, along the western edge of the Gilf Kebir plateau. It's not really a wadi, just a sheltered inlet among a couple of detached outliers of the main plateau. The main painted caves were discovered by Almásy in October 1933 during the Frobenius expedition. They contain the little ‘swimmer’ like figures which inspired the fictious cave of swimmers in the movie ‘The English Patient’.

In fact, at Wadi Sora there are five rock art sites, two outside, and three inside the main valley. At an isolated outlier 3 km to the west of the main caves, there is the ‘Giraffe cave’ discovered by P.A. Clayton in 1931, with engravings of giraffes. On the other side of the same rock, Almásy discovered in April 1933 another set of engravings and paintings of giraffes and possibly lions (?). (Sites A & B in Rhotert’s ‘Lybische Felsbilder’)

The two main caves (really hollows at the base of the cliff) lie at the right entrance of the inlet, no more than 50 m from the outer cliff face, at the base of a spur of the main plateau. One (Cave C) is substantially larger, and contains most of the paintings in several groups, including the famous swimmers, plus a hoard of other miniature figures. The smaller cave, 15 m to the right (Cave D) contains a single scene, probably more recent, of cattle, female figures and a group of archers, in a very artistic abstract style. There is a small watercourse in front of the main caves, which can be followed for some distance into the cliffs, ending in a very scenic ravine. About 800 m north from the main caves, there is a solitary rock on the valley floor, with a small underhang. In this shelter there are a few very faded paintings and engravings of humans and giraffes (Cave F).

Please click here for detailed photo galleries of each site:

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Fliegel Jezerniczky Expeditions 1999-2002
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