Djibouti’s hidden rock art offers window to the past

Djibouti’s hidden rock art offers window to the past
These masterful works, etched onto stone in northern Djibouti, are among the most important examples of rock art in the Horn of Africa. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 August 2021

Djibouti’s hidden rock art offers window to the past

Djibouti’s hidden rock art offers window to the past
  • The Horn of Africa is a region rich in archaeological heritage and known as the birthplace of humanity
  • Africa boasts a wealth of archaeological sites, but few, especially rock art, have been fully studied

ABOURMA: From a distance, the black cliffs appear featureless, scorched by a blazing desert sun. But up close, the basalt reveals engravings of giraffe, ostrich and antelope made 7,000 years ago.

These masterful works, etched onto stone in northern Djibouti, are among the most important examples of rock art in the Horn of Africa, a region rich in archaeological heritage and the birthplace of humanity.

Stretching three kilometers (almost two miles), some 900 panels at Abourma depict in wonderful relief prehistoric life in these parts, dramatic scenes of early man confronting wildlife, and droving cows.

But these centuries-old images, rendered by flint onto igneous rock, also offer a valuable record of a bygone era — and a land drastically reshaped by millennia of climate change.

The wildlife illustrated are still found today on Africa’s plains and grasslands, but not in Djibouti, a harsh desert landscape where water and greenery have been scarce for thousands of years.

“Today, Abourma is something of a cemetery because we don’t have these animals here anymore. At the time, they roamed here because Djibouti was covered in forest,” said Omar Mohamed Kamil, a young tour guide who takes visitors to Abourma.

“In Abourma... we are a little removed from civilization. We are in the prehistory, we are living in prehistory.”

This treasure trove lies a six-hour drive away from the capital, Djibouti City, then a further one hour on foot over a craggy expanse of boulders.

It would be all-but impossible to find were it not for Ibrahim Dabale Loubak, a camel breeder and Abourma’s custodian, who claims to “know every stone, every nook and cranny” of this rocky massif.

The 41-year-old is from the Afar community, a historically nomadic people who wandered the arid fringes of Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and have known about the carvings for generations.

“Our grandfathers told our fathers and then our fathers told it to us,” said Loubak, a traditional turban and cloth skirt cladding his slim figure.

Despite this local wisdom — and roughly 70 centuries of existence — Abourma was not visited by archaeologists until 2005.

It was Loubak who guided the first French team to the site, trailed by a caravan of camels bringing food, sleeping quarters, and other essential equipment including a generator for the remote investigation.

Archaeologist Benoit Poisblaud, who was part of the team, still evokes with wonder the “extraordinary site,” not found anywhere else in the region that he studied as a 25-year-old researcher.

“Abourma is a continuity, over several millennia, of passages, engravings, made by very different people: hunters, pastoralists, and those after... Thousands upon thousands of representations,” he said.

The oldest carvings predate the birth of Christ by 5,000 years, while newer examples were painted around two millenia ago, he said.

Africa boasts a wealth of archaeological sites, but few, especially rock art, have been fully studied, said Emmanuel Ndiema, head of archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.

“Up to now, as we speak, we still get reports about sites here in Kenya, not even elsewhere,” he said, estimating that just 10-20 percent of archaeological troves in sub-Saharan Africa had been properly researched.

This risks the universal value and preservation of these finds, experts say, which if nurtured could in time attract tourists and history buffs, generating much-needed government revenue.

However, greater visibility comes with its own potential cost for heritage.

Abourma, for example, receives so few visitors there are no fences, barricades or rules or any kind for those who make the journey to this vast, hidden-away expanse.

Loubak, however, is not too worried about threats to these millennia-old artworks, with eyes everywhere reporting the slightest disturbances or outsider presence.

“Nobody can come here without my knowledge,” he said.


Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife

Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife
Updated 01 December 2021

Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife

Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife
  • The imitation includes the real monument's large dome, intricate minarets and even some of its artwork
  • The replica took three years to build

NEW DELHI: An Indian man has built a one-third sized replica of the historic Taj Mahal for his wife, but unlike the original, it’s their residence, not a mausoleum.
Constructed with white marble from the same city in Rajasthan state that provided the Taj Mahal’s stone, the imitation includes the real monument’s large dome, intricate minarets and even some of its artwork.
The famed 17th century Taj Mahal, often called a monument to love, was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the northern Indian city of Agra in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz.
She died in Burhanpur, the site of the newly built replica, while giving birth to their fourteenth child.
Her body was temporarily buried in the city and later exhumed and taken to Agra, according to Anand Prakash Chouksey, 52, who built the replica.
“I jokingly told my wife, if you pass over, then I will build a Taj Mahal,” said Chouksey, 52, a hospital owner who lives in Burhanpur. “She obviously refused and said she doesn’t want to die. Then I said, not a problem, I will make a Taj Mahal you can live in.”
The replica took three years to build and artisans from Agra were hired to recreate the artwork on the marble.
Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built between 1632 and 1654 after Mumtaz died. The complex houses both of their graves and a mosque, as well as several graves of lesser Mogul royalty.
The monument, acclaimed for its delicate lattice work, is India’s biggest tourist draw, attracting millions of visitors every year. The tourists keep hundreds of thousands employed and Agra’s economy moving.


New Zealand politician cycles to hospital in labor, gives birth

Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 November 2021

New Zealand politician cycles to hospital in labor, gives birth

Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
  • Amazingly now we have a healthy, happy little one sleeping, as is her dad,” said Genter, a dual New Zealand-US citizen who was born in Minnesota and moved to the Pacific country in 2006

MELBOURNE: New Zealand Member of Parliament Julie Anne Genter got on her bicycle early on Sunday and headed to the hospital. She was already in labor and she gave birth an hour later.
“Big news!” the Greens politician posted on her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JulieAnneGenter page a few hours later. “At 3.04am this morning we welcomed the newest member of our family. I genuinely wasn’t planning to cycle in labor, but it did end up happening.”
The island nation of 5 million already has a reputation for down-to-earth politicians. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously took maternity https://www.reuters.com/article/us-newzealand-politics-ardern-idUSKBN1KN0A8 leave while in office and brought her three-month old to a United Nations https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-leaders-idUSKCN1M30XW meeting as she was still breastfeeding.
“My contractions weren’t that bad when we left at 2am to go to the hospital — though they were 2-3 min apart and picking up in intensity by the time we arrived 10 minutes later,” Genter wrote.
“Amazingly now we have a healthy, happy little one sleeping, as is her dad,” said Genter, a dual New Zealand-US citizen who was born in Minnesota and moved to the Pacific country in 2006.
Genter — her party’s spokesperson for transport issues and whose Facebook profile includes “I love my bicycle” — also biked to the hospital in 2018 to give birth to her first-born, local media said.


French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0
Updated 28 November 2021

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0
  • C.S.C. de Cayenne were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half
  • Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64

PARIS: C.S.C. de Cayenne traveled over 7,000 kilometers from the capital of French Guiana for their French Cup eighth-round tie against Paris FC on Saturday, but lost 14-0.
The visitors were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half, conceding 12 goals after the break.
Cayenne will make the return trip across the Atlantic Ocean after seeing their cup run end in remarkable fashion.
Moustapha Name, Lamine Diaby Fadiga and Morgan Guilavogui, the brother of former France midfielder Josuha, all scored hat-tricks for second-tier side Paris FC.
Elsewhere, though, Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64, where the 20 Ligue 1 teams enter the draw.


Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday
Updated 27 November 2021

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday
  • Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the UK with the aim of disrupting 50% of the company's deliveries on Black Friday
  • They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands

DUBAI: Climate activists blockaded Amazon warehouses in three European countries on Friday.
This was part of a global effort to pressure the ecommerce giant on one of its busiest days of the year to improve working conditions and end business practices that hurt the environment.
Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the United Kingdom with the aim of disrupting 50 percent of the company’s deliveries on Black Friday, which marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands.
“The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon’s exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers’ rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday,” the group said. It vowed to remain at the scene
At least 30 people were arrested at multiple UK locations, with some held on suspicion of aggravated trespass or public nuisance, police forces said.
Extinction Rebellion and dozens of other activist groups in the US and around the world are organizing a day of global protests and strikes on Friday against Amazon to demand the company provide better working conditions, commit to operating sustainably, and pay its fair share of tax.
In the US, labor activists planned a small protest at Amazon’s fulfilment center on Staten Island, New York.
Activists in the UK blocked the entrance to Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury, just east of London, with an effigy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sitting on top of a rocket.
At Amazon’s distribution center in Dunfermline, Scotland, about 20 Extinction Rebellion members strung banners across the entrance road that said “Make Amazon Pay” and locked themselves together, stopping trucks from entering and some from leaving.
Amazon did not directly address the protests in response to a request for comment, but said the company takes its responsibilities “very seriously.”
“That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement — providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store,” the company said.
Extinction Rebellion activists also blocked an Amazon logistics center in the central German town of Bad Hersfeld by erecting a makeshift bamboo scaffold that they used to suspend themselves in the air. Authorities later removed them with the help of a fire department ladder truck, according to video posted on the group’s German Facebook page.
The group staged a similar protest at an Amazon facility at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.


Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak
Updated 26 November 2021

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak
  • The procession to reopen the 2.7 km road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival
  • Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue

LUXOR, Egypt: A restored road connecting two ancient Egyptian temple complexes in Karnak and Luxor was unveiled on Thursday in a lavish ceremony aimed at raising the profile of one of Egypt’s top tourist spots.
The procession to reopen the 2.7 km (1.7 mile) road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival, where statues of Theban deities were paraded annually during the New Kingdom era in celebration of fertility and the flooding of the Nile.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi marched along the road at the start of the ceremony. Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue.
The 3,400-year-old road linking the ancient centers of Karnak and Luxor, also known as Road of the Rams or the Avenue of the Sphinxes, is lined with hundreds of ram- and human-headed sphinxes, though over the years many have been eroded or destroyed.
The road has undergone several restoration efforts since being discovered in 1949, and the latest began in 2017.
Tourism is a crucial source of jobs and hard currency for Egypt, which has made a concerted effort to lure back the travelers kept away by the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, 22 ancient royal mummies from Luxor and the nearby Valley of the Kings were borne in procession Egyptian mummies paraded from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Egypt’s tourism revenues plunged to about $4 billion in 2020, down from $13 billion in 2019.