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Andrew Youngson | The Devil’s Garden

EGYPT – 2010. Dawi Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed (73) was injured in 1958, east of Gelala, whilst out collecting firewood with another man. He spent forty days in hospital in Alexandria. The other man, his cousin Faize, was killed.

The Devil’s Garden documents Bedouin communities living amidst World War II minefields in Egypt’s Western Desert.
It is estimated that approximately 17 million unexploded anti-personnel and anti-tank mines; artillery shells; bombs dropped by aircraft and machine gun, small arms and mortar rounds remain beneath the sand.

The Western Desert is an area rich in natural resources but whereas areas allocated for luxury beach resorts and Petroleum Company compounds have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, Bedouin land has not benefited from such programmes.

Official records of incidents involving UXO have not been kept until recently but it is believed thousands of Bedouin have been killed or injured since the end of hostilities.

The term ‘Devil’s Gardens’ was first used by the German General Erwin Rommel to describe the box-like areas of minefields and barbed wire installed by both sides during the conflict.

EGYPT – 2010. Ali Mohammed Awad (57) dug up a metal object that he found sticking out of the ground in 1994. When it exploded he lost his right thumb, left arm and right eye. The vision in his left eye is impaired and he is almost completely deaf. Ali was with a relative who was also injured; nearby villagers found the other man carrying his own hand.
EGYPT – 2010. Mastoor Ali Attia (43) was injured at El Alamein in early 1990s. He was dining in the desert with friends when their campfire triggered UXO buried beneath it. Mastoor lost his left arm, left eye and penis. His left leg is partially lame. After the explosion he was unconscious for one week and is now awaiting plastic surgery.
EGYPT – 2010. Negi Helal Khamis (39) was injured in 1998 at El Harabi when he and another man prepared a fire for lunch. After the explosion Negi was left deaf in one ear, blind in both eyes and with shrapnel injuries to his left arm. The other man was killed.
EGYPT – 2010. The old station, El Alamein.
EGYPT – 2010. Sheik Ibrahim Mesbah (76) was blinded forty years ago near El Alamein when his campfire caused UXO to explode. Sheik believes he owns a shop but this is only a cabinet containing a few token items. His son looks after him.
EGYPT – 2010. Abdulla Mohammed Sultan (30) was injured in 2005 while preparing a fire at Abou El Herfa, 20km south of El Alamein. The explosion broke all the fingers of Abdulla’s right hand and left him with abdominal injuries.
EGYPT – 2010. Mertah Awad Egail (22, right) stepped on a mine in 2007 at Sidi Shabeb. He lost his right leg above the knee and remained unconscious for six hours. The metal rod that had to be inserted into his leg still causes him pain. Although he was aware of the UXO in the desert he did not realise that the minefields extended so far west from El Alamein.
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