First race in Petrified Forest

14-03-2018 12:44 AM

The first running race has been held at the Petrified Forest nature reserve, east of Cairo. The race, which ran on the main trail in the reserve, saw the participation of 120 runners of different ages.

The race is the first to be held at the nature reserve since it was opened for eco-tourism by Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy last February. The move was taken with the aim of bringing revenue to the nature reserves, and connecting Egyptians with their environment through sporting and touristic activities. Muhammad Shehab Abdel-Wahab, executive head of the apparatus for environmental affairs at the Environment Ministry, said that all activities at the nature reserve take into consideration sustainable coexistence with wildlife and natural resources.

Once the runners were done with the race, they were guided on a tour through the nature reserve by Shaimaa’ Taha, manager of the Petrified Forest nature reserve.

The Petrified Forest lies south of Maadi on the outskirts of Cairo. It includes traces of the abundant woodland that covered the Red Sea hills millions of years ago. Long a favourite playground for picnickers, it was declared a protected area in 1989.

The trees were washed down from the hills by heavy rains and strewn among other deposits of sand and gravel in the Oligocene period, when the surface was nearly at sea level and was covered by shallow lagoons. The wood was later covered by hot water containing silica that caused the tree trunks to fossilise. Over the course of time these Oligocene deposits were uplifted to their present height, and were eventually exposed by erosion.

The biggest threat to the reserve now comes from the constant construction work around the area. The many construction programmes nearby have led to most of the animals and wildlife disappearing from this area over the past ten to 15 years. To make matters worse, there has been an accumulation of garbage, sand and rubble.

“The environment minister has no authority to take the decision whether to exclude or include any part of the reserve,” Mr Fahmy said, “so we have filed a request to the Prime Ministry to include the western border of the reserve so as to prevent any upcoming construction around the reserve. The western part is of huge importance, since it is the main road to the part of the reserve that includes the petrified trees. We should preserve these at all costs.”

According to Mr Fahmy, a geological museum will be built at the Petrified Forest reserve by a fund granted from the Ministry of Housing in accordance with environmental conditions and the nature of the reserve.

Watani International

13 March 2018

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