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Insularity and Island Identity in the Oases Bordering Egypt’s Great Sand Sea

Morris, Ellen F.

So, if the oases of Egypt have been metaphorically viewed as desert islands, forming their own archipelago at the far eastern edge of the Great Sand Sea, to what extent should we take this analogy seriously—at least as a tool for thinking about recurrent themes and cultural patterns over the long durée? This essay is intended to serve as a meditation along the lines of the one Bernard Knapp offered in Rhodes. Here I’d like to consider the applicability of various cultural imaginings of "islandness" to Egypt’s oases—especially to Dakhleh and Kharga, the Oasis Magna as anciently envisioned. These oases, I will argue, were in many ways more typical of our island imaginary than many "real" islands, such as those located in the Northern Mediterranean and other heavily frequented regions. By employing the metaphor of "insularity" and by taking it seriously, it is possible to identify a number of geographic realities and consequent cultural undercurrents that recur throughout the great sweep of oasis history and unite cultures separated by millennia.

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Also Published In

Thebes and Beyond: Studies in Honour of Kent R. Weeks
Supreme Council of Antiquities Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classics and Ancient Studies (Barnard College)
Supreme Council of Antiquities Press
Published Here
June 14, 2018