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Desert Breath of Egypt: The Infinite Spiral of Time

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A desert is a paradoxical place. It’s vast, expansive, and empty. But it’s also full of life and constant motion. Every day, the sun rises to scorch the earth and then retreats as if exhausted by its task of punishing millions of miles in an instant. And every night, just as predictably, it returns to greet the desert again.

What is the Desert Breath Land Art Installation?

In November 2013, Google Earth users noticed a huge double spiral design etched into the Egyptian desert near the Red Sea. The enigmatic pattern is no mystery, though. It’s an incredible art installation created by the D.A.ST Arteam—Danae Stratou, Alexandra Stratou, and Stella Konstantinidis.

Desert Breath is a beautiful land art project in the eastern Sahara Desert, bordering the Red Sea, consisting of perfectly formed cones and a glittering pool of water.

It’s an amazing piece of work, although perhaps even more amazing because it took so long for the world to notice it. The “Desert Breath” project has been in place since 1997.

The Concept of Desert Breath in the Eastern Sahara Desert

To the installation artist, the shifting sands of the desert landscape suggested the infinity of place and the endless reaches of the mind. They point out that Desert Breath can be experienced from the air as visual art and can also be experienced more personally by walking its spiral paths.

There are some other interesting connotations to this incredible work of art and architecture. The name “Desert Breath” recalls the ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, whose breath was said to be the hot desert wind.

The spiral shapes echo a geometry common to many indigenous cultures — the spiral is often used to represent the cycles of life or the movement of energies in the universe.  It’s also worth noting that walking a labyrinth is a meditative tradition in many religions and cultures.

The two interlocking spirals also closely resemble a crop circle, suggesting that the present isn’t nearly as knowable as we assume and the future contains infinite possibilities.

About the Desert Breath installation

Desert Breath was two years in the making. Workers moved 280,000 square feet of sand to create the installation’s 89 raised cones and 89 matching cone-shaped depressions. The geometrically precise pattern covers one million square feet of the desert landscape.

All is Change at Desert Breath in Egypt

Originally, the center of Desert Breath was a glittering pool of water just under 100 feet in diameter. Over time, however, the water has evaporated, leaving only sand. The desert wind is slowly disintegrating the entire land art installation it is named for.

As it levels the raised cones and fills the depressions, the blowing sand is an apt reminder that all change — and eventually, Desert Breath, like all of us, will be gone in the same direction.

How did the art installation come about?

In 1997, a small group of artists and architects had the idea to create an art installation in the Sahara Desert of Egypt. They envisioned a massive spiral structure that would be visible from space. After years of planning and fundraising, construction on the project finally began in 2001.

The spiral pathway comprises two concentric circles, every 150 meters in diameter. The outer circle comprises 70 pillars, while the inner circle has 30. There are also four entrances, one at each cardinal point.

The structure is built from locally sourced materials, including sandstone, limestone, and mud brick. It was designed to be environmentally sustainable, with rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels providing power for the lighting and ventilation systems.

The project was completed in 2002 and has become a popular tourist destination. Visitors can hike to the top of the spiral to view the desert landscape or take a camel ride around the structure.

What is the meaning of this land art design?

The spiral’s design has no one specific meaning. However, it represents the infinite nature of time and space. The concentric circles symbolize the cycle of life, while the four entrances represent the seasons and cardinal points.

The structure’s overall shape also resembles a nautilus shell, often used to symbolize infinity.

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Why was it built in Egypt?

There are a few reasons why the artists chose to build the Spiral in Egypt. First, the desert landscape is incredibly beautiful and provides a stunning backdrop for the structure. Second, Egypt has a long history of art and architecture, dating back to the pyramids.

And finally, the location was chosen because it is one of the few places on Earth that can be seen from space. The artists wanted to create a work visible from our planet’s natural satellite, which had never been done before.

What to Know About Visiting

When visiting the spiral, remember a few things. First, it is in a remote desert area, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Second, the structure is made from local materials that can be quite fragile. Please be careful not to damage any pillars or walk off the paths of the site-specific work of art.

And finally, remember to take your time and enjoy the experience. The Spiral is a place to slow down, appreciate the desert landscape, and reflect on the infinite nature of time and space.

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