The Sinai is famous for its beautiful, red rock mountains. Some even claim that these mountains, together with the mountains on the other side of the gulf in mainland Egypt, give the Red Sea its name. Just a few kilometers outside the town of St. Katherine, though, at the foot of these fabled red mountains, are rocks with a very different colour: a vivid shade of blue. Huge blue outcrops stand scattered across a vast, sloping plain once known as the Plain of Sened but often just called Jebel Millowin (the Colored Mountain) or the Blue Desert. They were painted blue by the Belgian artist Jean Verame in the 1980s to celebrate Egypt’s peace deal with Israel. Getting the go-ahead for the work was no easy task: Verame spent two years trying to get approval from authorities before President Mohammed Anwar Sadat intervened to give his personal permission.
With the Sadat’s seal of approval – plus 10 tons of paint supplied by the UN – Verame set out to make his dream of painting the Sinai blue a reality. He began the work in 1980 and finished the following year.
It’s one of several deserts that Verame has painted across the world.