The Italian Almanac

the Great Sand Sea

Italian News - January 24

Italian adventurer Stefano Miglietti is expected to arrive at the Siwa oasis in Egypt later this week at the end of an unprecedented 550-km walk across the one of the world's most arid deserts. The 'Great Sand Sea' in the western Sahara is a massive expanse of dunes, continually beaten by wind and sand storms. Even Tuareg desert nomads avoid it because of the total lack of water and the utter isolation.

Miglietti, 37, is aiming to be the first person ever to cross the region alone and on foot. He is pulling his water and supplies behind him on a 200-pound cart. The Italian is following the route that Persian king Cambyses is said to have attempted in 523 BC, when he left the Farafra oasis in southern Egypt with a force of 50,000 men.

According to Greek author Herodotus, Cambyses and his troops were soon swallowed up in sandstorm and never seen again. The legend of the 'Lost army of Cambyses', as well as inspiring many archaeologists to mount fruitless searches in the desert, has also come to symbolise the perils of the Great Sand Sea.

Miglietti's exploit, which is sponsored by several Brescia businesses, is a race against time as well as endurance. He has enough food and water with him for seven days and no more. The former skier and mountaineer is no stranger to adventures of this kind. In 2003 he became the first man to cross the Murzuq desert in Libya alone and in 2005 he set a new record for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 530-km race across Canadian icefields.