Photo of the Big Cairn in the desert of Egypt

Weekly Gem #1 How to know if you're really in the middle of nowhere

Published 12/7/2014

Location: This hidden gem is the Big Cairn, in Egypt. Normally we tell you the location of our hidden gems, so you can go visit if you want to. But, by definition, this gem isn't near anything. At this time, you can't even find it on Google maps.

Here's what we can tell you. It's in Egypt, on the western edge of the Great Sand Sea.

The Great Sand Sea is made of immense sand dunes, which are a couple or three hundred miles long and a mile across. Each dune is that big(!), and there are a lot of them. If you want to cross this area, north to south is easy enough. West to east is doable, because the westward wind makes the west slope gentle. East to west is a nightmare, as the slope is steepest at the top where you need to cross a pointed ridge.

In 1932 a Brit named Patrick Clayton decided to take this hardest route, crossing from east to west. He made it, and when finished, built the Big Cairn. 

The best way to visit it is to have a local guide take you, and no matter where you start, we think you'll agree that the Big Cairn is at, or at least very near, the middle of nowhere!

Happy Trails!


Here's the Hidden Gem as described on our Clue Me! map.


Sea of sand


"Big Cairn" is a famous landmark in Egypt's Great Sand Sea.

Why It's Interesting

Desert explorers in the 1930's and Allied military during WW II navigated in this featureless desert by dead reckoning and star sightings. The known location of this rock cairn was one of the few features (man-made of course) they could use to correct for accumulated navigation errors.

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