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Past conferences
Professors Nabil S. Embabi and Mahmoud M. Ashour participated in a meeting organized and hosted by the Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman in April 2005. The main theme of the meeting was desertification and sand encroachment. Coordinator of the meeting was Dr. Ahmed Abdul Salam, member of the steering committee of AHE.

11th International Conference on Luminescence and Electron Spin Resonance Dating, 24-29 July 2005, Cologne, Germany
During the conference it became obvious that the demonstrated dating techniques provide excellent opportunities to get better stratigraphic information of Quaternary sediments, especially in arid regions where organic material is normally very scarce. Olaf Bubenzer contribute with a poster on "Luminescence dating and archaeology of Holocene fluvio-lacustrine sediments of Abu Tartur, Eastern Sahara".

6th International Conference on Geomorphology, 7-11 September 2005, Zaragoza, Spain
The conference offered interesting plenary lectures, scientific sessions and field trips dealing with arid lands. Xiaoping Yang gave a plenary lecture on "Desert and Earth system - with a special reference to China". In the Session 2 "Geomorphology of arid Regions", Olaf Bubenzer (together with A. Bolten) spoke about "Investigation of Pleistocene Megadunes (Draa) of the Eastern Sahara and the Southern Namib Using New Elevation Data (SRTM/ASTER)", Nabil Embabi (with M.M.A. Azab) about "Ghard Abu Moharik Sand Sea, the Western Desert, Egypt: Geomorphology, movement and age". In the session 9 "Costal Geomorphology", M. Ashour discussed "Geomorphic features on the surfaces of sabkhas, Qatar Peninsula".

Xiaoping Yang presided the working group "Interaction between fluvial, eolian and lacustrine processes" and gave a lecture (together with F. Preusser and U. Radtke) within this working group on "Geomorphological processes forming the Taklamakan Desert, western China".

Professors Ashour and Embabi pursued their work in the Western Desert of Egypt with professor Donner of Helsinki University (Finland). A paper about Dating of lacustrine deposits will be published soon.


Meeting and field trips of the AHE-Commission, April 2-6, 2006
Jointly sponsored by the International Geographical Union (IGU) and the Egyptian Geographical Society (EGS), the meeting was held together with the commissions for "Cultures and Civilisations for Human Development (CCHD)" and the "Mediterranean Renaissance Program (MRP)". Participants included Egyptian colleagues from Universities of Alexandria, Zagagig, Masura, Cairo and Ain Shams, and a number of students from Ain Shams University.
Foreign delegates were cordially welcomed at the magnificent quarters of the Egyptian Geographical Society by the President, Professor Mohammed Abulezz. He opened the meeting with a warm welcome to participants and assurances that he, in his role as President of EGS, had promised IGU President Adalberto Vallega of Egypt's potential role in supporting the initiative on the UN Year of Cultures and Civilisations for Human Development. Professor Mahmoud Ashour then outlined the agenda for the two-day event and invited Professor Anne Buttimer, representative and Past President of the IGU, to address the meeting. She reported that special efforts have been taken to re-establish better interactions with colleagues in the Arab world, e.g., by choosing Tunis as site for the next IGC 2008. Other recent schemes include Corresponding Membership for individuals and institutions, the Promotion and Solidarity Scheme, the Country Partnership program, the Home of Geography in Rome and the re-vitalisation of regional networks. With respect to the arid regions she argued that in the long historical sweep of human civilizations throughout the arid zones of the Mediterranean World, issues of water availability, access and use have been acute. Among the many potential common denominators of shared concern, surely those of water, aridity and sustainable ways of life are among the most urgent.

The Opening paper of the session (Chair: Giuliano Bellezza) by Professor Nabil S. Embabi, author of the impressive volume, Geomorphology of Egypt, raised the evocative question "Why playas attract so much interest in Egypt?" The details soon provided answers. Playas (temporary or ephemeral lakes in the desert) have served as gathering points for animals and humans in arid lands throughout history; they reveal substantial mineral wealth; they have been sites for agricultural innovations and products; and recently they reveal vital information on climate change over time. This well-illustrated presentation included graphic evidence from archaeological analyses of artefacts as well as from geo-chemical analyses of sediments to reveal especially the evidence of climate change. Illustrations from the relatively recent playa of Farafra also demonstrated its relevance for agricultural innovation and sustainable production.

Dr Olaf Bubenzer, newly appointed Secretary for the Commission, presented images of new technological possibilities for remote sensing of topography, esp. playa depressions and sand dunes. His paper entitled "New elevation data for geomorphological and geo-archaeological research in arid regions" provided fresh perspectives on the issue of representation - how to capture the changing configuration over time in the height (as well as the shape and the volume) of sand dunes. Illustrations included not only measurements (and identification of height errors) made within the Rhine valley in Germany, but also sites within Egypt where improved accuracy was gained on the identification of water resources and of aeolian influences on playa depression and sand dune formation during the Holocene.

Finally, Professor Mahmoud Ashour presented a lecture on the playa of Ebu-El-Egl in Egypt's Western Desert. This complimented the earlier presentation by Professor Embabi. Details on the importance of woodland shade within the playa, archaeological evidence from Neolithic caves, combined with analyses of layered rock, all point toward the multi-facetted importance of playas in historical times.

Before the dispersal of participants, a brief meeting was arranged for members of the Commission. This included Professor Mahmoud Ashour, Chair, Secretary Dr. Olaf Bubenzer, Dr. Ulrik MÃ¥rtensson and Professor Nabil S. Embabi. Questions on Commission procedure were raised and co-ordinates of IGU website and Secretariat were supplied. Professor Anne Buttimer raised questions on the substantive content of Commission agenda, particularly on the "humankind" element. It was generally acknowledged that insights from the Cairo workshop, particularly those relating to indigenous geographical knowledge of livelihood practices which could be sustainable in arid environments should be highlighted in Commission reports to the Tunis IGC 2008.


Upcoming commission meetings
Professor Mohamed Shawky Meccy, president of the Saudi Arabia Geographical Society invited our commission to hold its 2nd meeting in Riyadh on 24-26 April 2007 (Program - PDF). Accommodation will be covered by the Saudi Geographical Society. All colleagues working in the field of arid lands are invited to participate in this meeting.




Meeting of the IGU-Commission on Arid Lands, Humankind and Environment
24-26 April 2007, Saudi Geographical Society, King Saud University, Riyadh

Jointly sponsored by the International Geographical Union (IGU) and the Saudi Geographical Society, this year’s meeting and the field trips were organized by the Saudi Geographical Society. The following members of the AHE-steering committee attended the meeting: A. Abdel Salam, A. Alwelaie, M. Ashour, G. Brook, O. Bubenzer, and N. Embabi.

On April 24 the meeting was held at the King Saud University in Riyadh. Participants, including colleagues from different ministries, organizations, and universities, were cordially welcomed by the chairman of the Saudi Geographical Society, Prof. Mohammad Shawqi bin Ibrahim Makki. He opened the meeting and expressed the importance of further research in arid regions and a closer cooperation of researchers from different countries. Professor Mahmoud Mohammed Ashour, chair of the AHE commission, thanked Prof. Makki for the invitation to Riyadh, appreciated the excellent organization and the extraordinary location. Then he outlined the agenda for the three-day event. The eleven lectures on the first day were divided into four sessions. The first three sessions dealt with different facets of protection and sustainability in Saudi Arabia, the fourth session presented new research technologies in arid regions.

The first session was chaired by Prof. Abdullah bin Nasser Alwelaie ... (click to continue)