The origin of endemic date palms (
Phoenix dactylifera) in the Jebel Uweinat
(Three-country corner of Libya-Egypt-Sudan)

Norbert Brügge, Germany

The Jebel Uweinat is a small isolated mountain massif in the three-country corner of Libya-Egypt-Sudan. It lies in a hostile hot desert region, far from the civilization. The climatic conditions are due to decades missing rainfall for vegetation extremely difficult. Today, trees in the rugged terrain of the mountains only in dry wadis can surviving. There are only acacias that with their long roots the remaining water reservoirs in the underground use.
In the past, the climate in the Uweinat was much friendlier for the vegetation, then in the recent past with a tendency to deteriorate. That is documented by many rock paintings from the Neolithic period and the remains of dwellings of the residents of the last nomadic Tibu people.
The Egyptian Ahmed Pasha Hassanein was the first explorer to reach the Uweinat in 1923. The settlement was already over at this time. The Uweinat was apparently visited only occasionally by the descendants of the Tibu people.
Today only interested trekkers traveling in the Uweinat and walk far on the plateau. Smugglers and camel-caravans to pass only the peripheral areas. After robberies on trekkers in recent years is the official way to reach the Uweinat now severely limited.
There were and are still several permanent water sources (Ain) in dry wadis. They are leachate sources supplied from the mountains. Known are Ain Zueia, Ain Dua and Ain Duarme in the Libyan part, and Bir Murr (Ain-el-Brins) in the Sudanese part of the Uweinat. Smaller Gueltas in the lower course of the Wadi Wahesh or on the plateau are only temporarily filled by rainfall.

Since the 1930s could be known, that date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) grow at the small water holes between Ain Murr and Ain-el-Brins in the Karkur Murr. The first mention and images from date palms were published in 2002 by Andras Zboray ( He had led a trekking group along the Karkur Murr.
Also at Ain Duarme, in a side branch of Karkur Ibrahim, date palms are now documented photographically. Date palms are missing in Ain Dua and Ain Zueia
How is it possible that date palms grow in the difficult climatic situation in the Uweinat. They are certainly here not more viable and are already extinct. Within a radius of hundreds of kilometers there is no source for date palms.

Therefore, it is almost certainly just a pure coincidence, that date palms grow near water sources in these dry wadis. Obviously, before perhaps a long time ago, some humans in these places rested and have eaten date fruits.

A reproduction of the date palms of the Jebel Uweinat is obviously not possible. There are only dwarf palms.They do not bear fruits.
Date palms are dioecious.They have female flowers (they provide the fruits) and male flowers (they provide the pollen). Wind or insects take over the pollination of female flowers.
The reason for the lack of fruit could be the poor living conditions (no or little substrate with nutrients). In any case, an
endemic species has developed here.

All photos by Andras Zboray and Gabor Merkl


  Ain Duarme

Ain Duarme: 21°55'43"N / 24°51'51"E



   Ain Murr

Five permanent "Ains" in the Jebel Uweinat

 "Ain Murr" - An active Geo-Hydrotherm in the Sudanese part of the Jebel Uweinat 

Ain Murr: 21°54.10’ N / 25°07.95’ E
Ain-el-Brins: 21°53.65' N / 25°07.75' E

Karkur Murr palm grove

Palm grove: 21°54'53"N / 25°07'42"E



 Also some palm trees about 200m above the spring "Ain Murr"