by Dr. Zsolt Török
|English version||German version||Magyar változat||
Excerpt of the chapter"Bir Messaha" in English!
(Sorry, it has been removed but available upon request!)
Contact the author:
|László Ede Almásy (
Ladislaus Eduard Almasy, count Almasy
(1895-1951)), the important Hungarian desert researcher was a real
while its character in the Oscar-winner film, The English patient, is
The task of this web page is to give a short but reliable and fair biography of one of the last romantic geographic explorers.
He drove first a car in Egypt, along the Nile, into the Sudan in 1926, and came back for experimental shorter reconnaissance journeys as well as hunting in the following years. To demonstrate the hardiness of Steyr vehicles he drove first in the deep desert.
(The negative material was found by his son, Kurt Mayer and restored. The 110-minute-long silent movie was presented in 1997 in Vienna, London and in 1998 in Budapest.)
Up to the 1930s Almásy developed a passion for the desert and connected the company of other desert fools or researchers. He was lured by the secrets of the Libyan Desert. In this period of the history of the geographical exploration of the Eastern Sahara one can observe an interesting transition: the new expedition technology revolutionized desert expeditions.
Almásy was an excellent driver and pilot and could make use of the new technology at high level. On the other hand the lack of official support forced him to find financial support and organize international expeditions.
In the same year, in 1933 Almásy's both patrons, Prince Kemal el Din and the young baron, Sir Clayton died and his expedition plans collapsed.
she accompanied Patrick Clayton on his to Kufra after his second visit to the valleys (Wadi Abd el Malik, Wadi Hamra) and their joined expedition visited 'Zarzura' before they all returned to Cairo.
During the Almásy-Penderel expedition, Almásy, following the route, actually a camel path described by an old Tebu man, found the third valley, Wadi Talh.
Vast areas of the Gilf Kebir region were also explored, including the later infamous Aqaba pass. Dr. László Kádár, later President of the Hungarian Geographical Society, and the geographer of this 1933 expedition made several important geomorphologic observations on the physics of blowing sand.
The most important result of he 1933 Almásy expedition
was the discovery
of the prehistoric rock art sites in
and Gilf Kebir region (Ain Dua, Karkur Talh, Wadi Sora).
In 1941 and 1942 he served as a desert expert to General
and led secret missions, including the most audacious Operation
Salaam, when he took two German agents from Libya to
Egypt, across the desert and deep behind the Allied lines.
This does not mean at all that Almasy was ever a German agent!
The photos taken during this fantastic journey reveal the fact
Almasy commanded his car patrol in German uniform and their
cars (captured Fords)
were marked by the German military signs.
The two German agents were arrested
in a few days in Cairo and one of them, Eppler told during his
fabricated story. After the war he even published his desert tales,
became popular, despite the obviously contradictory facts.
Unfortunately, the British publications also supported this view.
Interestingly enough, he escaped
via Rome with the assitance of British intelligence...
He was allowed to return to Egypt, where he would have liked to continue his scientific research work. To improve his financial background he sold luxury cars (Porsche) for Egyptian aristocrats, but could not return to the desert to find the lost army of the Persian king Cambyses (for details see Herodotus).
In 1951, while on a visit to Europe, he took ill and died of dysentery in a hospital in Salzburg , Austria as the nominated technical director of the Desert Institute of Cairo.
No rest, however, in a year his remnants may be removed and
buried in the grave of war heroes.
Török, Zsolt :'László Almásy: The Hungarian explorer of the unknown Sahara.' In: Földrajzi Közlemények, (1997), Vol. CXXI., No. 1-2, pp. 77 - 86.
paper read at ICHC 2001 Madrid, Spain .... still coming...
Török is a historian of cartography
and geographical exploration and an Almásy- researcher since the
ten, when he read a book of Almásy.
He was born in the Hungarian town where the explorer lived in the
1930s. He lives near to Budapest in a country home with his
wife, four sons, a dog and a cat.
He has spent many years with research, and on
the basis of the
facts and documents he could find he published his first study on
Almásy in Hungary
in 1989. He was interviewed by The New York Times and other
and televisions in Hungary and abroad after the English Patient had
He is the author of the first Almásy biography, Salaam Almásy, published in Hungary in 1998. This is an unusual biography of an extraordinary person: it presents surprising and never published facts of the real "English" patient, recreates the historical atmosphere, tells a true and fair story in the style of the journals of the desert explorer...
Török is Associate Professor of Cartography
University, Budapest, Hungary. He is the only traditional map and
globe maker, in his private workshop he revived the traditional art of
Copyright by Dr. Zsolt Török, 2007