Photos: The ghostly white world of Egypt’s stone cutters

Quartz

Pyramids, obelisks and sarcophagi may embody Egypt in the Western imagination, but the heart of Egypt’s heritage is its base material: rock. Used to construct everything from ancient wonders to today’s homes, blocks of local limestone, basalt, and granite are so indispensable to Egyptian architecture that a few ancient quarries been declared historic cultural sites.

Quarrying itself remains a contemporary industry. Today, in the limestone fields of Minya, south of Cairo, quarrymen cut blindingly white limestone for new bricks. Dust fills the air like snow here, as workers’ rotary blades bite into the rock. It’s otherworldly, but not perfect—that unshielded blade can be deadly.

Fuel is spilled on the ground as a worker uses a machine with a rotor blade to cut through limestone at a quarry in the desert of Minya governorate, south of Cairo, Egypt. Fuel is spilled on the ground as a worker cuts through limestone.

A worker walks nearby a rotor blade used to cut through limestone. A worker walks nearby a rotor blade used to cut through limestone.

A worker uses a machine with a rotor blade to cut limestone. A worker uses a machine with a rotor blade to cut limestone.

A worker watches the sun rise. A worker watches the sun rise.

A worker masks his face to protect himself from the dust. A worker masks his face to protect himself from the dust.

Limestone bricks are laid out. Limestone bricks are…

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