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Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A quarryman in Minya.
LIMESTONE SNOWFALL

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

By Caitlin Hu

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.

Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Fuel is spilled on the ground as a worker cuts through limestone.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker walks nearby a rotor blade used to cut through limestone.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker uses a machine with a rotor blade to cut limestone.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker watches the sun rise.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker masks his face to protect himself from the dust.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Limestone bricks are laid out.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker walks near bricks.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A masked worker covers his face from dust.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker is surrounded by a dust cloud while using a rotor blade to cut through limestone.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker uses a machine with a rotor blade to cut limestone.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A worker smiles as he poses during his shift.