Gebel Fuga, in the remote Sinai interior to the east of Serabit el-Khadim, is a large desert plateau surrounded by mountains. On a sloping hillside there is one of the most interesting geological oddities to be seen on the peninsula. This area has been given the name Forest of Pillars – an accurate description for this large group of black lava-like twisted columns of rock which appear to grow out of the side of the mountain like stalagmites. The rocks range in size from baby bubbles on a flat surface to tall corkscrew shapes reaching to a metre or more in height and crowded together as if they were supporting each other. The columns appear to be hollow and many have been broken off and left to lie on the surrounding sandstone slope.
Our guide claimed that the columns were formed by lava, but we did not think this was accurate as the rock seemed to look more like a ferrous oxide. I later found an article by geologist Dr Bonnie M Sampsell in which she suggests that “The rocks are composed of hematite (a form of iron oxide). The iron oxide was dissolved out of the sandstone bedrock, to which it imparts a reddish colour, by hot water emerging from deep in the earth. As the water reached the surface and cooled, the iron oxide precipitated in a ring around each source, forming a tube.” This seems to make much more sense and describes the formation exactly.
Gebel Fuga can only be reached in a 4×4 vehicle and with a Bedouin guide.