22 Nov 2018

Touring virtual museum set to spread nature knowledge across Egypt

A unique project is using technology to bring the public closer to nature. The Wadi Degla Virtual Museum uses imaginative ways to inform communities about one of the last natural habitats in the greater Cairo area. The aim: to encourage more people to get involved in conserving this unique site.

WDVM taking part in the Green Ventures Synergy Workshop by SwitchMed © NCE
WDVM taking part in the Green Ventures Synergy Workshop by SwitchMed © NCE
By Nature Conservation Egypt

Wadi Degla is often referred to as Cairo’s gateway to the Eastern Desert. Declared as a protected area in 1999, it remains as one of the only natural habitats in the greater Cairo area, a home to various species of plants and animals such as red fox, feather tailed rat and little-tailed bat, amongst others. It also hosts great geological formations, carved out of limestone rocks that had remained in the marine environment during the Eocene Epoch in the eastern desert (60 million years) and that cannot be seen anywhere else in the city.

Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE, BirdLife in Egypt), through funding by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP), set up an out-of-the box project known as the Wadi Degla Virtual Museum (WDVM), a pioneering educational experience that provides environmental, historical, and geological awareness to curious nature-lovers in a mobile and dynamic environment. With a fresh voice, WDVM inspires and informs its users about the importance of the Wadi Degla protectorate.

Children of the Alwan wa Awtar summer school experiencing VR for the first time © Watter Al Bahry

The objectives of this project are to raise public awareness on the importance of the Wadi Degla protectorate, to provide environmental, geological and historical education to students and youth through an interactive, dynamic and immersive experience, and to inspire and inform the local community about the importance of nature conservation.

The project is based on the use of technology as a means to bring the public closer to nature. It documents, visualizes and produces educational material about Wadi Degla in the form of 3-D, covering various topics such as The Geological History of Wadi Degla, The Biodiversity and Ecosystems of Wadi Degla and Nature-friendly Activities in Wadi Degla.

Mohamed Abdel Raouf, Executive Director of NCE, introducing the WDVM at Alwan wa Awtar summer school © Watter Al Bahry

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WDVM uses the latest VR display technology to show its videos in unique mobile spaces that will be moving across Egypt to share the experience with as many audiences as possible. Once invited to a conference or community event, the team builds a portable space where the various users will get to experience Wadu Degla in virtual reality. They then brief the users on how to operate the VR that has been set up, invite them to sit on a stool that has a half-sphere cover that is specially designed for surround sound isolation and in either English or Arabic, facilitate them to remotely experience being in the pristine protectorate. After the virtual tour, the WDVM team then hand out flyers or posters with further educational information about Wadi degla.

 

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