Topic: Egypt - Mena
The largest camp established was based upon Mena House and its surrounds. Mena House was a luxuary hotel built next to the Pyramids of Giza supplied with its own purpose built tramline to Cairo.
Mena House facing the Pyramids
During the Great War, Mena House was converted into a hospital which quickly filled when the casualties from Gallipoli began to pour in.
A great big circus was the first impression most men thought when they saw Mena. A few big tops dominated the area while bristling around them were many supporting tents. Running through the centre of the camp from the entrance to the water tanks was Artillery Road. The main points around Mena Camp had already gained familiar and yet peculiar names. The various areas were called such names as Observation Hill, Rockwell Valley, Jackall Valley, Sentry Point, White House, Brown Ridge, Boojun Rocks, Grey Hill, Tuin Points, Tiger's Tooth, Cairn Ridge, Dolly Daydream and Crosspath Hill. New chums had to know these areas quickly as all directions were given with reference to them.
Flowing over the camp roads was a vibrant and living stream composed from a multitude of camels and donkeys. Urging on each of these beasts around the camp walked a motley army of drivers coming from all parts of the British Empire. There were Indians, Nubians, Egyptians, Arabs and Palestinians. They strained and sweated along with their animals to bring into the camp the tremendous quantity of stores required to keep the soldiers fully supplied.
Mena Camp under the shadow of the Pyramids
At the entrance of the camp a whole township had risen almost over night which was dedicated to serving the troops at Mena. Everything was on sale: foods, coffee, liquor, postcards, and four cinemas that featured the very latest of Hollywood releases even before they reached Australia. The buildings were constructed from any available materials such as hessian, corrugated iron and more substantial stone. The streets and ally ways were filled with the sounds of the vendors touting for business while the multitude of different aromas gave the nose a range of sensations from enjoyment to disgust all in the space of a minute.
Other items which added to the bizarre landscape confronted by the men were the multitudes of camouflage colour schemes used for the various wagons and guns that regularly raced through the camp on some or another important mission. They were painted in reds, blues and yellows representing all the colours that allowed them to blend into the desert. For the newly arriving men the vehicles appeared to belong more in a circus sideshow rather than at as serious vehicles of war.
The seemingly mandatory activity that every soldier participated in was getting a picture taken of them on a camel by the Pyramids. For a fee, the men would have their photographs taken by one of the dozen photographic studios on site. This was the first activity indulged in by these men at Mena.
Many tens of thousands of men had this similar picture taken of them while Mena Camp was the primary Australian base. After the Australians moved out and the camp ceased to operate, this was still a popular destination for all troops passing through Egypt.
Citation: Mena Camp