After Gaber obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from Suez Canal University, he went to Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing for a six-month training program in 2007. That’s where he worked with El-Baz and his research supervisor, Magaly Koch.

The prime minister asked El-Baz for advice regarding practical research that could yield tangible results in Egypt and El-Baz told him the desert and mountainous regions of Upper Egypt were underexploited. El-Baz also told the prime minister that the best person to speak to was Gaber.

El-Baz sees Gaber as his prodigy. “He still asks me questions and advice,” says El-Baz with pride, “But I trust his judgement, he’s efficient, thorough and level-headed.”

Gaber is not the kind of man to offer knee-jerk opinions, explains El-Baz, instead he favors evidence-based science, which is why El-Baz recommended him to the prime minister. “He is deliberate and so he takes his time. That can sometimes be a hindrance, but it’s also a good thing,” says El-Baz.

Koch, like El-Baz and Gaber, uses satellite technology to study the earth. She says that Gaber was a smart, highly ambitious and motivated student. “I was amazed how fast he learned and how passionate he was about his research,” she says.

She was so impressed by him that she wanted to keep him on in the lab. “He is a soft-spoken and very approachable person, highly intelligent, with a good sense of humor and very, very generous,” she says.

Gaber went on to Tohoku University in Japan to get his PhD. He returned to Egypt in 2012, where his satellite readings tell him there could still be a lot of gold in the mountains that flank the Red Sea.

El-Baz agrees with his protégé that there’s gold left in Egypt—though he says it’s impossible to know exactly how much until the digging starts.

The pharaohs may have employed talented geologists, but they didn’t have satellite technology, which meant they might have missed potential gold mines. “Don’t forget about our technological advantage, the exploration today will be totally different than before,” says Gaber.

The Eastern Desert Mountains are part of a geologically old range, which haven’t been disturbed much since they were formed. The Eastern Desert rocks also have very old granite and quartz veins, explains Gaber, which all adds up to ideal conditions for gold formations.

Whether or not fresh mines are dug, Gaber hopes that scientific research in Egypt will help to revive the country.

 

Article published in Al-Fanar media website on May 18, 2015

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