Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Marree is a tiny town in the middle of the desert in South Australia. It is 685k north of Adelaide and has a population of 70.
 From a plane it is a a collection of tiny dots near the horizon.
 It is situated at the intersection of the Birdsville Track and the Oodnadatta Track. The explore John McDouall Stuart passed through here in 1859 and his assistant Hergott discovered a spring nearby and called the place Hergott Springs but in 1918 the name was changed to Marree due to anti german sentiment during the war. Before trains arrived in the outback most travel and transport was carried out by cameleers called, Afghans. In actual fact most of them were from India.

 The small but very old cemetery is divided into three sections. Afghans, Aborigines and Europeans.If you enlarge this you can see arabic writing and then "In Memory of Wahub, Afghan died in 1855.

 It was the tradition that when a cameleer died his lead camel was killed and buried next to him. So there were many small graves and then bigger humps (pardon the pun) next to them.

We were in the European section when a whirlwind or Willy Willy (see it at the right) started to blow around and around and whipped up the sand and grass balls (see them in the sky). It stung our legs and hurt our eyes so off we went back to the bus.
Read more Taphophile Tragics' posts on Julie's meme.


  1. Interesting, Diane... Interesting that a camel was killed and buried next to his owner/leader. Yes---I'll bet there were HUMPS there. ha

    We have had some wicked winter weather this week. We haven't had any whirlwinds---but ours have been swirling.... The low when we got up this morning was 14 degrees (F)...

    Have a great day.

  2. I like the grave with the wrought iron fence.
    Seems like a lonely desolate place to be buried. Kinda sad.
    I noticed those grass balls in the sky and wondered what it was. Love the clouds though.

  3. Firstly, look at that gorgeous sky in the first and last shot. And the horizon, so distinct and so apparently flat.

    I did not know that most of the Afghan cameleers were actually Indian. I wonder how that cameinto urban myth. Was it racism or a need for romanticism?

    When I think about it, I thought most Indians (well, the Hindu ones) were cremated on a byre. Maybe that is not allowed in Australia. But in 1855 in the Dead Centre (oops) rules would have been obeyed even less than they are today!

    I am loving your take on the Taphophile Tragics meme. Two very unusual, but most appreciated, posts already. Thank you.

  4. How wonderful to visit Marree again with you.

  5. Julie: The Indian cameleers were muslim. The first mosque ever built was in Marree. I think they were called Afghans though ignorance. They knew camels came from Aghanistan and so the myth began, which even stretched to the naming of the train The Ghan".

  6. Cementries are not on the top of my priorities.
    Like Julie, I find it a bit bizarre to learn at this time of life that the Afghans were mostly Indians. So I have been into history books, most of todays taxi drivers in Australia are from the Punjab area! The Punjab region of India is on the Kasmir pass area which borders Afghanistan. The Kasmir Pass has been the safety net for India, throughout history, even Alexander, the Great, then the British Raj, even the Russians had a go not many years ago, could not subdue these people, so maybe in the 1800's, with all the wars of conquest (?) going on, (all ended in failure, including the present one in Afghanistan - when will politicans realise?) - some of the Afghans/Kasmir people/ Indians, who knows, decided to uproot themselves to camel driving in the outback of Australia.
    Anyhow the Afghan/Kasmir/Indian camel drivers of Australia in the days concerned here knew where to go in those days, unlike the present batch of taxi drivers!!!
    Ask your taxi driver where he comes from and the answer for me has always been the PUNJAB!
    All on education visas and learning how to cook CHICKEN!
    Bizarre to the extreme.
    I will be interested if some other person may enlighten us more on this business?
    Interesting Diane, indeed.
    Colin (HB)

  7. What a beautiful and interesting post. Lovely images and info I had no idea about.

  8. Very interesting and great pictures.
    The grave of the aboriginal is very beautiful. Here in NZ they have the same fencing around old graves.

  9. Colin, I take taxis a fair bit, as I no longer drive. The drivers here in Sydney are very good. They are polite, well-dressed, and well-informed. They ask me which way I would prefer to be taken, if there is more than one possible way.

  10. This is a very interesting burial site, the photos are amazing from the sky.

  11. Interesting now is that one hump or two.

  12. Every photo and every word and idea in your post and in the comments is fascinating in the extreme!
    And I love how you started with the warning. In Australia I was so impressed how the media does that.

  13. Oh WOW, Diane. I loved your previous and now today's take on the meme. I've joined it too with a very old story about building a grave and "cemetery" to commemorate the life of a very special cat in our lives at the time. However, I will be posting about more "present" graves in future. I have never seen a Muslim grave until reading this post. Thanks - I'm scrolling up to look at the post once more. I love deserts (having lived in two at various time in the past three decades) and the desolate air around these scenes. All very intriguing and quite melancholy. Oh, I linked your blog to mine today. Greetings, Jo

  14. I am really enjoying your post to this fascinating meme. There are many who don't care for visiting cemeteries but I don't think they realize how much history can be found there.

    In your last photo Diane, those grass balls look a lot like the tumbleweed that blows around in our area when a whirlwind develops.

  15. Fascinating, as so many have said. We went to Maree in 2005 but did not find the cemetery. I had not realised the Indian connection although I have read one or two autobiographies of these families. I was very interested in the mosque at Maree. I would like to go there again.

  16. An interesting story, specialy that they burried the camels next to the owners.

  17. Last year we went to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne to look at a display about postwar immigration. It was interesting, but we became totally distracted by a display about our early Muslim cameleers. It's a much bigger story than I expected.

    I have seen a little corrugated iron shed at Marree which someone told me was the mosque - was my informant correct?

    Following your taphophilia theme, though, I'm another who didn't know camels were buried with owners. I also had no idea there was an Aboriginal section at the cemetery.

    Fascinating stuff!

  18. Fruitcake: You can find a photo of the old Mosque on my previous post about Marree here:

  19. thanks for sharing this, the cemetery is wonderful. i like the one with the iron fence best, but they are all great shots. i like to wander through old cemetery. this one was fun

  20. trekking your lovely blog!!! thanks for sharing and keep posting! Happy New Year!


  21. Jeez it doesn't pay to be an ambitious dromedary and, for your faithfulness and effort, get promoted to Lead Camel, does it!?

  22. Wow, you don't see plants flying through the air everyday..or maybe you do in that part of Australia!

    I'd so love to be there at night and look up at the stars in that huge sky! It must be truly awesome.

    The graveyard was very interesting, Diana, and also the bit of Australian history that I know so little about. Interesting the Afghan is marked only by his first name on his gravestone.

  23. wauw, this is just a special place, and going there with a small plane. I didn't understand the warning for aboriginal readers.


  24. Filip:: I'm not exactly sure why aboriginal people are not to see images or mention names of the deceased. It is something to do with their cultural beliefs. The warning appears in the media if aboriginal deceased are going to be shown.

  25. One would suppose this practice would lead to a shortage of camels.
    Very interesting post, Dianne.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  26. Your photography and journeys get better and better. I sure wish you and Bill would come to visit me in Memphis, TN. I would love to meet personally and show you Memphis.

  27. Lovely graves and good to see how they look in the outback.
    It's hard for many people from afar to understand how you can't live in some areas of the outback with all that land.

  28. Great shots of this remote cemetery.

  29. How interesting to learn that Aboriginal people do not look at the names or images of their dead ancestors.
    And the Afghan/India mixup. Just think, your train would be called "the Ind" if they had gotten it right all those years ago.
    I read a book about Maree and the Birdsville Track a long time ago. Can't imagine how tough it would have been, driving cattle through there with no water.

  30. Interesting post on the cemetery, Diane! The grave with the flowers is pretty. The cemetery does look like it is in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful post and photos, have a great day!

  31. You keep coming up with places I haven't yet visited!! Love that outback landscape - and look forward to visiting Marree one day!

  32. Very beautiful place. I was not knowing about such a lovely place and shall visit definitely. Wonderful and informative post.
    Wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.
    You are welcome at my new posts-

  33. This is interesting...1855 history is so neat. Lovely pics

  34. Such interesting history and the town still occupied. 70 people makes my favorite semi-ghost town, Hornitos, CA, seem like a veritible metropolis with its 200 souls.

    The camel grave is remarkable and somewhat disturbing at the same time. The dust devil was a bit of unanticipate excitement. It would have chased me off too.

  35. Thanks for the link Diane :) Your photos have confirmed for me that my memory is not too reliable. Nonetheless, the picture confirms for me that the mosque was none too grand.

  36. That's a real interesting graveyard !
    How can somebody be named "Herrgott", that means God ! When I was little on Sundays with my parents we walked on a nearby cimetary it was like a park with banks and a playground for children, although they prefered to play on the graves. We didn't have any relatives there, it's just the use to visit cimetaries in Germany and usually they are very pretty.

  37. I don't suppose a Newmarket taxi will go to those kinds of places, will they?