CAIRO -To some it looks like a landing strip for extraterrestrial spacecraft. To others the portal to a parallel universe or an ancient monument to a benevolent deity who had a keen eye for design and symmetry.

But the swirling arms of this design, spotted in the desolate reaches of the Egyptian desert, just a short distance from the shores of the Red Sea, is in fact an environmental art installation. The giant structure has been baffling tourists and those scouring Google Earth from the comfort of their homes, since it first appeared in March 1997. It is the work of Danae Stratou, Alexandra Stratou and Stella Constantinides.

The team designed and built the one million square foot piece of artwork to celebrate ‘the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind,’, their website reveals. Entitled Desert Breath, the installation features two interlocking spirals, one with vertical cones and the other with conical depressions in the desert floor. It was originally designed with a small lake at its centre, but recent images on Google Maps, show the lake has since emptied.

The recent images reveal the entire structure is slowly disintegrating as the sand blows off its cone-shaped hills and fills in the depressions.

The artists state on their site: ‘Located at the point where the immensity of the sea meets the immensity of the desert, the work functions on two different levels in terms of viewpoint. ‘From above as a visual image, and from the ground, walking the spiral pathway, a physical experience.’