This part of Egypt has so much to offer with the black desert, white desert, Crystal mountain, as well as both cold and hot oasis. It is a naturally rich oasis located in the Western Desert of Egypt. To get to this quaint little place you will need to take a five hour, nearly 400kms mini bus from Cairo/Giza. From here you will jump into a 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser and get on your way to enjoy what’s next.
First stop is into the black desert, just a 20 minute drive from Bahariya. This region has dome-shaped volcanic, widely spaced mounds distributed along approximately 30 kms of the desert. Most of these mounds are capped by basalt sills resulting in the black colour. These domes vary in size and shape, while the tallest reaches 100 metres into the clear blue sky creating for breathtaking contrast over the yellow desert sand.
Next up involved driving off road through the sand dunes taking us to a cool pool oasis where we had a limited amount of time to get refreshed and enjoy some local tea before heading back into the erred landscape.
Back in the truck we continued further south down the highway to Crystal mountain. While we originally thought here we would find just a few random stones, we were pleasantly surprised. The mountain was literally covered in crystals. It is rumoured that the area was created when a large meteorite crashed into the earth creating immensely high temperatures, which melted the rocks into these beautiful crystals. This place was accidentally discovered only when the hill was opened during construction of the road from Farafra to Bahariya, which unfortunately destroyed some of it in part.
Sand boarding was up next on the list for us. Our guide shifted into 4-wheel drive and pushed a little deeper into the sand before we arrived amongst the top of a beautiful dune with amazing scenery. Here we all took turns sitting on the boards and zooming down the sand hill all while watching our shadows elongate into the mid afternoon sun. What a rush as we raced down the face of the dune, but having to slug our way back up was quite the chore.
The white desert is one of Egypt’s most beautiful landscapes. Sahara el Beyda, the White Desert protected area, is a national park in Egypt, only established as a protected area in 2002. Here you will find large white chalk rock formations that were sculpted by sand and wind erosion creating these beautiful masterpieces. This park covers 3,010 square kms and serves as a refuge for various animals including a couple fox breeds, sheep, gazelle, jackals and even the sand cat. The floor of the desert is compressed white chalk-like rock but with yellow sand constantly blowing around covering up the low lying areas. If you kick your toes beneath the surface a few inches you can easily locate the blinding white mineral rock underneath. With all of us left in awe, we gazed upon the setting sun and then enjoyed a traditional Bedouin meal of rice, lentils, chicken, breads and vegetables. The full moon was shining down on us so there was no need for any sort light as we settled under the stars and then into our tent and reflected on the beauty of our surroundings.
Morning came and it was time to get organized and head back. After a quick breakfast of eggs, breads and cheese we started our drive back through the desert sand. We stopped at several dramatic white chalk rock formations that had some resemblance to things like rabbits, chickens and other abstract objects. It was a short drive bouncing around the sand before we were back on the pavement and continuing north the way we arrived avoiding the mounds of blowing sand that had piled up on the road edges.
Our final stop ended us at a hot oasis pool. We were all ready to jump in and clean up after spending so much time in the sandy desert but were warned it may be a bit too hot for that. This spring was actually so hot you could hardly put your hand or foot in it for more then a second or two. It was quite tranquil though to just sit and relax beside. There are multiple locations in this area where well water is being pumped up to the surface which has created a lush green environment for crops and vegetation among the dry and barren desert scape; a true oasis experience.
Once returning to civilization we swapped over to the original 12 passenger van and returned to Cairo/Giza feeling satisfied with our breathtaking experience.
When coming to Egypt most think pyramids and temples, but it really does have so much more to offer then just those. If you find yourself in Cairo and looking for a great desert tour then this is it. This tour, while covering just over 1000 kms in just under 48 hours, was entirely worth it. While seeing so much in such a short time, somehow it really didn’t feel that rushed.