Sunshine and wide open spaces are the cure for city-weary travelers
The Sun, space and opportunity to leave behind the crowded high-tech world are what attract adventure lovers to the boundless stretches of Egyptian desert, one of the loneliest and unspoiled places on the planet.
You don’t need to be a veteran explorer to find out more about the desert’s mysteries; a day trip to the Egyptian desert lets you experience the beauty of the desert without committing to a more demanding trip.
Egypt has five oases in the Western, or Libyan Desert — Kharga, Dakhla, Bahariya, Farafra and Siwa, where you can hook up with a hotel or safari company for guided outings. Dakhla, the farthest of the five, is an 11-hour drive from Cairo.
Kharga, the southernmost oasis and the one nearest the Nile Valley, is the capital of New Valley Governorate. The oasis was known as a stop for the caravans coming from and going to Sudan carrying ivory and slaves. About 250 kilometers from Luxor, the oasis has an amazing old city, with very narrow streets and one-story mud houses constructed using palm tree trunks. The oasis museum — open Saturday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — contains Islamic and Roman artifacts.
Moving from Kharga to Dakhla, the 200-kilometer drive is a journey in itself. The desert seems like a wild painting with unique compositions of colored rocks and hills. The oasis itself is an extensive patch of farmland and palm groves between mountains and desert. Dakhla is home to a few ecolodges, and most organize safari trips into the desert.
Aside from the sun and hot springs (found in all the oases), the oasis is full of ancient sites including Mout El-Kharab (Temples of Death), an Islamic graveyard where you can see skeletons through little moles in the walls. Sheikh Bashandy Maqam, Kanteeka Temple, and many other temples from the Islamic, Roman and Pharaonic eras are also open to visitors.
Situated between Dakhla and Bahariya is the smallest and most isolated oasis, Farafra, closer to the Libyan border than the Nile Valley. The majority of its residents are native Bedouins, most of whom live in the northern part of the oasis, where you will find one of Farafra’s main attractions, Badr’s Museum. The museum showcases artist Badr Abdel Moghny’s drawings, paintings and sand sculptures. Farafra is also an excellent launch point for a camel trek into the White Desert, most famous for its mushroom-shaped rock formations. Other spots worth a visit include Qasr El-Farafra, the old mud-built town, and the hot sulfur spring of Bir Setta. Make sure you wear a dark swim-suit as the high concentration of minerals in the water, although healthy for your skin, may stain your swimsuit.
The road to Bahariya from Farafra, after passing through the White Desert, then runs through the Black Desert, which gets its color from the iron and minerals in the rocks.
Many think of Bahariya, 350 kilometers from Cairo, as one oasis, but it is actually a group of oases. Bawiti, the main one, is home to the “golden mummies” with their gilded coverings, Pharaonic era tombs and the only known temple dedicated to Alexander the Great. The oasis itself is full of camping areas (you’ll need to get permission to stay here) and greenery that can make a perfect weekend destination for desert lovers. As the desert continues to draw more visitors, tailored trips are increasingly available from a number of tour operators. One specialty trip offers tourists Arabic lessons over a campfire in the desert. The Arabic teaching trips usually last more than 10 days, giving you the chance to explore the language and the land as part of a loaded schedule. Belly dancing classes are also offered with a professional teacher and musicians.
Enjoying the wide open spaces and drifting away from the urban world can be just the break you need. That said, be sure to get on the road early to maximize your time in the daylight; getting lost in the desert at night is not a risk you want to take. Safety is important in the desert too, so travel in a group of at least three four-wheel-drive vehicles to ensure your safety. While spontaneous hikes and exploration are encouraged, be sure that everyone knows how to return to a preplanned location or clearly marked meeting spot. No one should wander off on their own under any circumstances.
Make sure you bring plenty of water: It gets powerfully hot in the desert, even in winter, and dehydration can sneak up on you or your car before you know it. If you are doing serious off-roading, bring at least one GPS unit, extra batteries, and preferably a standard compass as well. The mobile networks generally don’t extend into the desert, so walkie-talkies are the best way to communicate between vehicles.
The desert is not a playground for the untrained driver, and even the most experienced safari guides regularly get stuck in the sand. Before you take your 4WD out to play, take some courses in off-road driving and land navigation techniques, or just hire an expert to do the driving for you.
You can try this adventure tour to the Egyptian desert through our programs in this link:
Taken from Egypt Today Magazine