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WHITE Desert

Dates: Dec 28-30, 2019


Route: Drove from Cairo.


Far away from the main tourist areas of Cairo, Luxor and Aswan lies one of the most beautiful and otherworldly places in the middle of the Sahara Desert. We booked our driver through Peter via White Desert Tours and left early in the morning from our hotel in Cairo. We drove towards the Bahariya Oasis which is the main logistics point to explore the area and about 375km from Cairo. As the mass developments of Cairo fell away, the landscape gave way to the never-ending desert, occasionally dotted by a lonely rest area or military outpost. After a 4hr drive, we reached the Oasis which is a shockingly large swathe of green in the middle of the desert. Here we swapped the car for a Land Cruiser that was more suited for off road driving.


As we left the Oasis and went deeper into the desert, the highway was covered in sand and there were large drifts on the side. After about an hour, we pulled off the highway and our driver stopped to let some air out of the tires for travel on sand. We drove upto the edge of what looked like a small mountain but is actually a large rock made entirely of quartz… Crystal Mountain. We were amazed by the amount of crystals laying all around and tourists picking them up with abandon. The highlight is crawling into a cave and seeing the blue sky outlined from inside.

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From there, we drove to the star of the show to camp under the stars of the Sahara. The drive is amazing as the first glimpse of the White Desert is down a long valley that resembles something from the movie Prometheus. Stark white spires made of white chalk sprout from the ground in random shapes and sizes, each sculpted by the dry desert winds. Many resemble common shapes and have been given names like ‘chiken-and-egg’, ‘mushroom’ or ‘eagle’. Words cannot describe the alien landscape and its complete distortion of your reality. The formations are best viewed at sunrise or sunset when the light illuminates all the detail in magical orange and purple hues. Our driver drove us into the heart of the formations and we setup camp along with a few other drivers. Having a meal cooked over an open flame and dining to live Bedouin music made for the perfect ambiance and end to the day. And going to bed with a carpet of stars and the milky-way above rounded our this most magical experience. Bring a coat and warm layers as the desert gets very cold at night in January. We were awakened by our driver around 530 am to watch the sunrise which was as spectacular as the sunset.


(Click on gallery images below for details)

Our final stop in this area was the Black Desert which is back towards the Oasis and not as grand as the other two sites. Volcanic activity millennia ago scattered black stones of hardened lava that give this area its color. There are many small hills (dunes really) scattered throughout this sandy terrain and are easy to climb. There are some beautiful geometric designs in the sand here as the wind sculpts one side of a dune while leaving the other untouched.


(Click on gallery images below for details)

We stayed a night at the International Hot Springs hotel in Bahariya Oasis and it was great to soak our tired feed in the sulfur-rich water of the springs. We had a restful night there and returned to Cairo the following morning.

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