White Desert of Egypt

When you experience it, you get the feeling of otherworldliness as it look quite alien, but the White Desert of Egypt is certainly very terrestrial; odd, yes, and mystical too.

Technically, the White Desert is the Farafra Depression, part of the Western Desert of Egypt, and the second lowest place in the Western Desert. It is also known as el-Sahara el-Beida, and it is located 45 km (28 mi) north of the town of Farafra.

It is located in one of the least populated, and least visited, parts of Egypt, and this lack of crowds does help to establish the mystery of the area’s surreal appearance. This region is strewn with bizarrely-shaped luminous-white rocky outcrops which individually and en masse have been weathered into some truly odd but wonderful forms.

They are mostly chalky rock formations that have been sculptured by wind and carved by sand storms. Slowly eaten and beaten away over time to form shapes that are at times fluid and appealing; some are grotesque, in a most interesting sort of way; whilst others are simply astounding and seem to defy the laws of gravity.

Some are massive, being many metres high and dwarfing the onlookers who gaze up at them, wondering about how their exquisite shapes were achieved.

As if the White Desert itself was not intriguing enough, adjacent is the Black Desert which consists of small mountains and hillocks which are sooty black in colour. Apparently, this lack of colour is caused by a covering of both black stones and black volcanic ash. Although Egypt itself is not very Vulcan in nature, there has been a lot of volcanic activity over many millennia in the northern Mediterranean areas, the residue of which probably settled and coagulated on the Saharan sands.

To reach both the White and Black Deserts you need to organise transport vie 4WD vehicles, and there are a number of companies which specialise in camping and trekking tours to the region. These are Saharan deserts, so facilities are scarce. However, the rare opportunity of sleeping in and wandering about a lonely desert is an amazing experience.

Nearby, also, is the Oasis town of Bahariyya where you can soak in a, surprisingly hot, thermal spring. This is a truly rejuvenating experience as genuine desert expeditions don’t come with hot and cold running water, and showers are not an optional extra.

There are no creature comforts when you camp in the White or Black Deserts, however, it is as close as you can come to experiencing the Bedouin lifestyle, and gives you a true understanding of the harshness, yet tremendous beauty, of the desert environment.

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