Western Egyptian Desert -- Scenes from Another Planet


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Africa » Egypt » Western Desert » Baharia
February 20th 2016
Published: February 23rd 2016
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Yasser cooks dinnerYasser cooks dinnerYasser cooks dinner

Camp dinner is the best
It was “Dawn Patrol” time again. Many travelers are aware of the scenario: up sinfully early and ready to go before the sun thinks about rising. It was our turn. We had many miles to travel this day and required all the sunlight possible if we were to see what the area had to offer. We were heading 600 km (350 miles) from Cairo into the desert.



We were met by Mohamed and Gamel, tossed our belongings in the back of the ten passenger van and off we went, leaving early enough to avoid the morning traffic, which is a plus when you’re in Cairo and honestly we were more than ready to leave Cairo. This was the start of what was going to be a fantastic day, well two days, but at this point, frankly, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Brendan had booked our desert safari online weeks before…..but what does a chef know about booking a desert tour…….a dessert tour possibly?



The day before when we mentioned what our plans were to a hotel staff member and he got that “really?” look on his face. He said, “I thought that part
Peaceful MountainsPeaceful MountainsPeaceful Mountains

Black Mountains Egypt
of the country was closed?” Oh boy….what to think now as we were to head off some 600 km in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It’s closed? After his comments we scurried back to our room to double check the trip advisor reviews and other recent postings. It looked fine, and so we decided we were in good hands with Mohamed.



Mohamed quickly allayed our fears as he described the day’s events that would unfold. We would drive four hours to Bahariya Oasis, meet Yasser, who would be our driver into the desert and have lunch in his home before resuming our voyage. We were here to see the Black Desert and the White Desert. And just to make it real interesting, we would be camping in the desert to boot. Camping? Yes, camping. We had not camped for ……well let’s just say it’s been awhile. We’re not the youngest folk around and honestly, our idea of camping is roughing it at a lower end lodging.



As we left the greater Cairo area the topography changed rapidly and continually. On the surface one might say there is nothing out in the desert for mile
Nearly full moonNearly full moonNearly full moon

Desert glow
after mile but clearly they do not have our astute observational skills. The land goes flat, the sand gets deeper, the winds blow and the sand shifts, rock formations appear, and then disappear, there is a subtle appearance of train tracks and then a short time later train cars resting on the tracks. We’ve learned a lot of mining goes on in the western desert and the train is used to move the iron ore and gravel.



Our excitement grew as we learned we were approaching the Black Mountains. As we look out the windows we see tall mounds, mountains and rock formations covered with volcanic ash, hence the name the Black Mountains. Next thing we know our 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser is off roading it! We were not prepared for this—what a surprise! Yasser has driven off the highway and appears to be heading into nowhere land. We are surrounded by amazing Black Mountains on all sides before we stop to walk around and take photos. The silence is amazingly deafening. The beauty is stunning. We are not in Cairo any more. We are somewhere we’ve never been….almost on another planet…but there was more.

Stunning SunsetStunning SunsetStunning Sunset

White Desert Egypt


Back on the highway we went for a few miles before Yasser is off roading it again in the sandy desert. The tires slip a bit as he drives over the hills and hugs corners like Mario Andretti and he seems to like to speed. Clearly he’s done this once or twice before. It appears there is an attempt to put some excitement into this desert drive and Yasser accomplished it. He expertly drove around the rock formations and when we stopped it was announced that we are at Crystal Mountain. This is a geologists dream. It was like no other rock formations we’d ever seen…and we’ve seen a few in our day. Mountains of crystals, crystals of all sizes and shapes, the mountains glittered and sparkled. We stayed in the area for a long time climbing, talking and taking photos. It was one of those vistas where you simply run out of adjectives quickly and just stare. We had little to say because we had never seen anything like this before. Piles of crystals, mountains made of crystals. Unimaginable. Wow! We didn’t want to leave but after a decent amount of time in this location there was promise of more…..you will want to see.



We are beginning to get used to driving up a sandy mound and back onto the highway to drive a couple of miles and slide off the other side. Getting into the groove of desert driving…and it’s a blast. Yasser whisks us here and there expertly, appearing to know exactly where he’s going only there’s no roads, just some time tracks from time to time. Built in GPS…that’s what he’s got.



Next we are in an area called Ahkabat where we see….. something that for lack of any better words, looked like Utah on steroids. Serenity…stunning beauty. We sat in the sand, played in the sand, wrote in the sand and sat imagining how this grand place on earth is not on some famous and fashionable list. Our hours in this location went all too fast. The sun was beginning to set on the day and Mohammed and Yasser wanted very much for us to enjoy the sunset in the white desert. We press on…



The white desert is far better known and shown in photographs than the Black desert or the Crystal Mountains we
Mohamed & YasserMohamed & YasserMohamed & Yasser

Excellent Desert Guide
had already seen. As we drove into the area again we were stunned by the enormity of the ventifacts. These are rocks that are shaped by the winds and the sand. They come in all shapes and sizes. Your imagination is the guide to what each formation looks like…a chicken, a mushroom, the Sphinx….wait….is that Elvis?



After sunset Yasser and Mohamed quickly set up camp. A fire was started, the camp stove were hummed, a dining room was created with carpets and beautiful wall coverings, to shield us from the wind and create a true Egyptian setting. We were fortunate to have a nearly full moon so we were never in complete darkness and could continue to enjoy the white formations.



We dined under the moonlight on chicken, rice, pita bread bed, vegetables and soup, all prepared by Yasser who used only his two burner camp stove and a campfire to ensure we were well fed. We’ve been with Mohamed and Yasser a few hours and our conversation is relaxed and enjoyable. We talk about life, friends and family in general and in Egypt specifically. They both have a wicked sense of humor and we find we feel like we have known them for a long time. After dinner, we had tea and retired to our tents…tired but full of some great memories.



We rose before dawn and stumbled out of our tents in anticipation of the sunrise and the chance at more brilliant colors; the sky slowly filled with subtle blues, grays and pink sunlight and weren’t disappointed. It was if we had been magically transported to another planet, one of unique rock formations and stunning vistas.



We were moving a bit slow as we are not used to dining on the ground, nor are we used to tent camping. After breakfast, we made the long voyage back towards Cairo to catch the overnight train to Aswan and more adventures…



We are looking forward to our night in Aswan where we will be able to take a long hot shower, as there were no facilities while we camped. That’s right, if you had to go…you went behind a rock formation.



We’d like to give one final thanks to our new friend Mohamed who decided to run home and pick up his wife and daughter so we could meet them. He then sat with us at the train station to make certain we got on the right train. We were extremely grateful because all of the announcements were in Arabic. The trains only stop for about ten minutes and it is more than likely we would not have gotten on the correct train. He is an incredibly thoughtful man and an excellent guide. When we made our arrangements with him we didn’t realize he provided tours and guidance for all areas of Egypt. We would have hired him to join us in Luxor and Aswan.

Mohamed Marghany

contactus@desertegyptsafari.com desertegyptsafari



We found difficulty describing the beauty that we experienced in the Western Desert of Egypt. As far as we are concerned this is a must see.


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Dave, MJ & BrendanDave, MJ & Brendan
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The White Desert
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The beauty of the desert


23rd February 2016

Very Interesting!
As usual, your photos are outstanding. Never knew about the crystals. Very cool.
23rd February 2016

Interesting and crystals
We didn't know about the crystals either and can't figure out why the world doesn't know about this place. It was simply amazing. Thanks again for following and commenting. Enjoy Hawaii.
23rd February 2016
Yasser cooks dinner

Guide Luck!
You have had wonderful luck with guides in Egypt--it was so touching that Mohammed stayed with you to make sure you got on the right train. How cool that you pushed your comfort zone a bit, camped and got rewarded with fab food, a great sunrise and sweet company, you intrepid travelers. Desert photos are gorgeous!
24th February 2016
Yasser cooks dinner

Guide luck
Indeed we have been very fortunate. Mohamed is a wonderful man and very knowledgeable. Wish we had realized he provided tours to all of Egypt and not just the desert. I hope those who are coming to Egypt and read this blog will call him. They will not regret it. It has been a wonderful trip...and it continues.
24th February 2016
Dave, MJ & Brendan

I see...
Woolly sheep rock and short-beaked parrot rock :)
24th February 2016
Dave, MJ & Brendan

You see...
Good eye....thousands of formations....acres and acres. Amazing.
24th February 2016

What an adventure!
I love the sound of this trip into the desert. I've wanted to do this ever since I saw a program on the Bedouin camps in North Africa... but I'm not sure that I could survive more than one night with those 'limited' facilities :)
24th February 2016

An adventure
More details on surviving the adventure to come soon but that this the 1st time in 30+ years I'd gone without a shower for 3 days and I wouldn't want to do that again. It was well worth it. The colors and formations were fantastic.
24th February 2016

Envious
Yes I am envious ...all those amazing rocks ..... I would have loved it. Looks absolutely awesome and you were so well looked after. Sussex will be a bit tame after that when we meet up.
24th February 2016

Envious
Crystal Mountain was simply amazing. We didn't expect it to be so grand. Our guide was amazing and our heads have been filled with 3,000 years of history and great stories. See you soon.
24th February 2016

A must see
I agree that this is a must see. The sights, off road driving, camping, sleeping under the stars. The only thing to make it better is to share it with friends.
24th February 2016

A must see
So glad we are here with you. An amazing chapter in our travels. Many more to come certainly.
24th February 2016

Desert
Incredible pictures. I truly admire your adventurous spirits and your ability to research and find these awesome excursions!
24th February 2016

Desert
We can't take credit for finding this one. We are traveling with our friend Brendan and he uncovered a gem of a guide. Certainly a grand experience.
24th February 2016

Great choice!
You are right, it is like you are on a different planet! I love these kinds of trips to secluded places away from the crowds and to beautiful geographic zones. Great choice in location outside of Cairo!
24th February 2016

Great choice.
We've traveled a bit of the world and we embrace the big cities when we are there. Cairo really didn't do much for us and we were happy to move on. We are getting a good taste and plenty of variety here in Egypt.
24th February 2016

A tent with no ensuite???
I tend to back track when I hear or see the word "camping", but some of the best moments can be when you rough it, especially with good friends. The scenery looks incredible, very, very envious now, looking forward to Aswan.
24th February 2016

Tent camping
Roughing it is sometimes worth it. Mother nature was our friend. A great trip.
24th February 2016

Sounds Amazing!
I've thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions of these little (un)known places! And to hear that the country feels safe, and is in need of the tourism influx, you're inspired us to consider traveling there sooner then later!
24th February 2016

Amazing Egypt
We are nearing the end of our two weeks in Egypt and can honestly say we have felt safe the entire time. They do need the influx of tourism so hope you will come sooner than later. Mohamed will make your time here incredible. He has a wicked sense of humor. He and Yasser are a good pair.
24th February 2016
Serenity

Happiness
Beautiful photo and perfect caption :)
24th February 2016
Serenity

Happiness
We are so glad we came to Egypt. We have been putting it off but really no reason to at this point.
24th February 2016
Sand and shadows

The desert
There is something about deserts that draws one under it's spell. It is the silence, the harsh environment in so many ways...and the diversity brilliantly in your pics. Gotta love it!
25th February 2016
Sand and shadows

The desert
The serenity and the isolation of the desert present a fierce combination of joy and tranquility. Life out here permanently would be tough so we admire those who have picked this life. Thanks for following along.
24th February 2016

One of the Special Places
You are bringing back memories of our time there, although we possibly had a little less luxury. For me the desert was more inspiring than the pyramids. Enjoy.
25th February 2016

One of the special places
Our Cairo hotel did afford some luxury but since then they have been rather basic. The Egyptian desert is so very special. So thrilled you are following along. We have not heard from you in ages and hope you are doing well.
24th February 2016
A desert of white

Marvelous creation
Looks like the desert didn't disappoint. Also sounds like the Eygyptian guides were very hospitable & fun to be with. Hope you didn't tell too many family secrets :-)
25th February 2016
A desert of white

Marvelous creation
We have so many photos it is difficult to select the ones for the blog. Yes that one does look unique....sort of like meringue.
24th February 2016
Almost another planet

Another planet...
What an incredible place! ...and fantastic photography of course :)
25th February 2016
Almost another planet

Another planet
Thank you for following and commenting. It is an amazing place where it is difficult to take a bad photo. Hope you will spend some time here.
24th February 2016

Camping in the desert
Another wonderful adventure! Can't say I knew much about this part of the world to be honest so was quite amazed to see these incredible landscapes and to find out about the crystals! Camping in the desert? Wow! Doubt you will find any more remote camping site than this one... thanks for sharing :)
25th February 2016

Camping in the desert
Remote but worth the effort. Stunning beauty abounds in this isolated part of Egypt. The crystals were incredibly and surprising. We've never seen anything remotely like it. Hope you will call Mohamed and plan a trip. He is an expert.
25th February 2016

Wish I'd done that on my trip to Egypt, really cool guys! I hope rest of your time there is just as great! Safe travels!
25th February 2016

Hey Surfbird
Thanks for following along. You may need to come back and spend some time in this amazing desert. This has been our favorite location so far.
25th February 2016

I think your other traveling blogs are far more interesting But still enjoyed seeing this one. love Mildred
25th February 2016

Desert Blog
Hello Mildred, thank you for following along and sending a comment. We loved the desert and hopefully you will like the ones to follow.
28th February 2016
Dave & MJ

looking good!
the desert looks pretty. The camping experience should have been interesting. I guess you guys are having a good time in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.
28th February 2016
Dave & MJ

Looking Good
Hem, thanks for following along and commenting. Indeed we are having a good time. So much to see.

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