White Desert Egypt

white desert Egypt they consider the area farther into the interior as the New white desert Egypt (simply because it was closed to them until they got 4x4s), but in fact most of the desert floor beginning 8 km (5 miles) northeast of Qasr has white outcroppings and the entire area should be called the White Desert. The White Desert was declared a Protected Area by the United Nations in 2003.

white desert Egypt

White desert Egypt
White desert Egypt

The White Desert (Sahara Beida)

is one of the great wonders of the world.

There is no doubt that it will one day be a World Heritage Site.

It offers something for everyone who comes to see its amazing panorama.

It never looks the same. Time of day, season of the year, and climate conditions change the mood and appearance of the place.

Dawn, late afternoon, and sunset are the bbest times to be in the white desert Egypt.

Local guides designate a small area of the desert between Qasr Farafra and the escarpment to the northeast as the White Desert.

They consider the area farther into the interior as the New White Desert Egypt (simply because it was closed to them until they got 4x4s), but in fact most of the desert floor beginning 8 km (5 miles) northeast of Qasr has white outcroppings and the entire area should be called the White Desert. The White Desert was declared a Protected Area by the United

white desert egypt

Nations in 2003.

Park rangers already occupy an office at Qasr Farafra.

Maps have been GPSed, sites are being prepared, and rules and regulations are being created. It is a big job, but it is slowly taking place.

It will change the way travelers move about Farafra Oasis. Some of the tours created in the previous edition of this book are no longer possible.

Other areas of the White Desert will not be as restricted (see tours below) as the Protected Area.

The White Desert Protected Area,

covering 3,010 sq km (1,162 sq miles) will have a number of zones.

The first is the Strict Natural Zone. It will be the most controlled area because it is considered the most delicate.

There will be no public access with vehicles, no camping, no development, or public use.

These areas will include an acacia grove far to the east beyond the scarp, Wadi Hinnis, and the core of the White Desert to the southeast of the main road.

The Premium Wilderness Zones will also have serious restrictions: no vehicle access, limited camping, and no development.

All tracks will be closed to the public, and only walking and camels will be permitted (used by management).

The Recreational Zones will offer the most access.

Although vehicles will be permitted, they will be limited to designated paths, and camping will be in designated areas.

These areas include most of the escarpment to the northwest of the main road and parts of what is currently called the New White Desert Egypt.

Although this is subject to change, access routes are currently designated as follows: two entrances above the escarpment on the east, one at the tower, and another at

Gebel al-Izaz, Crystal Mountain.

They connect with the main route through the heart of the Protected Area; the traditional entrance at Bir Regwa and a third trail moving northwest to al-Babain and returning to the main road.

All of these routes will follow a designated path and digressions will not be permitted.

Three camping areas have been designated: west of al-Babain (see map); northwest of U Kabour; and outside the Protected Areasouthwest of al-Tabaly.
First, a few long-standing confusions must be corrected.

white desert egypt

The locations in the White Desert Egypt

have been given a number of different names by various travelers called Ain al-Wadi the M2210 Spring. Today Ain Sirwal is called the Magic Spring.

Beadnell believed that AIU al-Wadi and Wadi Hinnis were the saute place. They are not. Fakhry listed A111 ‘ White Desert To Crystal Mountain and entrance Naqb al-Sillim

A Gharat al-Aseeda

B Zukayak Abdel Razek
C al-Khayyam
D Bir Regwa
 Sleeping Camel

Ain Hadra (Khadra)

as two Zgpllrate Places. There may be another bcrgg Hear Ain al-Wadi, but today all the people Say that the two names are ° Same spring. We will follow the local names.

I Spent four days mapping and Ill 2006 the White Desert in preparation “S new desgnation as a Protected ACC0mpanying me, at the largess of Said, Atef, and Hamdy Ali, was a local driver and Amm Abdul, an octogenarian Farafroni and longtime caravanner.

Our aim was to provide the correct names and location to each known sight, to standardize the names, and to begin to use the Arabic names for the sites as much as possible.

The results of that odyssey are found below.

It is hoped that all will use these designations.

Monoliths  of the White Desert Egypt.

Naqb al-Sillim to Bir Regwa
Naqb al-Sillim
N 27 30 106 E 28 14 997
There are two Naqb al-Sillim, Pass of the Stairs.

The first is the main pass descending the escarpment into Farafra Depression. The second is the original Naqb al-Sillim to the southeast along Darb al-Bahariya (N 27 25 088 E 28 26 853). Both descend into the iron pyrites depression through the 244-meter (708-ft) high cliffs of Upper Cretaceous Khoman Chalk.

This is a dazzling white cliff composed of calcium carbonate and filled with Seashells from some 65 million years ago, while dinosaurs were roaming the earth.
Just before the descent is a tall communications tower that serves as a good landmark while off road in the Farafra desert.

Aqabat (Akabat)

Enter the hills N 27 29 302 E 28 14 980
As the roadway tumbles down the slope, a cluster of outlier hills, which have broken away from the cliffs, appears on the left, or southeast, side of the road.

Sometimes called sugarloaves because of their bowl- like shape, they always appear mysterious and shrouded in mist (which disappears as you near them). This area is called Aqabat, the Obstacles.

That is what it is: one of the most interesting places in the entire desert and one of the most dangerous. Tour it carefully, for it is easy to become disoriented.


Al-Khour N 27 27 937 E 28 16 279
ln the middle of Aqabat is a small depression completely surrounded by the sugarloaves.

It is called al-Khour, the hole. The ground is covered with the iron pyrites and marcasite stones that are famous in Farafra, perhaps since pharonic times when they may have been exported to the Nile Valley and called the ‘rods of Farafra’ others look like starbursts and are called desert fl0W@f5 by the desert drivers, while still other Safe like turds. Beadnell concluded that the black color is caused by a chemical Chaflge from sulfide to oxide.

Al-Musharaja or Twin Peaks

N 27 26 135 E 28 15 656
At the southwest edge of Aqabat is a 1006 Twin Peaks  easily recognized by its two flat-shapped peaks.

It is one of the most yominent landmarks in


Its EngHgh name, Twin Peaks, was given to it in by the men of the Long Range Desert Group and the Desert Sunney, who used it as a landmark to find their way in the fear Eil Farafra landscape.

Local legend and Amm Abdul, an octogenarian Farafroni who once navigated the desert trails by camel, maintain that the mountain is also called Gebel al-Wadi Bahardi, Mountain of the West Valley, and that there is buried treasure in the mountain. ln fact, there is so much treasure that eight horses are  to take it all away.

lldi Hinnis (Henis), Valley of John

27 25 696 E 28 15 384
Ain ai-Wadi and Aqabat is the Hinnis, Valley of John, one of the desolate places in Farafra.

The local  divide the Wadi into two parts, (Sharqui), the East Valley, and   Gh31’b1,.the West Valley.

This is the Y Place in Farafra where Danian

estb°d’°°_k {S exposed and it may be the low- P°mf III the oasis.

There are few trees in Wadi Hinnis, and those few struggle to survive. Their drooping fronds sadly in need of nourishment make for a haunting landscape.

There are a few dunes, as well as a few ruins, barely visible today.

Fakhry spoke of a number of these brick structures between Ain al-Wadi and Wadi Hinnis. The Bedouin say no dog barks or person speaks in this bleak place.

More space-age interpretations believe the valley has a magnetic field and is a good place to recharge your aura, especially during the full moon.

Ain Maqfi or Makfee

N 27 24 936 E 28 20 942
Far to the east, south of and behind Aqabat, is Ain Maqli, the Crooked (or Shaded) Spring.

It is a small oasis in a small valley with the source deep inside the vegetation.

On regular clean-ups of the desert, a watertrough has been built and the ilow has been directed to make the water easily accessible.

Ain Sirwal (Seroul) aka Ain Abu

N 27 22 194 E 28 20 838
Situated in a small depression of its own, Caused by wind and rain over millions of years Ain Sirwal, the Magic Spring, received its modern name not because it does something spectacular but because it is spectacularly beautiful.

white desert egypt

Geologically, it is also brilliantly interesting. All the small outlier mountains that surround the spring are the same size and flat-topped.

This is the perfect example of how the earth breaks down and erodes.

The surface here was once at the tops of these mountains. A millennium ago, the wind, probably with the help of water, eroded the loose earth, leaving only what you see today. The mountains will erode further over the centuries until only small pillars, yardangs, and mushrooms remain. Named after a family that once lived here, Ain Abu Hawas is a perfect place to camp as there are no snakes and so few mosquitoes in winter one can almost say there are none.

There are a number of palm trees in the area,

but the spring is in the largest grouping. Someone has pruned the fronds so that a nice sandy cave exists where one can spread blankets.

There are stones in place for fires, and someone always seems to leave a little wood behind in case you have not gathered enough.

The campfires and the sleepovers may change with the new rules of the Protected Area.
Wadi Sunta
N 27 21 007 E 28 1 729
The reason for the name of this valley, which means Acacia Valley, becomes apparent as soon as one sees the giant, twisted, acacia tree atop the hillock near the spring.

This acacia, in bloom in November and December, twists and tums and spreads out like an umbrella. The shade under its magnilicent canopy is a welcome haven from the hot sun.

Unfortunately, while building a fire one evening, one of the guides set the tree on fire and it is half of what it once was. Fortunately, it was not completely destroyed.

Ain al-Wadi or Ain Khadra

N 27 22 309 E 28 13 200
Ain al-Wadi, Spring of the Valley, also known as Ain Khadra (Hadra), the Green Spring, sits in a small depression of the same name 12 to 13 meters (38 to 41 ft) deep and 8 km (5 miles) long.

It is 45 km (28 miles), or a one-day camel journey, from Qasr F arafra along Darb al-Bahariya, the ancient caravan route.

From here the darb goes on to Wadi Hinnis, where caravans would pause forthe second day.

Then it climbs the escarpment in the area called Aqabat and heads for Bahariya.

If one looks northeast, one can see the radio tower atop the escarpment where the main road crosses. It is a good landmark.

To the west of the towers, the twin monoliths of al-Babain can be seen.

The asphalt road lies between the wadi and al-Babain.

The wadi itself is exquisite and well worth the hard work it takes to get there.

The sand is golden and small shrubs and palms dot the Wadi floor.

It is such a contrast to the rest of the area that some geographers have designated it as an entirely separate depression.

The palm tree that once rose far above all the others and made Ain al-Wadi easy to identify collapsed in 2004 or 2005.

Ain al Wadi

The spring, located on the mound, is a fggsil spring, which naturally taps the Nubian Aquifer and brings million-year- old water to the surface.

There is a bucket with which to draw the sweet water and a palm trunk blocks the spring so people do not fall in as they gather water.

At the base of the spring is a watering trough once used by the caravan animals but now enjoyed by travelers.

Facing the trough, the hill  holds tombs, and a broken coffin is 5511 in situ.

Hassan Fakhry found herds of pzelles here in the 1930s.

We followed their footprints in the 1980s. Today they are lang gone from this place.

This small oasis, what people expect a desert oasis to be, has become the meeting place of the White Desert. A number of groups stop for tea here at the same time. There are enough hidden alcoves at the spring to make each group think it is the only one there.
The Chalk Talks
The white chalk rocks of Farafra come in hundreds of forms, each one reminiscent of ‘ something familiar: a sphinx, camel, tent, and even a huge whale.

This area, between Ain al-Wadi and Bir Regwa, the most popular in the White Desert because of its accessibility, offers a variety of chalk Sculptures within walking distance of each Other.

It holds a number of forms that have *UBB given names by travelers. Some are mushrooms because they are large top and narrow, and stem-like on the ibttorn. Unfortunately this is the last form  Will take before they topple.

This area is a good place to get out of “IC vehicle and walk around. Do not mmh, Chip, scratch, sit on, climb, or other Wise damage the fragile formations.

Gharat al-Aseeda

N 27 20 639 E 28 11 532
Gharat al-Aseeda, Porridge Rock, is smooth and round-topped. It was named alter the local porridge by Amm Abdul and his compatriots.

Amm Abdul said that the men of Farafra would often try to climb its very smooth sides but that most failed.

Zukayak Abdel Razek

N 27 21 252 E 28 12 057
Despite the many references to wild camels in Farafra, the camels are not wild.

They are free to roam and usually come home on their own. Sometimes, however, a man must go in search of them.

This small track, Zukayak Abdel Razek, Alley of Abdel Razek, is named after such a man who went in quest of his lost herd.

Aish al-Gherban (Mushrooms)/Aish

al-Ghorab (Mushroom)
N 27 21364 E 2810 260
There is an explanation for the exotic formations of the White Desert Egypt.

The white chalk is Cretaceous limestone, the remains of ancient microscopic marine organisms. In the case of the mushrooms, the tops may be filled with sturdier fossilized creatures that had shells. More than likely, however, is that the winds have had their way with the fragile formations.

They pick up loose sand and blast it at the lower levels of the rock, which erodes the soft sides. The wind and the sand are the architects of the White Desert.

The pair have had less success with the smaller, squatter, thick-stemmed formations dubbed ice-cream cones.

white desert egypt

These are sturdier than the mushrooms. Their tops look as if they are dripping and slipping, perhaps from intense heat a million years ago.

AI-Khayyam (The Tents)

AI-Khayyama (tent)
(also, White House, Bayt Abyad)
N 27 20 842 E 28 10 326 1.7
Second tent
N 27 20 487 E 28 ll 361 1.9102
little beauty but great bulk.

Their composition is not Cretaceous limestone.

They are entirely too sturdy and the wind has not created as much havoc with the tents.
They are known by a number of names: al-Khayyam and Bayd Abyad.

Bir Regwa

N 27 21 572 E 20 09 918
Named after the company that built it, this well is also known as al-Bir al- Akbar, the Great Well. It sits on the south side of the road at the track that has been used in the past two decades as  There are at least two tent foundations in the area large rock or hill like constructions of entrance and exit to the White Desert.

An alternate exit takes the traveler into an area called the New White Desert Egypt by local drivers.
Al-Tabaly, al-Tabali
N 27 16 258 E 28 10 910
Deep to the southwest, near the edge of the chalk formations is an area called 11 Tabaly, the Tables. Long, Hat-topped, low formations are scattered about the area looking like banquet tables ready to be laden with a desert feast. That, obviously, is how they got their name.

white desert egypt

Wadi Biddenee (within the Protected Area) Babain, or Darareeb (Farafrian)

AI-Babain (Darareeb) N 27 25 579
Wadi Biddenee, Valley of Biddenee, is the name of the area between al-Babain to al- Kabour, two of the White Desert’s most outstanding landmarks.

The wadi is named after the man whose family once lived at the spring to the south of al-Kabour. A good desert track joins the two sites and leads through an exciting landscape.

Al-Babain means Two Doors (Darareeb in Farafroni)

and that is exactly what these two stumring monoliths look like.

Two of the most massive inselbergs in the area, they dominate the cliffs of the northem escarpment.

If there is one symbol for the White Desert, this is it.

Behind them is a hidden valley worthy of an attemoon’s exploration. A dried water channel lies to the right, and signs of the two escarpments that fonn the cliffs of the White Desert are visible, It was pristine as of March 2006. Keep it that way. In front, across the paved road, Ain al-Wadi can be seen in the distance.

Al-Gamal al-Na’im

N 27 24 360 E 28 09 210
Directly in front of al-Babain is a dirt track.

It twists and turns its way back toward Qasr Farafra A little way along that route rs a formation that looks like a sleeping camel (al-Gamal al-Na’im).

It seems to be lying spread-eagle, with its head and neck stretched out and a camel saddle on its back.

This outstanding rock sculpture is perhaps the most realistic-looking in the White Desert.

A side track slowly weaves deep into the escarpment into a different world not one as filled with exotic fonations as the more well-known and easily accesible White Desert.

The distant spots worth seeing include: Al-Gara, the Beautiful: N 27 23 548 E 28 06 371;

Al-Gara al-Makhruma,

the Beautiful Cave with a Hole: N 27 24 753 E 28 05 614; Walid al-Gherd, the Walid Dune; N 27 23 448 E 28 03 942 AI-Kabour  E28 06 459 Spring N 27 19 710 E 28 O8 777 Al-Kabour, the Column, is the butt Of many jokes in the oasis. It is in another area that is good for walking and camel riding.

Nearby is a spring with good shadfl- This rs a good place to stop have SOI” desert tea and listen to desert stories white chalk sculptures begin to on the right, or south, side of the d.

Here is an entire cast of the Absurd. Some of the formations are surrealistic, others are ,ked into distinct shapes: sunbathers in lifting their faces to the sun,Mexicans in broad-brimmed hats, §lighteners with their capes wrapped their legs after a pass.

The desert  keep changing the sculptures,

clip a bit here and there, eroding the ridges, and revealing newer, stranger shapes that lie beneath the surface of the This area is good for walking or riding 8 camel.

The formations are not only  close to the road, but lie on both sides of it. Some are situated around the base of the mountain and taking photos in this area is great.

The outcroppings run along the side of the road for 4 km (2.5 miles).

Less than 20 km (12.5 miles) beyond the beginning of the White Desert, the ground on the right side of the road turns to brown sand and is covered with hum- mocks, hills shaped by the small trees that sit on top of them.

In the tree’s quest for survival in this harsh environment, its roots are forever searching for moisture.

The hummock is the twisted root blended with tufts of grass and desert sands.

Some are small, with pathetic-looking trees, while others, especially after there has been plenty of moisture because of heavy fogs, dews, or rare rains, are topped by miniature trees, much larger than, but reminiscent of, the bonsai trees of Japan and Nile cruise.

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