Desert adventures in Egypt

Egypt is a land full of mysticism, boasting a sweeping desert landscape that takes up the vast majority of the country. Booking a safari through one of the country’s three desert regions is one of the most thrilling things you’ll ever do.

You can visit the oases of the vast Western Desert or take a Bedouin tour of the Red Sea Mountains in the Arabian Desert. The more daring among us may prefer an overnight hike up Egypt’s tallest mountain to see the sunrise from the summit.

The Western Desert and its five oases

The Western Desert covers two thirds of this wonderful country, stretching from the Nile west to the Libyan border for 680,000 square kilometres.

Scattered communities inhabit this area, that’s abundant with sand dunes, oases, canyons, mountains and valleys.

There are five charming oases called Siwa, Bahariya, Farfra, Al Kharga and Dakhla, each offering something unique. Situated between Bahariya Oasis and Farafra Oasis is the White Desert, one of the most popular areas to visit. It comes with an ethereal and ever-changing landscape with rocky, sandy and hilly terrains, not to mention limestone formations that resemble food – the most famous nicknamed ‘chicken and mushroom’.

Travelling through the Great Sand Sea of Siwa with its sweeping sand dunes is a stunning sight to behold. The Bahariya Oasis is another beauty with rolling sand dunes, mountain walks and wonderful palm plantations, as well as archaeological sites dating back to Pharaonic periods.

This area is also rich with birds and deer. At Al Kharga, visitors can explore the Necropolis of Al Bagawat, which is one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in the world, and Pharaonic monuments such as the Al Ghuwayta Temple. Dakhla’s attractions include the palm-fringed salt lake Bir El Gabal, just one of many spots of immense natural beauty in this area.

The mystical charm of the Arabian Desert

The Eastern Desert, otherwise known as the Arabian Desert, is a vast area covering 20% of Egypt’s land mass, from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea Coast. This arid region is full of mysticism that enfolds mountainous regions, and at points reach altitudes of over 1,900 metres, which differentiates it from the Western Desert.

One of the most recognisable features of this area – the Red Sea Hills or the Red Sea Mountains – run all the way to the River Nile. This means there are literally miles and miles of unexplored mountains and valleys, where ancient civilisations and communities have left their unique mark.

The most southerly of Egypt’s resorts, Marsa Alam, is a coastal area of the Red Sea with its own airport. It makes a good starting point for tours of the Arabian Desert. With the help of a local Bedouin tribe called Ababda, visitors can enjoy a camel, horse or donkey ride, as well as some tea and bread, traditionally baked in the sand. A big emphasis is placed on archaeological sites, with visits to ancient Roman and Ptolemaic attractions, old emerald and gold mines or ruins of villages.

Egypt's tallest mountain in the Sinai Peninsula

The Sinai Peninsula is a sparsely populated desert region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. It covers an area of 60,000 square kilometres in a triangular formation at the northern tip of the Red Sea.

The peninsula used to be home to thriving Bedouin populations, but though they have dwindled, local Bedouins still provide guidance when it comes to authentic excursions. It’s another magical place where pastel coloured cliffs, gorgeous canyons and dry valleys meet the shimmering Red Sea.

Here you’ll discover the tallest mountain in Egypt, Mount St Catherine, and right next door sits Mount Sinai, where Christians believe Moses received the 10 commandments. Follow in the footsteps of Moses and ascend to the top of Mount Sinai with a Bedouin guide. The summit reaches an amazing 2,285 metres and is a remarkable place to view a desert sunrise, though you’ll have to start your trek at 1am.

At the foot of Mount Sinai you’ll find St Catherine’s Monastery in St Catherine’s city. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds the oldest continuously used library in the world as well as fine Byzantine and Crusader art, all of which is protected by monks.

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