Africa, Egypt

A Trip to Egypt – Part 3 A Western Desert Safari

When I started researching “Things to do in Egypt”, the White and Black Desert safari came up in my search results. SPOILER ALERT! It ties for first place with the Pyramids for favourite parts of this trip. My initial conversations with tour operators revealed that this specific tour was suspended due to the regulations of the tourism police department. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but the trip timelines were at least 3 months away, so I just kept my fingers crossed that the regulations would soften in time. I also had other reservations, if it would be a solo trip, I was a bit unnerved about taking my first camping trip (in life) out in the middle of nowhere, in a country with several travel advisories, negative press and a language I did not understand in the slightest.

At the point of finalizing itinerary details, I still received mixed responses on whether the tour could be done. To be honest, I’m still a little hazy on the restrictions I believe that the tourism police simply turned a blind eye to tour companies; in the end our tour operator (the manager Meedo at the Australian Hostel) said that it can be done. Our tour were all private, so it would be just my sister and I, however Meedo had another client doing the desert safari, so he merged our tours and lowered the cost. In this instance, I said, the more the merrier.

We began with an 8am pick up from the hostel for a 4-hour drive with a rest stop along the way. It was around 6°C that day and it gets colder at night. I’m not sure what the camping norms are, but sleeping outdoors at this temperature, for me, is extremely cold. So I sucked it up because that’s how much I wanted to do it. It even rained a bit on the drive through the Sahara desert.

Black Desert

First stop was the black desert located near the Bahariya oasis. It’s filled with black topped desert mountains. The Black basalt and dolerite rocks are a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago. It’s definitely something to see. Throughout the drive we were treated to Bedouin music from our guide’s village.

El Haiz village -lunch in a Bedouin Village

An integral part of experiencing a country’s culture involves indulging in food and dining. We were taken to small restaurant in El Haiz village for a Bedouin Style (seated on the floor) lunch. Our meal consisted of tuna, delicious Egyptian bread, salad, potato crisps and fresh fruit. Egyptians are big on tea, so we were also served tea in a charming little iron pot. A simple but delicious meal. We also met a young man here, also on a solo tour who would eventually join us at the campsite since we were using the same tour operator. There’s a small natural hot spring in an area near the restaurant. No swimming allowed, the water is actually trapped and used for irrigation etc. in the village.

Crystal Mountain

After lunch, it was back to the vehicle and off to our next stop. Crystal Mountain is a network of ancient geological formations that have been pushed to the surface over time by the earth’s movements. One thing to note is that the crystals are actually quartz. If you look closely at some rocks in the area, you can also see embedded fossilized leaves. Bonus: I was allowed to drive the Toyota Land cruiser off-road in this area of the desert.

Agabat Valley

Made up of limestone hills set in the sands of the Sahara desert, it is said that millions of years ago this valley was all under water. Agabat when translated means difficult. As I walked around this vast valley, I felt like a very tiny spec and I’ve got the photos to prove it. Agabat is truly a wonder for your eyes. As a side note, it was really windy during my trip and for the first time I really understood why people in the desert cover their faces as the windblown sand grazed my cheek.

White desert and camping

We arrived here in time for sunset and to set up the overnight camp. At some point millions of years ago this desert would have been a sea bed. The landscape is filled with chalk white rock formations; they were carved by years of harsh desert winds into shapes like a mushroom, a chicken and a camel to list a few. Desert safari tours are usually structured so you can witness the beauty of the colour of sunrise and sunset across the snow-white rocks.

Now this was my first camping experience. There’s no physical bathroom at these camp sites, just nature. Your choice of  large rocks or wide open spaces. Guys have its so much easier when it comes to taking a leak because my bare butt definitely felt the very cold night air a few times.

The guide set up camp and began dinner preparation potatoes and bar-b-queued chicken using the campfire. Now this is a pretty good idea, except when it’s a windy night, because the sand definitely gets on the chicken. It was delicious all the same. There was a dining area set up, but we all opted to eat in the tent because it was cold and windy. After dinner,, we had traditional Bedouin tea around the campfire.

On a clear night you should be able to see the Milky Way, but I was not so fortunate on my trip there. We retired to our tents in the pitch dark and my big sister tucked me in (never too old for this), because I really have no idea how to work any camping equipment or know any tricks to stay warm. She woke me up around 4 am to see the white desert rocks lit up by the moonlight. I just poked my head out the tent and looked around because it was way too cold for me to go wandering around. There, it was like being in another world and it was a very amazing sight of illumination.

In the morning we woke up in time to see the magnificent sunrise and explore the area a bit more. We saw tiny paw prints in the sand that belonged to desert foxes. We then sat down to have breakfast before heading to our last stop English mountain.

English Mountain or Gebel al-Ingleez

So named because it was used as a lookout post by British soldiers during World War 1. There are still some ruins of the post that the officers used to monitor advances by Libyan troops.

It was then time to head back to Cairo, so we thanked our guide for taking such good care of us and switched vehicles to begin the 3 hr journey back.

This safari was one of the highlights from an amazing trip. It was really hard to choose photos for this post, so flick on over to my Facebook page for more. The region is full of beauty and splendor. Would I go back? Yes! But when it’s warmer. Have you ever been on a desert safari in Egypt? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Savita.

Next up, East and West Banks of Luxor.

 

More on my trip to Egypt

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39 thoughts on “A Trip to Egypt – Part 3 A Western Desert Safari

  1. Hi there,
    Wow I really enjoyed this post. The land looks very beautiful and you made it seem just like if I was really there. I plan on doing some traveling and I will love to visit this location one day. This will definitely be on my bucket lists for places to travel. Thanks for the post! 🙂

  2. What an incredible trip! Thank you for taking us on this journey with you through this site. Amazing photos. I can’t imagine how it would have been out there camping. It seems like you are out there all alone in the whole desert. Great article.

    1. Thanks for reading. Yup, had the desert pretty much to myself (and 3 other people) …. The desert is so huge, it’s really not hard to find a spot like this. It was an amazing visit!

  3. Wow Egypt… I have always wanted to go there. I was given a huge book about Egypt when I was 10 and I still have it to this day. Thank you for providing me with detailed information on what it is like to visit this wonderful place.

  4. Being a Florida boy, I can tell you 6°C and lower would be brutally cold for camping for me! You truly were committed to this experience and it shows from your unique story. I never realized the desert could be so fascinating!

  5. I love your pictures. They are so beautiful. I really enjoyed reading your post. My husband and I are planning to travel sometime this year. I would love to go there some day. Thank you for sharing your vocation with us. I felt as if I was already there.

  6. Hi,
    I love Egypt but I have only ever done the resorts close to the sea. I find them wonderful people too. They all have such story’s to share. This where you travelled to looks amazing. I love the post and a I can almost imagine being there thank you for sharing.
    Cant wait to read more on your travels.
    Regards Deborah

  7. Wow what a story! that sounds (and looks) like it was a ton of fun! I can see why it’d be a little unnerving at first especially when you are travelling alone.

    I like how you still went despite negative media and not knowing much about the country, I think they like to paint a picture of the negative side of things more because fear sells better I guess.

    Thanks for the great article:)

    1. Hi Jeremy,
      I am happy that you enjoyed this post. This was definitely one of part of the trip that certainly changed me for the better. Egypt is a wonderful country to see. Do stop by again for upcoming posts.
      Savita.

  8. This is awesome I have always promised my daughter I will take her to see thEgytptia pyramids but I was buying time since I felt she was still young and her sister was very young, now they have both grown up at least they can comprehend,I think its time and am happy I found your website because now I know we can visit the black and white desert and places for us to eat with the whole family

  9. Now, Savita, here’s where I show my ignorance. Because yes, I did know about the Sahara desert, but I didn’t realise that you could have trips to different parts – in the same way as you have safari trips in other parts of Africa – and so relatively close to Cairo. I must admit, from your recount, it sounds like a tour out of this world, something that you see only in movies. And yet, you had such a wonderful adventure out there – complete with desert winds and cold nights. The only part that, I must admit, would put me off is the overnight camping. Yes, like you, I feel the cold badly. But I would also have been scared of nocturnal creatures crawling about, such as snakes and other ‘bugs’. Did you have any such uninvited encounters at all? Please tell me you didn’t, as otherwise it would be a right ‘no no’ for me!
    Thank you for letting us dream 🙂

    1. Hi Giulia, I am so happy you enjoyed this post!
      In this desert, there are small desert foxes, none of which i encountered. In the morning i did see some tiny paw prints in areas surrounding the campsite whilst exploring. That desert is amazing!!! There’s no other way to describe it, it felt like another world. I’m such a dot in some of those photos, being there,felt like a tiny spec in it’s vastness.
      Make sure you read the other upcoming posts… I look like a dot quite often 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing your adventure! Love this post, and love your website. I never heard of the Black and White Deserts. Thanks to you, now I know. And it looks like I must visit too!

    Also, great photos. They truly help us to feel as if we are there with you.

    Bookmarking this site now. 🙂

  11. Hiya. Great story and I couldn’t take my eyes when reading it so I was completely hooked. Egypt is one of the fewer places I want to see and thank you for sharing this. I will travel there one day soon

  12. What an absolutely incredible experience! Wow! Thank you for taking us on that journey with you. There are so many amazing things to see in this world. You are lucky that you got to see some of them! I’m not sure how lucky you were camping in the cold and having to pee out there in the middle of nowhere. lol But, I’m sure it was worth every freezing, bare butt moment. 🙂

  13. Egypt is number one on my list of places to visit. Your pictures are beautiful and your writing style is so poetic that it definitely reinforces my wanting to go. : ) It seems like a great getaway from the busy city life. I will consider your tips when I plan my visit.

  14. That’s crazy! I think Egypt is one of those places where everyone would like to go at least once in their lifetimes. The fact you were there already makes you super lucky. What would you say was the best part about the trip?

  15. I went to Eqypt 10 years ago and did the big tourist hot spots, the Pyramids and Luxor. This post really makes me want to go back! The Crystal Mountain looks awesome!! Keep up the great posts. I’m excited to see what you make of Luxor 🙂

  16. Great adventure!you really made my day,reading this article made me to imagine myself in Egypt. I love the site especially the pyramids, is awesome. You really had a great day.I am getting ready soon.

    Kind regards
    Stella

  17. Wow! This article is very great. There are so many great photos and your way of writing is flowing, insinghtful and gives me the energy to visit Egypt. I think you have to continue straight in this way, because articles are easy to read, long enough and not a effort for eyes. People will go definitely for your blog. Have a great day!

    Marco

    1. HI Marco, Thanks for your wonderful feedback! It’s always appreciated, every time i post something i secretly think, “I’m the only person who is reading this, Oh well! I like it” lol. Hope to hear from you again!

  18. wow, your website and your stories are amazing. What got you into travel blogging in the first place? would you be interested in being interviewed for my website writingforcash? I’d love to share your the story behind your travel inspiration with my readers. Please get in touch if you’re interested. Thanks so much, cheers, Karen

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your amazing feedback. I got into travel blogging as a way to challenge myself to try something new, as a way to document my current interests and hopefully inspire others to so the things that make them happy. Your blog is great, I would love to be interviewed for it! I’ll shoot you an email. Thanks!
      Savita.

  19. I love safari
    True information
    I’m am from india. I am a travel agent we give the package to our customers shimla and manali. Shimla and manali is one of the beautiful place in india

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