El Bahariya Oasis is one of six oases found in Egypt. It is located about 360km South-West off the capital city of Cairo and is easily accessible by coach or private car. The journey to El Bahariya is a 4-hr drive through the desert. For the most part of the journey, one is greeted only by the sight of golden sand and sand dunes.
The first pit stop was at a local Inn for lunch. The food (chicken, rice and bread) served was simple and delicious. After lunch, guests were split into groups of four and each group was assigned a 4WD Jeep to start the desert exploration. First stop on the list was the Black Desert. The landscape is a combination of orangey sand mixed with layers of black volcanic rocks. These black rocks are scattered all over the desert giving it a unique characteristic.
Next, we drove off to the Crystal Mountain. The small mountain is actually a ridge formed with a large proportion of quartz crystal. As the quartz crystals are not found elsewhere in the desert, some locals believe that the Crystal Mountain was actually formed by meteoroids falling from the sky. However geologists’ studies show that the mountain could actually be an eroded limestone cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites.
After leaving the Crystal Mountain, we traveled across to the white desert. The contrast from black to white is quite distinct. The naturally occurring collection of chalk and limestone boulders combined with the soft powdery sand makes the place so beautiful. The White Desert is like a masterpiece by Mother Nature. Through the years, the white limestone boulders are etched into different shapes and sizes by the wind and other elements. With a little imagination, you can even see shapes of birds and animals. After a tiring day, we were rewarded with an excellent view of the sunset at the white desert.
The next day, the journey continued with a trip to the magic spring, salt lake, and black mountain (English Mountain). We were also brought to a high point to have a panoramic view of the oasis vast vegetation. Somehow, it’s mind boggling to see such a huge plot of green vegetation in the middle of the desert. Nature is indeed amazing. Besides the natural forming phenomenon, there are many ancient monuments to attract tourists to visit the region. The temple of Alexander the Great located in the El Bahariya Oasis has the distinction of being the ruler’s only known temple in Egypt. The Valley of the Golden Mummies discovered by Dr. Zahi Hawass in 1996 is also a major attraction.
Taking a journey through the desert was definitely not easy. The 4WD ride across the sand dune was bumpy and made worse by a mini sand storm stirred up by the vehicles moving in front. To maintain your camera in the best condition, always keep it in a sealed bag, even when you are inside the jeep. I placed my camera on the seat and I ended up with a super dusty camera. The weather is hot and dry so always stay hydrated. For those who can weather the “hardship”, you will be rewarded with a collection of great pictures and fond memories of the oasis.
Lastly, a special desert snow gallery :D