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Western Desert Oases Travel Guide

  • Photo: Bzzuspajk / Shutterstock

Plan Your Western Desert Oases Vacation

A few hundred years ago the only outsiders interested in Egypt's oases were occasional desert raiders bent on stealing the fruits from the orchards, destroying water supplies, and abducting women. Generation after generation, life followed the seasons with little change. The most exciting events of the year were the autumn date harvest and the subsequent caravans that would assemble

and trek to the Nile Valley to take the fruit to market.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Natural Beauty The Great Sand Sea to the south and west of the oases is a mass of golden dunes, while the forest of chalk columns in the White Desert (north of Farafra) and the dramatic black and terra-cotta hills of the Black Desert (around Bahariya) are remnants of an ancient seafloor.
  2. Mummies The vast cache of well-preserved and intricately decorated Greco-Roman era mummies discovered in Bahariya is a major find for Egyptologists.
  3. Hot and Cold Springs Artesian springs have given the oases their fertility. Cleopatra's Pool in Siwa is the most famous of the springs. However, the most beautiful—and normally less crowded because it's only reachable by a four-wheel drive vehicle—is Bir Wahed.
  4. Camping Pitch a tent in a dune field or sleep out in the open under a starry sky. Bedouin guides can take you deep into the desert and set up camp while you explore. Bahariya is known for its rugged beauty, Farafra is famous for its surreal landscape, while Siwa has towering dunes.
  5. Desert Forts The immense Roman fortresses of Nadura, Deir al-Ghanayim, and Qasr al-Labeka north of Al-Kharga protected ancient trade routes. The fortified Islamic settlement of Al-Qasr in Dakhla protected the local population inside its walls.
  6. Off-Roading Historically, trade caravans plied set routes, but today's desert trips are purely for adventure. Off-road excursions can last a morning, a day, or weeks, and you can travel on foot, by camel, or by four-wheel-drive vehicle. You can easily arrange a desert safari from abroad or Cairo, but you'll save significantly if you make your own way to the desert and make all your plans there. Whatever you do, don't go into the desert unescorted; always have a knowledgeable guide.

When To Go

When to Go

The Western Desert is not always as hot as you'd expect, and during the winter months (December-February) the nights can be downright cold. Avoid travel...

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