Sculpted in the Sun: Bahariya’s Black and White Deserts
Our mini-bus pulled into the driveway of the Shams City lodge and hotel in the Bahariya Oasis and having left Cairo early the same morning it took us a moment to adjust to our surroundings. The rounded roofs of the rooms were surrounded by tall palm trees and as we gazed around and unloaded our bags, the owner of the lodge Ahmed Abd El Rahim greeted us with a smile.
He led us into the cool dining hall and explained the trip to us: the Black Desert, Crystal Mountain, the White Desert and a night under the stars.
After eating a modest lunch of cheese, bread and beans and a short time allowed to play ping-pong and lie on the grass we piled into two 4-wheel drive vehicles and set off on the road towards the desert.
Desert scenery is often repetitive and dull, however in the Bahariya Oasis there is actually a variety of desert. The first stop was the Black Desert, a landscape that is covered in a layer of seemingly charred rock. The tracks of the cars left yellow lines slicing through the dark stone, and we were able to look into the dry black valley set against the clear blue sky.
Next stop was the Crystal Mountain, which filled my mind with images of shining diamonds glinting in the sun, and I wasn’t far off. Arguably the rock formations did not catch the sun in the way my mind had envisaged but it was impressive to see the whole hill covered in various different types of crystalline rocks of varying size, shape and colour.
The final stop on the tour, where we would set up camp for the night, was the White Desert. We saw the brilliant white structures from a way off and as we approached we saw just how impressive the natural rock formations truly are. Having been underwater some millions of years ago it was amazing to see how Mother Nature had sculpted the landscape since the water dried up. Our drivers weaved between the monolithic formations pointing out those that had taken recognisable forms, including a dog, the Ancient Egyptian god Horus and the Pièce de résistance, the chicken and the tree (although there were some who argued it looked more like a sheep).
Our drivers decided to set up camp under the distant gaze of the Rabbit and we climbed high onto one of the rocks to watch the beautiful sun set. We descended quickly where we lay back and waited for the stars to appear one by one until the whole sky was blanketed with the sparkling diamonds.
Speak to a travel agent and arrange a trip tailored to you. I would recommend the Bahariya Oasis for a short weekend trip but there is the possibility to stay longer in this tranquil little corner of Egypt.