Egypt’s White Desert That Formed 66m Years Ago

Egypt is best known for its Pyramids. But this dry land has many other landscapes beyond Pyramids to offer. Because of its ancient history and the relics, the country is a very famous tourist attraction in the world. But have you ever heard about Egypt’s white desert national park?

If you did not, it is time to learn about this alien landscape in the heart of the desert of Bahariya. It is a landscape that leaves many speechless. Some become very curious because of its unique desert formation. When we think about deserts, the most common thing that comes to our mind is the image of bright yellow dunes. However, as the name suggests, Egypt’s White Desert National Park is simply white.

When you see this place from the top, you see countless big white dots, making it an unrealistic sight to visit. But the reason behind this particular color is the white limestone shaped by the wind and the other geological features. We are going to explain the formation of the white desert along with all the things you can do in this serene desert.

Facts Behind the Formation of White Desert

Revealing how this unique natural phenomenon happened is equally important to what you can do here as a tourist.

The formation of Egypt’s White Desert national park is not a recent event. Rather its origin goes back to about sixty million years. It means it happened at the beginning of the Paleogene, a geological period beyond our imagination.

According to archeological findings and geoscience, this area was a shallow sea bed extended through the current region of Nubia. In the beginning, this sea bed was covered with a layer of sandstone that formed the sedimentary rocks for millions of years in the presence of waters, gypsum as well as limestone sedimentary rocks.

But later the sedimentary rocks ended up forming a stratum about 300 meters deep. Then the Atlantic waters retreated and the plateau broke down causing the disappearance of this sea. As a result, we have got the visual spectacle at our disposal. The unique feature of the rocks is distinct and charming.

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The wind of this area has also greatly influenced the formation of this alien landscape. Little by little, the wind eroded the barren wastelands of this seabed for millions of years. And this is how the white rocks around got their shapes.

Another fact is, that there are numerous marine deposits in the limestone layers. For example, fossils of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, or petrified coral remains.

Unique rock formation in White Desert National Park
Unique rock formation

Legend Related to Egypt’s White Desert National Park

Egypt is the hub of ancient legends popular around the world. From mummies to other ancient relics, the sub-Saharan nation makes people curious. Let alone this place, any popular place you go, you will find some legends attached to it. And Egypt’s the White Desert is not far from legends.

According to the legends of the Tuaregs, somewhere in this place, the lost Army of Cambyses is buried. Cambyses army was made up of 50,000 Persian soldiers who died in this desert from a massive sand storm and hot wind Harmattan. Nature buried them alive under the sands somewhere in the White Desert.

This is a legend that provides a halo of mysticism to tourists this day and you can experience this as well.

What to Do in White Desert, Egypt?

What to Do in White Desert, Egypt?

In this place, you will have enough space to admire its white cleanliness, as well as the enormous rock formations that started millions of years now.

The huge rocks scattered around have the appearance of gigantic mushrooms or large boulders. These peculiarly shaped rocks did not only formed by the wind but also by the local sandstorms that have hit the area. Standing in the middle of the White Desert you experience a futuristic image that seems to be taken from a science-fiction movie.

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It is a landscape from your dream in the evenings when the sunlight comes into action. Can’t elaborate on how magnificent the scenario is, it is impossible to forget. During the evening, the white desert turns orange and reddish which provides a sensation view like Mars.

Farafra Bedouins around Egypt's White Desert
Image: iStock

Meet the Farafra Bedouins

Don’t you want to meet the oldest Arabian ethnic group, the Bedouins? Just beside the white desert, you can visit the Farafra town located in a depression. It is the place where you meet the Bedouins. This is a very small town with only about 5,000 inhabitants mostly local Bedouins.

The town comes with very traditional architecture. You get to see the smooth walls of adobo with very narrow streets. In addition, you will get typical baths with hot springs, don’t forget to experience that as well. Likewise, you must not leave Farafra without tasting the delicious Bedouin cuisine served in love.

Around Egypt’s White Desert national park, you have many other tourist attractions including Bahariya Oasis, Black Desert, and Crystal Mountain. Don’t go we are coming to the five places in the White desert you must visit.

Is It Tourist-Friendly?
Image: National Parks

Is Egypt’s White Desert Tourist-Friendly?

As a tourist in the White Desert, you must know some facts. In 2001 white desert was declared a National Park which is Protected as a Natural Area by the Egyptian government. Besides the desert is the habitat of the Opaque falcon and the Fennec falcon, and you will be able to spot them both easily on the way to this place.

Don’t forget, it is only possible to enter the white desert with four-wheeler vehicles. Or if you are adventurous enough you can travel by Camels as part of a guided tour.

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You should also know that you can spend your night under the stars in most places. And not to mention, you can only enjoy the Mars-like appearance of Egypt’s White Desert National Park in the moonlight. A night stay is an experience of a lifetime to see the white rocks become mysterious and offer a new spectacle. So, we would say that it is a tourist-friendly zone. But always be aware of your camera and other gear, you might not be allowed to record extensively.   

Last but not least, the weather and temperature in the White Desert can change anytime. Since desert climate changes, you will have very hot weather during the daytime while the nights are markedly cold.

Must-Visit Destinations in The White Desert

Egypt’s White Desert National Park is a very big area and not all the part is white as it sounds. You have different landscapes within this landscape. So, we are going to tell you where you should visit.

Egypt's White Desert national park
Image: National Parks

1. The White Desert

The main attraction, of course, is the White Desert. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes you can see in the Egyptian desert formed of Calcareous rocks. 

The white desert consists of iceberg-shaped pinnacles and dazzling white stones with almost surreal figures. It seems like a landscape taken from any science fiction movie. Truly it is a place from another planet. Or, earth’s nature had been inspired by another planet.

Moreover, these rock formations with sand as white as virgin snow contrasts with the yellow colors of other areas of the desert. The White Desert begins about 28 kilometers north of Farafra. If the sky gives you a full moon night you can witness the glow that occurs with a ghostly touch that will delight you.

Black Desert
Image: Wikimedia

2. Black Desert

Not just do you see the White Desert, but the national park also hosts another natural marvel located north of the oasis of Farafra. At the foot of the road that connects both oases, we will find the Black Desert. 

It is a volcanic landscape with dark tones shaped in cone-like figures. And it is a place, you will not see anywhere else. The sand that forms these cones is covered with fine layers of black stone resulting from the intense volcanic activity that occurred in ancient times. Going up to a higher point, you will be able to appreciate the immense nature of the ground with its great beauty.

Aggabat Dunes

3. Aggabat Dunes

You must have watched the 2021’s Hollywood film “Dune”. Would you like to experience the real Dune? You must not leave before you visit the dunes of Aggabat. You will notice a sea of ​​sands that forms reddish towers. The area covers approximately 72,000 km² and is located in North Africa. And out of that area, 74% of its surface is covered by dunes, this Great Sand Sea has two large areas with different types of mega dunes. 

Get back to the 18th century, these dunes were well known to merchants who traveled with their caravans through the Sahara Desert. There were many expeditions around 1865, but it was not until 1924 that these stretches of sand began to be noticed.

Crystal Mountain
Image: Twitter (@AfricaFactsZone)

4. Crystal Mountain

While traveling to Egypt’s White Desert National Park, don’t forget to visit The Crystal Mountain. It is located between the Bahariya and Farafra areas. Though it is not close to any of these cities, taking some time for this is worth it.

Crystal Mountain is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. The mountain is a small arch of metamorphic limestone rock that shines brightly in the sun like a crown decorated with thousands of colored gems in the desert.

Unlike its name, these are not crystals. Rather it is a type of extraordinary rock formation that looks like crystal. For visitors, it provides an extraordinary feeling. Crystal Mountain is now a protected area and the government wants to protect all the wonder that nature has created. So, during your White Desert tour, you must not miss this destination.

Bahariya Oasis
Image: Ibis Egypt

5. Bahariya Oasis

Bahariya Oasis is an impressive landscape in the heart of the White Desert. It is a kind of place that will make you feel like you are in ancient Egypt. Moreover, it is a comfortable zone in the desert and is unique for desert travelers. Bahariya is like a big swimming pool in the middle of a desert. It is a very exuberant oasis with an extension of about 2,000 km², it is surrounded by black hills and some hotels to stay in complete comfort.

The Oasis still stands along with the history of ancient Egypt with its ruins, tombs, and the passage of Alexander the Great. It is located in the western desert of Egypt in the heart of the country surrounded by mountains. However, it is the most important source of water that gives life to this extraordinary oasis. 

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