White Desert Egypt
When you first glance at the White Desert Egypt (Sahra al-Beida) dreamscape, you’ll feel like a contemporary Alice who has fallen through a desert looking glass into a fantasy world. From just 20 kilometers northeast of Farafra, the yellow desert sands east of the road begin to be punctured by chalky rock formations that seem to have sprung out of the earth almost supernaturally.
Blinding-white spires of rock strive for the sky, each frost-colored lollipop bitten into an ever-more bizarre form by the desert winds that whip over the landscape. The weird shapes begin to take on recognizable forms as you go farther into the 300-square-kilometer White Desert Protectorate; chickens, ostriches, camels, hawks, and other strange creatures may be seen in abundance across the region.
At dawn or sunset, when the light casts colors of pink and orange over the terrain, reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s paintings, or under a full moon, when the area takes on a ghostly, arctic, whipped-cream aspect, they are the most beautiful.
Crystalline quartz, several forms of deep black iron pyrites, and tiny fossils are scattered throughout the sand at the outcropping’s base. On the west side of the road, away from the wind-eroded formations, little canyons are created by white, clifflike chalk monoliths known as inselbergs, which are a kind of chalk monolith.
They are less dramatic than other regions but still gorgeous, and it is unsettling to stroll about in them. Because of the shade and solitude they give, they make for excellent camping locations. The Twin Peaks, two flat-topped mountains about 50 kilometers north of the city, are a critical navigational landmark for visitors. The view from the top of the surrounding symmetrical hills, which are all shaped like huge anthills, is stunning and a popular tourist attraction for local tour companies.
Just beyond this point, the road climbs a cliff known as Naqb as Sillim (Pass of the Stairs); this is the principal pass that connects the Farafra valley to the rest of the world and marks the end of the White Desert.
An fA few kilometers later down the road, the desert floor changes again and becomes studded with quartz crystals again. If you glance at the rock formations in this region, you’ll see that they are likewise mainly composed of crystals.
The most well-known of the formations is Crystal Mountain, a massive boulder composed entirely of quartz that dominates the landscape. It is located immediately by the major road, about 24 kilometers north of Naqb as-Sillim, and is identifiable by the enormous hole that runs through its center.
With an increasing number of people choosing to go here, unfortunately, this famous tourist destination could become a victim of its success. In the middle of a bustling night, the horizon is illuminated by campfires, and the silent night is filled with drumming and singing.
Burned-out campfires dumped rubbish, and, most sad, tire tracks over the white rocks are revealed by the light of day. While the region has been recognized as a protectorate, there is not enough money to adequately protect the delicate white chalk formations, which are now at risk.
When visiting – and we do not advise against doing so – consider traveling by foot or camel, making careful to leave nothing behind, and, if you are driving, discourage your guide from going over the rocky terrain.