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The Western Desert is miles and miles of golden dunes, canyons, oases, mountainous plateaus, and valleys with uncanny rock formations and rest at precious oases- take a safari into the Western Desert. Once you reach the White Desert, sand and black rocks give way to the awe inspiring sight of a magical landscape full of strange limestone concretions that are shaped like giant mushrooms, fjords and icebergs.  Quench your thirst at any of the five oases.

The Western Desert covers about 700,000 sq km (435053 sq mi) and accounts for about two-thirds of Egypt's land area. It spans from the Mediterranean Sea south to the Sudanese border and from the Nile River Valley west to the Libyan border. There are seven important depressions within this area and all of these are considered oases (Siwa, El Faiyum, Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Kharga) except the largest, Qattara  Depression, the water of which is salty. The Qattara Depression, which includes the country's lowest point, encompasses 19,605 square kilometers (12,170 sq mi), which is similar to the size of Lake Ontario. It is largely below sea level and is 133 meters (436 ft) below sea level at the lowest. Badlands, salt marshes, and salt lakes cover the sparsely inhabited Qattara Depression.

There are also two large agricultural schemes in the south, Sharq Oweinat near the Sudanese border and Tushka near Lake Nasser.

The Western Desert is one of the driest areas of the Sahara. The last significant rain fell six years ago which caused natural vegetation to remain green for two years. Desert Locust hopper bands and adults swarms formed and were controlled three months after the rains in the spring of 1995. Since then, there has been an increase in the number of reports of grasshoppers and locusts from newly established agricultural schemes at Sharq Oweinat and Tushka.

The irrigated oases and agricultural schemes are good breeding areas for grasshoppers. They are less suitable for the Desert Locust which generally prefers natural vegetation in the desert. Nevertheless, they may play an important role in view of the scarcity of rainfall and the lack of natural vegetation by providing suitable shelter and favourable breeding conditions for any Desert Locust adults that arrive into the area. This is most likely to occur in the spring after exceptionally good breeding on the Red Sea coastal plains or in the autumn after heavy breeding in the summer breeding areas in the interior of Sudan. Migration into the Western Desert is likely to occur only when the prevailing northerly winds are interrupted for a day or two by easterly winds in the spring or by southerly or south-westerly winds in the autumn.

The government has considered the Western Desert a frontier region and has divided it into two governorates; Matruh to the north and New Valley (Al Wadi al Jadid) to the south.

What to see?

Bahariya Oasis (Spanning over 2000 sq. km): is a lush haven set in the midst of an unforgiving desert and surrounded by black hills made of quartz. The Oasis is home to amazing ruins, such as the Temple of Alexander the Great, beautifully painted Ptolemaic tombs and very old churches. The recent discovery of the golden mummies, the pride of Bawiti Museum today, turned the oasis’ main town, into a tourist magnet, and its proximity to the Black Desert have earned Bahariya a high rank on the tourist map of Egypt.

People from Arab countries come to the area of the Western Desert in summer for treatment. Temperatures in bahariya can reach up to 35-45 C in summer.

 

Dakhla Oasis: is considered to be one of the most attractive oases in Egypt. The oasis boasts over 500 hot springs, including Bir Tarfawi and Bir Al-Gebel Hot Spring, as well as charming mud-brick housing and ruins in the medieval town and village of Al-Qasr and Balat.

Dakhla is organized around the main town of Mut, a settlement that dates back to pharaonic times. Although Mut has evolved into a modern tourist hub, you can still see today the remnants of the old town.

 

Farafra Oasis: is the most isolated oasis in the Western Desert. Farafra is the closest oasis to the White Desert, a desert dreamscape populated with unusual chalky rock formations. A safari in the White Desert is a must-do on your Western Desert exploration trail.

Temperatures in Farafra are cool from October to April and can reach 35-45 C in summer.

 

Kharga Oasis: is the largest and most populated oasis in the Western Desert. It is also the most developed oasis thanks to the governmental efforts supporting the modernization of the Western Desert oases.

Kharga can thus be considered as an ideal base for an exciting safari into the Western Desert. In and around town, you can visit Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman sites, such as the Temple of Hibis, and buy from local traders at the simple souk for pottery in the southern part of Qasr town, the oasis' main town, before heading to the interesting Kharga Museum of Antiquities.

Not far from Kharga, you’ll have the opportunity to explore very old Coptic landmarks such as the Necropolis of Al-Bagawat and Deir Al-Kashef Monastery.

Temperatures in Kharga are cool from October to April and can reach up to 35-45 C in summer.

 

Siwa Oasis: is a marvelous island full of mineral springs, salt lakes and endless Olive and Palm groves. In Shali, the oasis' main town, there are the strange ruins of the Shali Fortress which dominate the town center plus the sandy paths where the Temple of the Oracle, once visited by Alexander the Great himself to consult the Oracle of Siwa. Cleopatra's Pool, where the legendary queen herself is believed to have once swum, is there as well.

Adventurous travelers will also get their fix of fun and excitement by heading for a safari into the great sand sea or trying out quad biking in the Western Desert of Egypt.

It is advisable to visit Siwa and any other Western Desert destination in the cooler months of the year, from October to April that is. Temperatures in summer can reach up to 35-45 C.

 

Faiyum Oasis: is a depression or basin in the desert immediately to the west of the Nile south of Cairo. The extent of the basin area is estimated about 1,270 sq km (490 sq mi). The basin floor comprises fields watered by a channel of the Nile, the Bahr Yussef, as it drains into a desert depression to the west of the Nile Valley. The Bahr Yussef veers west through a narrow neck of land north of Ihnasya, between the archaeological sites of El-Lahun and Gurob near Hawara; it then branches out, providing rich agricultural land in the Faiyum basin, draining into the large saltwater Lake Moeris (Birket Qarun). The lake was fresh water in prehistory but is today a saltwater lake. It is a source for tilapia and other fish for the local area.

There are, especially in the neighborhood of the lake, many ruins of ancient villages and cities. Mounds north of the city of Faiyum mark the site of Crocodilopolis. There are extensive archaeological remains across the region extending from the prehistoric period through to modern times.

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