This vast, desolate area, rimmed by the Red Sea Mountains to the east and the Nile Valley in the west, was once criss-crossed by ancient trade routes and dotted with settlements that played vital roles in the development of many of the region’s greatest civilisations. Today the Eastern Desert’s rugged expanses are filled with fascinating footprints of this history, including rock inscriptions, ancient gold and mineral mines, wells and watchtowers, and religious shrines and buildings. Time spent here is one of the highlights of any visit to the Red Sea coast; it's a world apart from the commercialised coastline.
However, none of the roads crossing the desert can be freely travelled – some are completely closed to foreigners – and all the sites require a guide. As a result, it is strongly advised (in fact necessary) that you explore the Eastern Desert with the aid of an experienced tour operator.