Must see attractions in Western Desert

  • Top ChoiceSights in Western Desert

    White Desert National Park

    Upon first glimpse of the 300-sq-km national park of the White Desert, you’ll feel like Alice through the looking-glass. About 20km northeast of Farafra, on the east side of the road, blinding-white chalk rock spires sprout almost supernaturally from the ground, each frost-coloured lollipop licked into a surreal landscape of familiar and unfamiliar shapes by the dry desert winds.

  • Sights in Bahariya Oasis

    Black Desert

    The change in the desert floor from beige to black, 50km south of Bawiti, signals the beginning of the Black Desert. Formed by the erosion of the mountains, which have spread a layer of black powder and stones over the peaks and plateaus, it looks like a landscape straight out of Hades. The Black Desert is a popular stop-off for tours running out of Bahariya Oasis and is usually combined with a White Desert tour.

  • Sights in Siwa Oasis

    Shiatta

    Sixty kilometres west of Siwa Town, this stunning salt lake on the edge of the Great Sand Sea is ringed by palm trees. It’s a popular stopover for migratory birds – including flamingos – and gazelles may be seen here too. The lake once reached all the way to Siwa Town, and an ancient boat lies somewhere 7m below the surface.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Al Kharga

    Necropolis of Al Bagawat

    It may not look like much from afar, but this necropolis is one of the earliest surviving and best-preserved Christian cemeteries in the world. About 1km north of the Temple of Hibis, it’s built on the site of an earlier Egyptian necropolis, with most of the 263 mud-brick chapel-tombs appearing to date from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Siwa Oasis

    Fortress of Shali

    Central Siwa is dominated by the spectacular organic shapes of the remains of this 13th-century mud-brick fortress. Built from kershef (chunks of salt from the lake just outside town, mixed with rock and plastered in local clay), the labyrinth of huddled buildings was originally four or five storeys high and housed hundreds of people. A path leads over the slumping remnants, past the Old Mosque with its chimney-shaped minaret, to the top for panoramic views.

  • Sights in Western Desert

    Gilf Kebir

    The Gilf Kebir is a spectacular sandstone plateau 150km north of Gebel Uweinat, rising 300m above the desert floor. The setting feels as remote as a place can be, with a rugged beauty that used to attract the most ardent desert lovers; on the northern side, the plateau disappears into the sands of the Great Sand Sea. It is famous as a setting for Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. It was off limits to foreigners at the time of writing.

  • Sights in Western Desert

    Great Sand Sea

    One of the world’s largest dune fields, the Great Sand Sea straddles Egypt and Libya, stretching more than 800km from its northern edge near the Mediterranean coast south to Gilf Kebir. Covering a colossal 72,000 sq km, it contains some of the largest recorded dunes in the world, including one that is 140km long. It was off limits to foreigners at the time of writing.

  • Sights in Siwa Oasis

    Bir Wahed

    A favourite Siwa excursion is the freshwater lake at Bir Wahed, 15km away on the edge of the Great Sand Sea. Once over the top of a dune, you come to a hot spring, the size of a large jacuzzi, where sulphurous water bubbles in a pool and runs off to irrigate a garden.

  • Sights in Western Desert

    Gebel Uweinat

    The mountain Gebel Uweinat sits on the border of Egypt, Sudan and Libya. At 1934m, it is the highest point in Egypt. As it name in Arabic implies, there are eight small springs within the mountain, even though the mountain sits in the most inhospitable part of the Western Desert. The oasis was rediscovered by Ahmed Hassanein in 1923. It was off limits to foreigners at the time of writing.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bahariya Oasis

    Al Hayz Water Education Center

    This water museum is a real treat, with an informative introduction to Egypt's water resources and problems, the geology of the Western Desert, traditional agriculture and architecture in the oases, and what needs to be done to deal with water shortage. The museum is housed in a wonderful building, an example of sustainable architecture, in basalt and rammed earth.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Al Kharga Oasis

    Qasr Al Labakha

    Set amid a desertscape of duney desolation, Qasr Al Labakha is a micro-oasis some 40km north of Al Kharga. Scattered among sandy swells and rocky shelves are the remains of a towering four-storey Roman fortress, two temples and a vast necropolis where more than 500 mummies have been unearthed (you can still see human remains in the tombs). Day trips to Labakha can be arranged by Al Kharga's tourist office, with prices starting at around US$150 per vehicle.

  • Sights in Al Kharga Oasis

    Qasr Al Ghueita

    The garrison’s massive outer walls enclose a 25th-dynasty sandstone temple, dedicated to the Theban triad Amun, Mut and Khons. In later centuries, the fortress served as the perimeter for a village, with some houses surviving along the outer wall. Within the hypostyle hall a series of reliefs show Hapy, the pot-bellied Nile god, holding symbols of the nomes (provinces) of Upper Egypt.

  • Sights in Siwa Oasis

    Gebel Al Mawta

    This small hill, at the northern end of Siwa Town, is honeycombed with rock tombs peppered with wall paintings. Its name, Gebel Al Mawta, means 'Mountain of the Dead' and most of the tombs here date back to the 26th dynasty, Ptolemaic and Roman times. Only 1km from the centre of town, the tombs were used by the Siwans as shelters when the Italians bombed the oasis during WWII.

  • Sights in Siwa Oasis

    Temple of the Oracle

    The 26th-dynasty Temple of the Oracle sits in the northwest corner of the ruins of Aghurmi village. Built in the 6th century BC, probably on top of an earlier temple, it was dedicated to Amun (occasionally referred to as Zeus or Jupiter Ammon) and was a powerful symbol of the town’s wealth. It is believed Alexander the Great was declared son of Amun in this temple.

  • Sights in Al Kharga

    Temple of Hibis

    The town of Hebet (‘the Plough’, now corrupted into Hibis) was the capital of the oasis in antiquity, but all that remains today is the well-preserved limestone Temple of Hibis. Once sitting on the edge of a sacred lake, the temple was dedicated to Amun of Hibis (the local version of the god, who was sometimes given solar powers, becoming Amun-Ra).

  • Sights in Bawiti

    Qarat Qasr Salim

    This small mound amid the houses of Bawiti is likely built upon centuries of debris. There are two well-preserved 26th-dynasty tombs here, which were robbed in antiquity and reused as collective burial sites in Roman times. Both are home to some excellently preserved and colourful wall paintings.

  • Sights in Al Kharga Oasis

    Qasr Ad Dush

    About 13km to the southeast of Baris, Qasr Ad Dush is an imposing Roman temple-fortress completed around AD 177 on the site of the ancient town of Kysis. A 1st-century­ sandstone temple abutting the fortress was dedicated to Isis and Serapis. The gold decorations that once covered parts of the temple and earned it renown have long gone, but there is still some decoration on the inner stone walls.

  • Sights in Bahariya Oasis

    Gebel Dist

    Gebel Dist is an impressive pyramid-shaped mountain visible from most of the oasis. A local landmark, it is famous for its fossils; dinosaur bones were found here in the early 20th century, disproving the previously held theory that dinosaurs only lived in North America. In 2001 researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found the remains of a giant specimen, Paralititan stromeri.

  • Sights in Dakhla Oasis

    Deir Al Haggar

    This restored sandstone temple is one of the most complete Roman monuments in Dakhla. Dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Khons, as well as Horus (who can be seen with a falcon’s head), it was built between the reigns of Nero (AD 54–68) and Domitian (AD 81–96). Some relief panels are quite well preserved, though most are covered in bird poop.

  • Sights in Balat

    Qila Al Dabba

    Qila Al Dabba is Balat’s ancient necropolis. The five mastabas (mud-brick structures above tombs that were the basis for later pyramids), the largest of which stands more than 10m high, date back to the 6th dynasty. Four are ruined, but one has been restored and is open to the public. To get here, take the dirt track that meets the main road 200m east of Balat and head north. The necropolis is 3.5km along the road, past Ain Al Asil.