A 4x4 drives through the black desert in Egypt.

©Martin Vrlik/Shutterstock

Black Desert

Bahariya Oasis

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.

Other sights in the region include Gebel Gala Siwa, a pyramid-shaped mountain that was formerly a lookout post for caravans coming from Siwa, and Gebel Az Zuqaq, a mountain known for the red, yellow and orange streaks in its limestone base. There is an easily climbed path leading to the mountain's peak.

Ordinary vehicles are able to drive the first kilometre or so off the Bahariya–Dakhla road into the White or Black Deserts, but only 4WD vehicles can advance deeper into either area. Some travellers simply get off the bus and take themselves into the White Desert – but be sure you have adequate supplies, and remember that traffic between the neighbouring oases is rarely heavy. The megaliths west of the highway are easy to access by foot, as are the so-called mushrooms to the east; the weirdest wonderland of white hoodoos is quite far to the east, and walking there would be a real haul. Bir Regwa, a small spring situated along the highway at one of the park entrances, usually has water; it’s good to know where it is (just in case), though best not to rely on it.

Even though it is not allowed to camp or go into the desert, the tourist police turns a blind eye to safari outfits in Bahariya organising short trips to the Black and White Desert.

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