Western Desert in detail


Long-Range Desert Safaris

Going on safari in the Western Desert was always one of the more rewarding experiences Egypt had to offer. However, at the time of writing, foreigners were allowed to go to the oases but not to camp out in the desert or undertake long-range safaris. Desperate for work, some guides still offer short-range safaris into the desert, especially the White Desert, but it pays to be careful.

The Egyptian army patrols the desert for smugglers from Libya who cross the country at night with alcohol, weapons, drugs and other goods. The Western Desert’s more challenging routes such as the Great Sand Sea, the remote Gilf Kebir (in Egypt’s southwest corner) – where you’ll find the Cave of the Swimmers, made famous by The English Patient – and Gebel Uweinat, a 2000m-high peak trisected by the Egyptian, Libyan and Sudanese borders, are definitely out of reach. When desert travel is allowed again, remember that these adventures require extensive organisation, quality equipment and plenty of experience to properly execute; the consequences of mishaps are severe, sometimes fatal. Military permits, which are available locally for short desert treks, must be procured in Cairo for longer trips. Choose one of the operators that have a solid international reputation, are among the more reliable in Egypt, and will treat the desert with the respect it deserves.