Local Knowledge: Etiquette for a Spring Soak

There’s nothing better after a day’s rambling along the dusty tracks of the oases or through the hot desert sands than a soak in one of the many natural springs. If you're planning to bathe in the public waterholes that speckle the oases, it's important to be mindful of generally accepted spring etiquette:

  • If local men are bathing, women should wait until they finish before entering the water.
  • At springs within towns, women should wear a baggy T-shirt and shorts or, preferably, pants over their bathing suit. Use your best (conservative) judgment, and don’t swim if the vibe is leery.
  • Men should leave the Speedos at home.

Know Your Dunes

Classification of sand dune shapes was made in the 1970s, when scientists examined photographs of dune fields taken from space. Of the five typical shapes, four are found in Egypt.

Seif

Named for the Arabic word for sword, these long dunes form parallel to the prevailing wind. They are primarily found in the Great Sand Sea and the northern Western Desert. Usually on the move, they will even fall down an escarpment, reforming at its base.

Barchan

These are crescent-shaped dunes, with a slip face on one side. They are as wide as they are long and are usually found in straight lines with flat corridors between them. They can travel as far as 19m in one year. They are predominant in Al Kharga and Dakhla Oases and in the Great Sand Sea.

Star

Created by wind blowing in different directions, these dunes are usually found alone. Instead of moving, they tend to build up within a circle. They are rare in Egypt.

Crescent

These hill-like dunes, also called whale-back dunes, form when smaller dunes collide and piggyback on one another. With their sides pointing in different directions, these distinctive shapes can be seen between Al Kharga and Dakhla Oases.