Western Desert Oases Travel Guide

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Menno Alberts

Egypt's Western Desert (also referred to as Lybian Desert) is situated in the middle and western part of Egypt. Though connected by a road Egypt has quite some oases towns 'in the middle of nowhere' which are well worth a visit. Especially if you'd like to avoid the tourist buses and crowded places this is something you really should do! You will find old people dressed in desert fashion and young kids playing on the sandy streets, sandy faces, often willing to pose for a photograph, people living in clay houses, donkeys as a way of transportation, etc. If you want to sniff Egypt's desert life instead of visiting the crowded areas you will not be disappointed. Strangely enough I never heard about the Western Egyptian Desert before until I got there and planned the trip with my friends and a fellow Dutch guy who lives in Cairo.

If you want to see the other (unknown but impressive and beautiful!) side of Egypt you should definitely consider a trip to the Oases towns of the Western Desert. These are the Oases we visited: Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga.

In the Oases towns the people tend not to be as pushy as most people experience shopowners in the touristic areas of the country to be. People are more friendly and calm. You will feel more healthy (no polluted air) and relaxed if you go here. For people who would like to see the old cultural things there are various sites in the Bahariya Oasis in which you can see mummies and old remains of buildings. The Kharga Oasis has some interesting ancient stuff when it comes to temples/citadel and an old Coptic Christian cemetery.

When it comes to safety some things are worth realising. When we traveled (with our taxibus and our two Egyptian drivers), it was december 2005, we came along several police posts who would not let us through before we showed our ID and signed a (self handwritten) note in which we stressed that we did not need police protection on the way to the next Oasis. The Egyptian government is worried about 'lonely' tourists in the desert, afraid that they might be kidnapped by fundamentalists. Since after oil tourism is Egypts main income they don't want to take any risk.

The safety issue came very close when we wanted to go buy a drink in a local shop in the Kharga Oasis. It was dark, therefore there was a police car following us and keeping a very close eye on us during our entire walk through town. Though it seemed a bit embarrassing to us we felt safe anyway. The trip we made from the Kharga Oasis to Asyut (on our way back to Cairo) was completely escorted by heavily armed police, in front and behind us.

I hope these safety things won't scare you away from considering a trip through the desert because it was all very worth it, anyway!! It took us four days/three nights to make a quick desert trip starting and ending in Cairo and making us able to see the highlights.

original text written by: Menno Alberts

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September 11, 2006 change by giorgio

March 07, 2008 change by menno

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