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“Western Desert - another planet on Earth” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Western Desert

Western Desert
Egypt
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Attraction details
Fee: No
Owner description: This desert covers more than 600,000 square kilometers stretching from the Nile River to the Libyan border, and from the Mediterranean Sea coast to the Sudanese border.
Hanoi, Vietnam
1 review
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Western Desert - another planet on Earth”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 23, 2010

Where is it?
- West of Nile river, doable from Cairo.

How much time needed?
- I took 3 days 2 nights. Some people take an overnight trip to the desert from Cairo, which I personally not recommend (unless you just want to see how the desert looks like and spend most of the time to travel from Cairo to the desert and back).

When should you go? How is the weather like?
- I started from Cairo, early morning 11 November 2010, arrived back to Cairo late evening 13 November 2010.
- It is a bit cold at night and early morning, but it was nicely cool. Noon is hot but manageable.

How did I go there?
- I took taxi from Cairo to Bahariya (5 hours) - you can ask your tour guide to arrange it. I heard you can take bus, but I did not see many on my way.
- From Farafra, I went on a jeep with a local guide (Khaled Kandeel). He seems reliable. You can contact him through http://www.westerndeserttours.com/

What can you see in the desert? I saw:
- Small Sand Sea - peaceful, spotless sand dunes. Sand's color changes frequently.
- Agabat with strange rock shapes (e.g. Mt Fuji-like rocks)
- White Desert limestone with weird shapes (e.g. a half-eaten ice-cream...). On photos, White Desert limestone looks like white sand. I found a lot of small stones that look like sea-plants. Both Agabat and White Desert make you feel like you are on the Moon, or Mars. This is definitely another planet on earth!
- Black Desert - with hundreds of small rock-mountains, covered with black stones, mixed with sand. Mysterious and amazing!

Is there toilet in the desert?
- No. You should find one for yourself - early wake up in sand dunes and find some high dunes (easy); but you need a good "planning" in White Desert as all rocks are low and people camp everywhere (nowhere to hide and it's quite stressful actually). :)
- You should carry some bags for toilet paper (never bury it under the sand) or you can just burn it after use.

Is there a bathroom in the desert?
- No, and there is no mobile bathroom (as I imagined at first). There is some water wells in the oasis, but you can only wash your face, hand and feet. Some people wear swimming suite to take bath, but I personally didn't like it. However it is very refreshing when you find water in the desert!

Do you need to carry water and food with you?
- No, confirm with your guide in advance. In general, I find the food the guide provided us is quite good. They also have tea and coffee.

What activities?
- Taking photos (bring a small camera stand if possible). In the sand dunes, calm down when you first see the sand. Take photo first. I was too excited to run around and I eventually didn't like my ugly foot prints on the photos of the beautiful sand.
- Catching sun rise: try to get up at least 5 am or 5:30 am. You can sea a very bright and big morning star just before the sun rise. Walking around the desert early in the morning is beautiful.
- Sand-skiing (?): try to practice how to use sand board in advance (it's quite fun while you are in the dunes)
- Practicing yoga in the desert: if you need silence, an early sun and a clean sand surface to practice yoga - this is a perfect place! I almost felt like paradise when I opened my eyes, seeing the blue sky on the desert after some time of meditation. The color was perfect.
- Singing: even if you are not a good singer, just sing out loud like a singer (no one can hear your voice).
- Walking on top of sand dune: quite scary. Remember on top of sand dune, one half is harder, the other half is softer. If you scare of falling down, just sit down and climb down. If you fall, it is just sand!

Other tips:
- White Desert: watch out on direction or you may get lost. We walked away from our camping place towards one direction in the White Desert. When it got dark, we almost lost direction as at night, you only see jeep lights and rocks around (they are all the same in all directions, and there is no sun shades to determine the direction).
- If you want to charge batteries (e.g. for camera), ask the driver when the jeep runs (not when you stop for camping).

Do you like these tips? This is a must go place and I will come back there on a longer trip one day (I hope). Enjoy your trip!

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USA
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9 reviews 9 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
“Western Desert Safari”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2010

I traveled with Minamar Tours (parent company Select Egypt) January 2010 for their 8 day/7 night desert safari.

The area is spectacular and I had a great adventure. There is some hiking in deep sand which can be difficult such as at the Mestqawe-Foggini (“Sistine Chapel” of African rock art). But, what is more difficult is sleeping on the ground for a week in a tent and not having any toilet or bathing facilities. There is also only the simplest of meals. We ate pasta, rice, and vegetables for most dinners and tuna fish and salad for most lunches. Breakfasts were eggs, cheese, and some sweet loaf bread. And, for most nights the temps were in the 30’s. So, if you’ve never been camping before, this trip is not for you. If you don’t like the cold, go in the fall or early spring. But, remember, at these times the days are much hotter. If none of this fazes you and you decide to go, it would be an experience you would never forget. You will see some of the most beautiful sights in very remote areas of the desert. We were blessed with moonlit nights, an unusual red moonrise, and a nighttime visit by a desert fox. Our guide and drivers were friendly and it was fun to be with them. Bring warm layers and a warm hat and gloves. A long, light scarf is helpful as the dust/sand kicks up and can cause some respiratory problems. I had a dry cough for several days. Taking Sucrets throat lozenges helped me through the worst of it.

There were problems. On the first day of the itinerary, there is a tour of the oasis of Dakhla. When we arrived we were not given the tour. I asked about it and was told that it’s impossible to drive from Cairo and do a tour the same day. When I asked then why it was on the itinerary, I got a shrug. Raed, the operation manager of Minamar, had always been prompt in responding to my emails prior to finalizing the trip. When I emailed him while on the trip about Dakhla, there was no response.

The second problem was the change in itinerary due to a failure to secure the military officer required for travel. It was explained to us that this was not the fault of Minamar. Nonetheless, we felt there was a lack of coordination in deciding how to make the best of our itinerary given the delay of almost a whole day until the military officer arrived. Because of the uncertainty of the effects of the delay and the requirement that we cannot extend the time in the desert as approved by our permit, we were told we would have to cancel the caves, both Mestqawe-Foggini and Swimmer’s Cave. After much arguing with the staff, they agreed to take us to the Mestqawe-Foggini. A very disheartening setback to our trip as the Swimmer’s Cave is one of the must see sites when you go out to the desert.

The third problem was again with the itinerary as we did not see the “fulgurites” on our way back from the desert. When I asked about it, I received a shrug and no effort was made to figure out what it was and why we would not be going to see it.

So, since my return, there has been no follow-up from the tour company offering any apologies for the problems encountered and no credit given considering the changes to the itinerary for which we paid. This is too bad as I really liked the staff and being out in the desert was wonderful

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