la grande mer de sable
La Grande Mer de Sable (the great sea of sand) is an area of desert that does not belong to the white desert, but only to the Western (Lybian) desert. The part of it we visited lies very near the oasis of Baharia, not far from the main road.
It's characterised by tall sand dunes, some as tall as 50 metres: while not as spectacular as other parts of the desert, it's a fun one to visit. Helal drove us with his 4-wheel jeep on top of several dunes, only to drive down again just for the sake of it.
the new white desert
The new white desert is what the old white desert would once have loked like. It's an amazing area of bizarre white rock formations but - unlike the valley of the mushrooms - formations here come in all sizes and shapes.
We camped here, and while waiting for the sunset, we explored the area: of all the formations one in particular caught our imagination: it was the perfect reproduction - in a smaller size - of the sphynx in Giza. We watched the sun go down behind it.
the old white desert
When we decided to go to the white desert, we had imagined it to be uniform in landscape: the day had already proved us wrong, but when our guide Helal announced that we would be going through the old white desert to camp overnight in the new white desert, we really could not figure out what he had in store for us.
It became obvious when we arrived there: the old white desert is really the oldest piece of desert, where time and weather had eroded the white rock formations: the remains were funny-looking little mounts, rounded and levigated. Basically formations in the process of being washes away ans disappearning. maybe not stunning - but they show you that the desert is not a static but changeable place.
the black desert
Not very far from Bawiti, but offroad nevertheless, there's an area called "the black desert". The black desert is a hilly area of gold soft sand littered with hard black stones of volcanic origin.
It's a great area to go for little walks, but not the best for a drive: the stones are ver hard and sharp, and within minutes one of our tyres bursted. As soon as we returned on the main road we had to change it. It was not exactly a great start (but for the record it was the onyl flat tyre we got).
Gebel al-Izaz is a little mountain...so little that it would not even qualify as a hill: it's only about 10 metres tall. What the fuss, then?
Well, the fuss is all about crystals... Gebel al-Izaz is the Crystal mountain, a large quarz formation shaped as an arch. People also call it Hagar al-Makhrum (the rock with a hole).
All around it you can find small or large piece of quarz. red, white, yellow, black and orange. The crystal mountain is located by the side of the road, so access is very easy.
Aqabat is a strange area of the white desert: it's an area with some "moutains" - a plateau with tall cliffs in reality. Aqabat means difficult, and it refers to how camel caravans found this desert passage.
Our bedouin guide did not anticipate much about Aqabat - he just said that the place was incredible: he was right. The place felt surreal and - what's better - we had it to ourselves.
Aqabat, however, is not only landscape... it's also little precious pieces of "stones" found on the ground. Everywhere there are little "rock flowers", which are stones strangely shaped - roundish and with lots of tiny spikes. There are also little pieces of petrified trees scattered all about.
The valley of the Mushrooms
Just off the Bawiti-Farafra road, there's a place that Beduins call the Valley of the Mushrooms - it's an area coered in white weird rock formations.
Most formations look like mushrooms, like the one in the picture - while others look like bizarre flowers. It's a scenic place to take picture, although sometimes it tends to be a bit crowded, due to its proximity to the main road.
This place is in the White Desert, about 20 kilometres from the oasis of Farafra.
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Cristal mountain, be carefull
If you visit the cristal mountain, be carefull.
The cristals are very fragile and sharp. You can easily hurt your hand.
Don't destroy the glittering rock to bring big pieces back home. It will fall into small pieces anyway. And if you want to take some anyhow, there are enough small pieces at the ground.
Visit to the White Desert
In Bawiti you can arrange a trip for one or more days/nights to the White Desert, 150 KM to the south on the way to Farafra.
The white desert is amazing with the white lime-stone ''mushrooms'' , created by wind and sand erosion.
The best experience is to stay overnight and see this surrealistic landscape in moonlight or by sunset/sunrise.
For more information see my Farafra page.
On your way from Bawiti to the White Desert look out for these rocks at the left side of the road.
You find here glittering cristals everywhere at the lower side of the rock.
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