Upon moving onward from Bahariya Oasis, you can see a noticeable change in the colour of the surrounding desert. This change starts approximately 50km south of Bawiti when the desert floor goes from beige to black. To even a newcomer’s eyes, this signals the beginning of the Black Desert and soon the landscape gets overpowered by strange conical and table-top hills powdered with glistening black basalt. The Sahara Souda stretches most of the way to Farafra Oasis and unlike most travellers, I find it as powerfully beautiful as the White Desert.

The basalt topped Black Desert

The basalt topped Black Desert

A vast empty

What strikes me the most about the Black Desert is its incredible emptiness and most visitors pass through the area on their way to the White Desert. This leaves the vast expanse to be nearly soul-less and the entire place resembles a huge sky country. The vivid blue sky overhead seems like an overturned bowl that has entrapped the land for eternity. Strangely, despite the emptiness, one cannot but help feel claustrophobic being caught in the wedge between land and the sky. The only sign of life apart from the sighting of the elusive desert fox comes from the flatbed trucks that rumble along with a ribbon of highway bisecting the desert in two parts.


A vast empty space of Black Desert

A vast empty space of Black Desert

What lies beyond

Formed by the erosion of the mountains, which have spread a layer of black powder and stones over the peaks and plateaus, the Black Desert is indeed a preview of the stunning beauty that lies beyond it. My favourite part beyond the Black Desert is the “Agbat “area. From a vantage point, the Agbat resembles something out of a sci-fi movie and the massive obstacles dotting the area once used to be a landmark from Sahara desert caravans. Just ahead of Agbat, there is a field of desert flowers which in reality are scattered basalt stones in various interesting shapes. Other sights include Gebel Gala Siwa, a pyramid-shaped mountain that was formerly a lookout post for caravans coming from Siwa, and Gebel Az Zuqaq, a limestone mountain known for the red, yellow and orange streaks. Another pretty place in the Wahat Bahrya is the Crystal Mountain, which is a hulking monolithic hillock made of real quartz crystals. On clear days in the bright sunlight, the Crystal Mountain glitter like a massive diamond, and the view from the top is absolutely stunning.


The famous lookout or Agbat near Black Desert in Egypt

The famous lookout or Agbat near Black Desert in Egypt

The Black Desert practical tips

The best way to enjoy the Black Desert is by an overnight camping tour. Most people usually combine it with the White Desert and choose a local professional company to have wonderful experiences in this amazing natural area. I chose Tree House Egypt and it is one of my best travel decisions ever. Run by a young environment-conscious team, the Treehouse Egypt provides great accommodations, clean transfers, knowledgable guides, and lots of delicious local food. Their itineraries are made for people who prefer experiential travel and trust Treehouse Egypt for the perfect tour. The best time to go is between September and April. For those who do not like camping, there are many hotels in Bawiti and you can go into the deserts as day trips from Bahariya Oasis. I recommend Safari Camp Bahariya Oasis for a comfortable stay. Desert campers should try to travel light. Pack just two sets of clothes, a warm jacket, swimsuit, hiking shoes, sweat pants, a power bank, a sleeping bag, a book, wet wipes, a sun hat, and sunglasses.

The beginning of the White Desert

The beginning of the White Desert

Beautiful volcanic formations near Bahariya Oasis

The gorges of the Black Desert

The gorges of the Black Desert

Are perfect for hiking.

The stunning quartz of the Crystal Mountain

Campers at the Black Desert

Campers at the Black Desert

Scattered basalt rocks

at the Black Desert

At the Black Desert

Scattered quartz crystals,

Basalt rocks, and

Limestone of the Western Desert

Black Desert lookout point

Black Desert camping friends

At Bawiti village resort

Sambousek is a popular

Black Desert camping snack

With my best friend at the Black Desert

On our way to the White Desert

P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will try to focus on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.

Follow the rest of the offbeat Egypt series here