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The White Desert of Egypt

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All over the world is talking about Egypt and pyramids, Valley of the Kings, Sinai and Red Sea, but few know that in the west of this countries are vestiges as interesting, some even better preserved. These vestiges are found in the area the north-east of Qasr el-Farafra, in the White Desert, known locally as el Sahara el Beyda.



The place is renowned for its spectacular scenery. It gains its amazement form its white sands, in contrast with the yellow sands elsewhere. The chalk-white landscape is strewn with alien shapes, boulders of brilliant white which thrust up from the surface of the desert, intensified by the clear light of noon, shimmering gold at sunset or blackened and shrunken in a cloud-filled sky.

The unusual chalk-rock formations in the White Desert are similar to those found on some other planets. In fact these formations are made out of chalk rock, their shapes created by the wind and sand whistling through this isolated area, 45 miles from the nearest town of Farafra. Millions of years ago the White Desert was a sea-bed. Layers of rock were formed over time as marine fauna and vegetation died.



These formations have different names that somewhat describe their shapes such as inselbergs, ice cream cones, crickets and mushrooms. The white desert became a protected area since 2002. It occupies a surface area of around three thousand kilometers. To the northeast of the white desert, there is an area called Aqabat, or "obstacles" in English. This area is full of obstructions that face anyone who wants to pass through. In the middle of this area, lies the mountain of Twin peaks which is an important landmark for travelers.

Much of the white desert is accessible only by four-wheeled drive or, for the more traditionally minded, the camel. Visitors are advised not to get too close to the formations and certainly not touch them. Millennia of erosion have made a lot of them extremely unstable and an unwitting hand could cause these ancient creations to collapse.



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