Day 1: Cairo
On arrival at Cairo Airport, you will be met by a representative and transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day so you may arrive in Cairo at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The balance of the day is free to explore your surroundings and our safari leader will make contact in the evening.
Day 2: Cairo & Bahariya
After breakfast we meet our safari crew, load our gear and set off towards Bahariya, the nearest of the Western Desert oasis towns. Midway there is a rest stop and cafeteria, where we can stretch our legs and enjoy a light refreshment before continuing our journey. Eventually the road begins to drop through the Bahariya escarpment and we enjoy a panoramic view as the entire oasis comes into view. We reach the main town, an amalgam of two villages, Bawiti & Qasr, where there are several places of interest to explore. We visit the surreal art gallery of Mahmoud Eid, housed in the Oasis Heritage Museum, with its superb collection of paintings and clay sculptures depicting life in the oasis. Nearby we visit the Temple of Muftillah and as the sun slides towards the horizon we ascend Black, or 'English' Mountain, with the ruins of a WWI lookout post on one corner of the summit. Here we enjoy a spectacular sunset dinner over night Minamar Hotel. Included: (B), (D).
Day 3: Bahariya & Dakhla
After a traditional breakfast of local bread, salad, eggs and cheese we pack our gear and continue our journey south. We soon leave the yellow sand and black-topped hills behind and find ourselves in an entirely new landscape, dotted with white chalk hummocks and inselbergs. Even the sand itself seems white, a result of the perennial erosion that has left fine limestone powder on the surface. Farafra, like Bahariya, is an ancient settlement with a history that recedes back to around 9000BC and we stop for a break before continuing our journey south, to Dakhla, which we reach around lunchtime. In the afternoon we visit El Qasr, an ancient mud-brick town built on the site of a Roman city and believed to be one of the oldest inhabited sites in the area. In the mid-18th century, the town is estimated to have had a population of some 4,000 people and today we can roam around the old houses, many of which still have their carved door lintels intact. We can also visit the excellent little Ethnographic Museum. We spend the night in a basic hotel near the center of the modern town. Included: (B), (D).
Day 4: Dakhla & Abu Hussein Dunes
We drive south along the Darb al-Tarfawi, an ancient caravan route (now surfaced) which we follow for some hours as we make our way towards the northern edge of the Abu Hussein dunes, where we pitch our tents for the night. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Abu Hussein - Eight Bells Desert Safari
Heading due west we now enter the heart of the Western Desert, traversing around 200kms of flat sand beds on our way to Eight Bells, located at the south-eastern flank of the Gilf Kebir. This area is the result of a massive ancient drainage system which, at one time, discharged large qiantities of water some hundreds of kilometers south of the present plateau. The flat plain near Eight Bells is the site of an old WWII runway, and we may be able to see the airfield markings made out of buried petrol cans. We camp here for the night. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Gilf Kebir- Karkur Talh Desert Safari
We are now at the Gilf Kebir, a massive flat-topped sandstone plateau that measures around 7,770 square kilometers. Located some 720 kilometers from the Nile and 600 kilometers from the Mediterranean, it towers 300 meters above us and plays host to dozens of valleys, formed by water erosion, which stretch like fingers into the surrounding desert. We visit Regenfeld, a place of great interest to desert explorers, where rain fatefully fell during the 1874 expedition of Gerhard Rohlfs, thus saving his life. Rohlfs marked the spot with a small cairn, which is still there today. We also see the marble tablet erected in 1933 by the Hungarian explorer, Almasy (of 'The English Patient' fame), in honour of the Egyptian explorer Prince Kemal el Din. We continue our journey through the Uweinat Desert, remote, desolate, haunting and fearsomely dry, and reach a large valley known as Karkur Talh, where we pitch our tents for the night. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Karkur Talh Desert Safari
Karkur Talh is the largest valley of the mountain. Its mouth, marked by two acacias visible for many kilometres, opens onto a broad sandy plain that flanks the Gilf on the north-east side. From the narrow mouth choked with sand dunes, the valley winds for some 25 kms towards the base of the sandstone plateau forming the highest part of Jebel Uweinat. Thousands of rock-art images have been found in this area, depicting lions, ostriches, gazelles, giraffes and other animals. Clearly this was an important pastoral area in ancient times and we spend much of the day visiting the key sites. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Wadi Sora Desert Safari
Wadi Sora contains the now famous 'Cave of the Swimmers', also featured in 'The English Patient'. It is not really a wadi, but rather a sheltered inlet among a promontory and a couple of detached hummocks from the main plateau. Having found some splendid rock art at Ain Doua, in 1933, Almasy returned in the same year to the valleys of Uweinat. He began to explore the western slopes of the Gilf, and found a number of paintings and drawings including the swimmers. Their importance does not lie solely in their beauty: they also prove the presence of a lake in ancient times which, of course, no longer exists. It was Almasy who named the place Wadi Sora - or 'Picture Valley'. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Wadi Sora- Wadi Kopa Desert Safari
Driving north from Wadi Sora we reach the Foggini Cave, a major rock art site discovered in 2003. A unique feature of the site is the large quantity of hand prints, along with strange headless animals. Some figures are partly engraved, and others are partly coloured. The paintings conjure up the life and customs of what may well be several human societies who once lived in this now extremely arid and remote part of Egypt. This Neolithic shelter is by far the richest ever found in this part of Northeast Africa. We camp tonight at Wadi Kopa. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Libyan - Desert Glass Desert Safari
After a long drive north we reach the plains at the western edge of the Gilf, where we turn east and travel towards the edge of the Great Sand Sea. Here we encounter one of the strangest mysteries of the desert, nestled among the giant dunes. In December 1932, the English explorer P. Clayton was driving in this area when he felt his tyres crunching on something that wasn't sand. It turned out to be large pieces of clear yellow-green glass, now known as Libyan Desert Glass. The ancient Egyptians had also discovered it and a scarab carved from LDG can be seen today in the Egyptian Museum’s Tutankhamun collection. LDG is the purest natural silica glass ever found. Thousand of pieces are strewn across this region, mostly small, angular pieces looking like shards from a gigantic green bottle. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11-13: Great Sand Sea - Desert Safari
The Great Sand Sea is around 72,000 kilometers in size, an area somewhat larger than Tasmania, or Ireland. Essentially enormous expanses of sand, sand seas are made up of processions of dunes aligned to the air stream, either raising the ground level or dipping into escarpments that tend to face south. The dunes respond to the wind, moving at a rate of 20- 100 meters a year. The longest dune in the Great Sand Sea, known as the Abu Mhara Dune, is estimated to be 140 kilometers long. For three days we traverse this extraordinary landscape, exploring endlessly undulating curves that create an atmosphere of infinite and unparalleled tranquility. Our final camp is at Bir Wahed, close to Siwa, where the hot spring and desert lake provide a pleasant diversion after days in the desert. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 14: Siwa Oasis
We reach Siwa Oasis, a magnificent green tablecloth spread across the desert sands where we check in to our hotel and enjoy a welcome shower. Later we head into the town center to explore this beautiful and very unusual oasis town. Unlike Bahariya and Dakhla, Siwa is a Berber town and the language, traditions and culture are more closely aligned with the peoples of the Maghreb than with Egyptians. We visit the crumbling remains of Shali - the fabulous fortified mud-brick citadel that dominates the skyline - and we explore Gebel al-Mawta (Mountain of the Dead), where tombs from the 26th Dynasty, Ptolemaic and Roman periods are cut into the hillside. Tonight we reflect on our epic adventure and prepare for our return to the modern world. Included: (B), (L).
Day 15: Siwa Oasis-Cairo
From Siwa it's a long day's drive back to Cairo. We travel north to the Mediterranean coast, passing through Marsa Matrouh on our way to Alexandria, where we make a right turn and follow the desert highway back to Cairo. We expect to reach our hotel in the evening. Included: (B).
Day 16: Your trip ends today, after breakfast. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Included: (B).
Also see tour packages in:
Africa Egypt Outdoor: Land Rambler Desert Expeditions
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