Friday, 3 May 2013 12:52 PM
There's more to Egypt than its ancient wonders and fabulous Red Sea resorts – one of the country's most interesting landscapes to explore is the desert. There are several vast sandy areas that you should consider adding to your holiday itinerary.
If you'd like to know where to go and what you can see in these wilderness areas, check out our guide.
The Western Desert
The most famous of Egypt's deserts is the Western Desert, which covers close to 700,000 sq km and comprises nearly two-thirds of the entire country. It is the area to the west of the River Nile and is known as one of the driest parts of the Sahara.
There are some spectacular landscapes here, from vast dunes to unusual rock formations, many of which have been sculpted by the fierce winds and sandstorms that sweep the area.
If you're keen to see one of the remotest parts of the Western Desert, join a tour that visits the Gilf Kebir – a huge plateau that features towering rock cliffs and wide open spaces. One of the things that makes this region worth visiting is the prehistoric paintings and pictographs that can still be seen on some of the cliffs, as well as the petroglyphs – carvings made into the rocks – that date back thousands of years.
The Great Sand Sea – the world's largest dune field – is another amazing sight to behold, and many tours of the Western Desert will include a visit to at least one of its oases. Among them are Siwa, Dakhla and Bahariya. As the only water sources in the desert, the towns around the oases have a long and fascinating history, with the nomadic Bedouins, the Romans and the Persians among the people to have used these spots over the centuries.
The Coloured Canyon
If you're staying in Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula, you should take the opportunity to discover this very distinct desert landscape, which features towering mountains and deep valleys.
One of the most fascinating formations here is the Coloured Canyon, which is some 800 m long and boasts astounding rock formations and unusually shaped cliff walls, some of which are over 40 m high. This feature was carved out of the rock by the sea millions of years ago, when an ancient ocean covered the Sinai Peninsula. Elsewhere in the Sinai desert, you can still see fossilised corals in the rocks.
Wadi el Gamal National Park
Should you choose to holiday in Hurghada, or further south in Marsa Alam, you can visit the Wadi el Gamal National Park, which is located in the Eastern Desert. This protected area features a diverse range of ecosystems, including beaches, mangroves, salt marshes and sand dunes.
There are also ruins located within the park, some of which date from the time of the ancient Egyptians when they used to mine in the area for emeralds, gold and other precious materials.
A surprising number of rare animal species can be found within the reserve, with the Dorkas gazelle, the Nubian ibex and the Barbary sheep among the creatures that inhabit the area. You can book a tour with a local tracker who will try to find some of these amazing animals that can live in such an inhospitable environment.
If an exciting desert adventure sounds like something you'd like to do on your break in Egypt, take the stress out of organising your tour by booking your trip through The Holiday Place, which can tailor your getaway to suit your preferences.