16-18 March 2000

Bahariya is one of the large depressions in the Western Desert. Life is centered in oases around artesian springs within the large depression, which has a size of approximately 2000 sq. Km. The sandstone hills around and in Bahariya are capped by dolorite. Most of the villages and cultivated land can be viewed from the top of the 50-metre-high Jebel al-Mi'ysrah, together with the massive dunes which threaten to engulf some of the older settlements.

We stayed at 'Peter's place' (The International Health Center) at Bawiti, the largest village in the oasis. Peter has built a nice place around a hot water spring. The pool is a nice treat after a day in the desert around Bahariya. The water looks very brown because of the high iron content, but is good drinking water. A real luxury in the middle of the desert!

We spent a day exploring the area around Bawati, which is full of antiquities. The oases must have supported a much larger settlement in pharonic and early Roman times. A lot of that has been taken back by the desert again. We recommend a visit to the tiny village of Mendisha, which is attacked by sand dunes.

In Bawati we joined the Gerrits and Meyer Families to the white desert, a lovely area, with large stumps of white chalk, sculpted in beautiful shapes by the desert winds. We camped there -in the middle of nowehere- for two nights. No sounds, except the snoring from tent. A peaceful setting which even looked lovely at night because of a 3/4 moon.

The kids around their own campfire

Chalk Mushroom in the white desert

Once in a while there are large humps with bushes and trees, fed by water coming from deep down, filtering-upwards through fractures (faults) in the rocks. The bushes and trees catch sand, slowly building into small mounds over time, with the plants struggling to keep their heads above the sand. Here again evidence for more extenise human settlements in a distant past, when climate was more tolerable. Some graves with mummies close to the now small water holes provide a glimpse of the past.

Mummies near the mystic spring (white desert)

Jan got his shoes wet in the only pool in the nearest 500 km2

The water 'holes' (mounds might be a better word) support a rich animal life in the middle of a hostile desert.

Mystic spring, white desert

Chalk mounds in the white desert

Through the white desert we drove to Farafra, crossing some dune fields. Only once a car got stuck and required muscle power to get free again. Amazing what these 4WD's can do, digging their way though loose sand. With two cars in front we created enormous dust clouds, with visibility sometimes dropping to zero.

After a second night in the White Desert our little company split-up, with the Gerrits and Meyer families driving down south to Dakhla and ourselves back to Bahariya and Cairo.

@ J. Schreurs