Egypt: Western Desert

Siwa Oasis


Matrouh Governorate

Arab Republic of Egypt

February 18, 2020

Welcome to Siwa!

The urban oasis of Siwa lies 750 km (466 mi) west of Cairo and only about 50 km (31 mi) east of the Libya border.  Consequently, the population of 33,000 is mostly ethnic Berber.

Siwa sits atop the aquifer that begins in Sudan and runs northward in an arc under the Western Desert.  South of Siwa, towards Luxor, several other oasis cities lie along the arc and benefit from the springs.

Siwa is blessed with fertile soil, abundant date palms, lakes, streams, irrigation works and scenic hills.

Siwa Oasis Temples


Matrouh Governate

Arab Republic of Egypt

February 19, 2020

In her book The Western Desert of Egypt Casandra Vivian writes “Siwa is different. It is not Egyptian, but North African.  Most Siwans are Berbers, a people who once roamed the North Africa coast from Tunisia to Morocco as early as 10,000 BCE.  The Berbers are the true Western Desert indigenous people.”

The Berbers had many visitors: Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Arabs, British, Germans, Italians … and Yours truly. 

I visited four of the ancient sites:

The Bahariya Oasis

Desert Safari Home

Bawiti Town

Bahariya Oasis

Giza Governate

Western Desert


February 24, 2020

Duplicating the other oases in the Western Desert of Egypt, the Bahariya Oasis boasts an ancient history.

The modern road from Cairo has introduced changes in language, traditions, and agricultural practices. 

What is immutable is the scenic beauty in and around the oasis. 

Please walk with me in town and ride with me to the lakes and dunes and mountains of the Bahariya Oasis.

The Crystal Mountain of Egypt

Bahariya Oasis

Western Desert


February 24, 2020


The "Crystal Mountain" in Egypt

A subvolcanic vault, filled with crystals of a hydrothermal event

Norbert Brügge, Germany

(I have taken the liberty to edit this essay for syntax and punctuation.  jp)

The crystals from the Crystal Mountain between the Bahariya Oasis and Farafra Oasis, in the northern section of the White Desert, are not Quartz crystals. They are Barite crystals (BaSO4) and/or Calcite crystals (CaCO3). 

To ascertain the hardness of the crystals, Quartz (SiO2) has the hardness 7, Barite and Calcite the hardness 3.5-3.0 (Mohs-scale). Quartz crystal can scratch glass, Barite or Calcite cannot.

At first glance, the crystals of Calcite and Quartz are similar, but a closer look reveals the differences.  Quartz crystals have six sides, mostly with a pyramid-shaped crystal tip.  The crystals of Calcite, on the other hand, can be rhombohedral (crystal with six rhombus-shaped sides) or scalenohedral (triangles with different lengths and with different numbers of sides). Every specialist will confirm that what we see here are not Quartz crystals.

The Black Desert

Bahariya Oasis

Western Desert


February 25, 2020

In Egypt I had the opportunity to visit The Black Desert, one of the most unusual deserts in the world.

I visited the desert twice: on a cold cloudy morning at sunrise (hat, scarf, shirt, sweater. hoodie, jacket, gloves) and the next day, a warm afternoon (no gloves needed).

The Black Desert was formed over 180 million years ago by the volcanic activity that took place in the area. Now, the desert is covered with black stones of hardened lava. In some places, I can see majestic hills covered with black stones. Other parts are large plains with orange to brown terrains where the sandy soil now supports large scale agriculture.