Travel Letters

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 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.

Mersa Matruh

Mersa Matruh

Matruh Governate


February 23, 2020

Despite our itinerary to spend only one night in Mersa Matruh, I decided to spend two.

I was exhausted after the journey across the desert from the Siwa Oasis.

Except for meals, I never left my hotel room.  

Why leave?  The hotel was called the Belle Vue Hotel.

The view was beautiful across the beach and the  Mediterranean Sea.

El Alamein

El Alamein War Cemetery and Military Museum

Al Alameen City

Matrouh Governate


February 23, 2020

Fifteen years ago, a thought came to mind as I wandered through the rows of gravestones of British soldiers at the Htauk Kyant Second World War Memorial Cemetery that lies 25 kilometers north of Yangon in Myanmar:

Britain had the largest Jewish population in Western Europe. Surely many Jews fought in the British army. Surely some of them were casualties in the battles in Southeast Asia.  Are they buried here? 

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.