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The dramatic gleaming chalk landscape of the Farafra is one of the most astounding natural wonders of Egypt.
This is the White Desert (known as Sahara el Beyda, with the word Sahara meaning a desert). The strange rock formations that rise above the white surface of the desert are known as inselbergs (from the German for ‘island mountain. ‘The White Desert of Egypt is located 45 km (28 mi) north of the town of Farafra. It is a white, cream color and has massive chalk rock formations that have been created by occasional sandstorms in the area.
The white desert has been classified by Egypt as a natural protectorate in 2002 and covers an area of 3010 square kilometers
There is fine white sand here, but the white desert is not made up of ‘white sand.’ Most of the white color is present because the rocks are exposed, making the whole desert look white. At sunset, the purple shimmering on the chalk-stone are particularly beautiful. At this moment, the white desert becomes a pink desert. These red and purple colors are iron-bearing sand-stones are then seen everywhere. In addition to the ‘crystal’ in the black and white desert, other treasures are to be found.
The White Desert origin
At the end of the Cretaceous period, 60 million years ago, a shallow sea covered the deep layer of Nubian sandstone of this area. During the following 30 million years, 300 million limestone and chalk accumulated at the sea’s bottom. Less than 30 million years ago, the ice formation in the Atlantic made the sea above the white desert reappear. The current White Desert has stunning sculptures resulting from this erosion.
Spending a night in the White Desert is a magical experience. Sitting by a fire smoking Sheesha (water-pipe), learning lessons on how to navigate by the stars, or simply sitting in silence staring in wonder at the clear unpolluted night sky glittering with stars, is an unforgettable experience. At dawn when the new light hides the stars it also reveals shapes and shadows that will be gone as soon as the sun gets higher. Every time of day reveals different shapes.
Most people who come to visit the Farafra oasis also visit the White Desert that lies to the area north of Qasr el Farafra. The spectacular scenery of the place makes it ever more popular among tourists. The white chalk of the depression is embedded with numerous fossil seashells and the ground is scattered with thousands of oxidized iron pyrites concretions.
People who have visited the White desert say it’s a truly magical place that’s hard to leave. It’s one of the more recently declared protected areas of Egypt and lies totally within the depression of Farafra.
The white desert is steadily growing as a major tourist attraction and draws numerous visitors to Egypt who wish to experience another enriching sight.
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