White Desert – Al Farafrah, Egypt - Atlas Obscura

White Desert

Al Farafrah, Egypt

An alien landscape of chalk-rock in the Egyptian desert. 


Just a few hours from the bursting metropolis of Cairo lies a desert that will make you feel like you’ve landed on the surface of the moon.

Formed by centuries of erosion and sandstorms, these unique calcium rock formations crop up across the landscape like great abstract statues. Some that resemble food have been given names like “mushroom” and “ice-cream cone,” while others have inspired more grandiose designations, such as “the Monolith” and “Inselberg.”

Arguably the most characteristic of these peculiar natural formations is the famed “chicken and tree” set, also called “chicken and mushroom,” or, better yet, “chicken and atomic bomb.” Only in The White Desert will you encounter such a bizarre and awe-inspiring natural museum of chalk-rock.

Many people opt to spend a night camping in the desert with Bedouin guides, where they can observe the changing faces of chickens and mushrooms and monoliths as the bright sun of the afternoon sinks into a shadowy dusk. As the sun goes down, the calcium sea seems to reflect all the fuchsias and oranges of the sky. And while any night under the stars of the Western Desert is an experience not soon forgotten, the lucky few that catch a full moon will witness the desert giving off a ghostly, iridescent glow.

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July 14, 2011

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