The Natural Beauty of the Sahara, Egypt

Sahara Egypt 41

By Nicole Anderson

Sahara Egypt 1
Image: WikiTravel

Touring different locations within the largest hot desert in the world, across a country with the most in the way of ancient history was a real joy and privilege.

When you first mention the word ‘Sahara’, people generally do not automatically associate this with natural beauty.

And yet the Sahara in its vastness, offers so much beauty that shines through its harshness and barren terrain.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to travel to North Africa and experience much of Egypt, a country completely dominated by the Sahara while offering other treasures such as the famous Nile, Lake Nassar, the Red Sea Riviera and the Mediterranean.

 

Its BIG!

Sahara Egypt 2
Map of Northern Africa showing the extent of the Sahara

The Sahara itself is 9,200,000 square kilometres (or 3,600,000 square miles) in size – roughly comparable to the size of China or the United States. The Sahara stretches well beyond Egypt to include large sections of Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia, making up 31% of the total continent of Africa.

It’s a rocky desert and does look very different from various locations which I wanted to share here. So many people often just think of a desert as just mounds of sand dunes, seemingly going on forever. Not the case with the Sahara as you will see.

 

It’s HOT!

Sahara Egypt 3
Our first venture into the Sahara, Egypt. Photo: James Visser.

No surprise there. As Wikipedia states: “The high position of the Sun, the extremely low relative humidity, and the lack of vegetation and rainfall make the Great Desert the hottest large region in the world, and the hottest place on Earth during summer in some spots. The average high temperature exceeds 38 to 40 °C or 100.4 to 104.0 °F during the hottest month nearly everywhere in the desert except at very high altitudes.”

Venturing outdoors is definitely not to be taken lightly here. Travelling with my partner James, we both ensured we were as well protected from the elements as we could be. It goes without saying that sunscreen, hats etc are a must and the heat can be really stifling, feeling it both from the sun as well as reflecting off the ground. It can be pretty intense and for the most part, it is often best to venture out early in the mornings, so you are back out of the elements at the hottest part of the day.

 

Our Experience

Egypt is a country that James has wanted to visit for a while. I was keen to go also and to appreciate what the natural beauty of such an ancient land offered. As there was quite a lot to see across this country, we both chose to complete an itinerary that showed us most of this intriguing land.

Where it came to different areas of the Sahara, we did cover quite a bit of ground and I have included the main highlights of the various areas below. While the focus of my articles are not man-made attractions, I have made an exception in this case, simply because these are Egyptian icons located within/alongside the Sahara and are treasured by many around the world.

 

The Giza Plateau

Sahara Egypt 4
The Sphinx in front of one of the Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

The closest part of the Sahara to Egypt’s capital Cairo, the Giza Plateau was the first place we visited after landing in Egypt. Here is where the large city of Cairo ends and the Sahara begins.

Most identified as the location of the famous Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx, the Giza Plateau is easily reached by road.

The first time you catch sight of these pyramids, I defy you not to be simply awestruck. They are as amazing as they are colossal.

The sheer size and majesty of such an awesome feat just takes your breath away. Sole existing survivor from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is the Great Pyramid. This amazing structure, together with the other pyramids, are the planet’s oldest tourist attraction!

The statistics quoted around building a single pyramid is just astounding. 100,000 workers laying 2.5 million blocks, each weighing in excess of 6 million tonnes were used to construct the Cheops Pyramid alone!

 

Sahara Egypt 7
Me and the Sphinx. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 6
Can you imagine the effort required to build this? Photo: Nicole Anderson

 

Aside from visiting these amazing structures, we also went a bit out into the Sahara (which is mostly sand at this location) to get our first feel of this gigantic desert, as well as take a couple of photos looking back toward the pyramids. It was a momentous first day on this fabulous adventure.

 

Sahara Egypt 5
Travelling on the Giza Plateau to get a good view of the pyramids. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 8
James and I taking in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Photo: Horse and Buggy Driver.

 

This location at night

The temperature certainly does drop dramatically at night in the Sahara. Not that it ever would get really cold at the Giza Plateau (compared to other parts of the desert), it was a really pleasant feel when we attended the Pyramids and Sphinx Sound and Light show.

 

Sahara Egypt 9
The Giza Pryamids Light and Sound show at night was quite impressive. Photo: James Visser.

 

The lighting and narrative which presented historical information of Egyptian history incorporating this location was both interesting and impressive. A ‘must do’ in addition to visiting this site during the day.

 

Saqqara

Another popular site, Seqqara is the place where you can see Zhoser’s Step Pyramid (the oldest pyramid of them all – dating back to 2,700BC) as well as the myriad tombs and temples surrounding the area.

 

Sahara Egypt 10
Zhoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, dating back to 2700BC. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Sahara Egypt 11
Date Palms thriving a short distance from Zhoser’s Step Pyramid. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

Here we see a little greenery in this area of the Sahara, with a number of date palms and desert scrubs that skirt the edge of the desert.

 

The south

Heading from the city of Aswan (located on the Nile), and travelling by road to the ‘last stop’ of Abu Simbel and Lake Nassar (not far from the border with Sudan), we travelled through a fair bit of the Egyptian Sahara.

Here we see a number of more fascinating scenes of the Sahara.

 

Sahara Egypt 12
Capturing the sun rising over the Sahara as we head south to Abu Simbel. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Sahara Egypt 13
Our first stop of the morning before the heat starts to build. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 14
A great deal of the Sahara was rocky. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 15
Do I look cool, calm and collected as we head further into the day? Photo: James Visser.

 

Luxor

This 4,000-year-old ancient city is surrounded by the Sahara while sitting on the banks of the Nile.

The centre-piece of Luxor would have to be the Temple Complex of Karnak as well as the Luxor Temple, around which the rest of the city has been constructed and inhabited for thousands of years.

 

Karnak

The Karnak Temple complex is said to be the second largest in the world, after Ankor Wat in Cambodia (although we were told at the time that Karnak is in fact the biggest). Karnak is also known to be the second most popular tourist site in Egypt after the Giza Pyramids.

Karnak was built over a number of generations of Pharaohs, each progressively building more to create a massive complex of temples.

The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls. The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet (16,459 meters) and featuring 134 columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world (Source: Discovering Egypt).

 

Sahara Egypt 16
At the entrance of the Karnak Complex. Photo: Ana Mestre.

 

Sahara Egypt 17
The sheer size of these columns of solid stone is amazing. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 18
Hard to believe that the hieroglyphics seen here are from ancient times. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

 

 

Luxor Temple

While not to the scale of Karnak, Luxor Temple is non-the-less extremely impressive. As we had visited Karnak Temple Complex early in the morning, we visited Luxor Temple in the late afternoon to early evening to avoid the worst of the desert sun.

 

Sahara Egypt 19
Outside the entrance to Luxor Temple. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 20
Its amazing how these massive statues are all perfectly carved. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Sahara Egypt 21
Some of the wall inside the Temple. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

This was another fascinating site steeped in history with so much being relayed to us, it becomes extremely hard to recall all the detail, especially as similar information was provided at every major Egyptian site we visited.

As we stayed at the complex for some time, the sun set and the lights came on, giving this special place a completely different look altogether.

 

Sahara Egypt 22
A totally different look once the sun sets and the lights come on. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Sahara Egypt 23
James and I standing at the edge of the enormous track that connects the Luxor Temple with the Karnak Complex, some kilometers away. Photo: fellow visitor.

 

Colossi of Memnon

On the other (West Bank) of the Nile from Luxor are the first monuments you come across as you head toward the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the famous Valley of the Kings.

 

Sahara Egypt 24
Like everything in Ancient Egypt…really big! Photo: James Visser.

 

These are imposing 18m-high statues known as the Colossi of Memnon, which represent the remains of the Temple of the hedonistic Amenophis III.

 

Delr al-Bahri

Otherwise and more commonly known as the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, this is an amazing stone structure rising out of the desert plain, in a series of terraces.

It is simply one of Egypt’s finest and most photographed sites. The detail is amazing and the work to create something like this, similar to many other Egyptian landmarks, would be just about impossible to replicate today.

 

Sahara Egypt 25
Imagine carving this out of solid rock in the middle of the desert! Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Sahara Egypt 26
With a couple of friendly locals that helped with my head piece. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 27
James on the top level terrace. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Valley of the Kings

Without doubt the most famous cemetery in the world, the Valley of the Kings is where the tombs of the ancient Pharaohs and noblemen and their families are located. Not that all of these tombs have been found. Not by a long shot, and there are still excavations occurring and planned for the future.

Today however, here is where you will find some 63 tombs, many of which you can enter and view.

Everyone who visits this particular site in the Sahara, Egypt will need to purchase an entry ticket, which includes entry to up to three tombs of your choice. Photography within the site and inside the tombs is unfortunately not permitted due to less than ideal light and strictly no flash can be used.

The majority of tombs were cut into rock and some of the entrance ways leading down into certain tombs are in perfect condition and clearly show the hieroglyphics so well (and in many cases, in full colour).

 

Sahara Egypt 28
Beyond the entrance and visitor’s center, visitors are taken up to the main area of the valley by tram. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 29
The main Valley area from which known tomb entrances are located. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 30
Entrance to one of the tombs. Image – Lonely Planet.

 

A few interesting sights travelling between Luxor and Hurghada

Here are a couple of images from this road trip that I thought were worth including:

Sahara Egypt 39
Half a dozen camels out for a drive… Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 40
Greeting a Bedouin woman with her donkey and billy goat (standing on the donkey). Photo: James Visser.

 

Quad Biking on the Sahara, Egypt

Sahara Egypt 31
Kitted up and ready to ride out on the desert. Photo: fellow rider.

In another part of the country, near the Red Sea city of Hurghada, we signed up for a day tour to visit a Bedouin camp in the Sahara that you could reach by quad bike. The entire trip was around 50 kilometres crossing a stretch of desert which mostly was sandy, but also covered some rocky areas which made the trip a bit hairy in some places.

Our group all had to wear glasses or googles together with a traditional face covering and helmet in order to provide sufficient protection for our faces as we drove through the sand of the Sahara.

 

Sahara Egypt 32
Setting off for the Bedouin Camp. Photo: James Visser.

Once we arrived at our destination, the camp offered us some Bedouin Tea and a bit of an insight into their lifestyle as a nomadic people. Some tourists that were with us also opted to try smoking Shisha from a traditional Hookah, while others accepted to take a short camel ride.

 

Sahara Egypt 33
I found the Bedouin Tea quite nice at the camp, while others tried the Shisha. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 34
Bedouin women providing camel rides to some of the visitors. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 35
Throughout our travels in the Sahara, this is the only cactus I ever saw. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

We all arrived back a little worse for wear from the trip, many with blisters on their hands from the Quad Bikes and most having got sand just about everywhere possible in their clothes and everywhere else you could imagine. Nevertheless, it was a very different experience that we were glad to have done.

 

The Sahara along the Red Sea Coast and back to Cairo

Travelling back by coach from Hurghada along the Red Sea Riviera and eventually back inland to Cairo was yet another opportunity to see some stunning views of the Sahara.

The yellows of the desert that went right up to the beautiful aqua hues of the Red Sea, followed by the more mountainous terrain we experienced as we turned inland really showed how such a harsh and dry area still does project immense natural beauty.

 

Sahara Egypt 36
Driving past where the Sahara, Egypt meets the Red Sea. Photo: James Visser.

 

Sahara Egypt 37
The Sahara at a higher altitude once we had turned inland toward Cairo. Photo: James Visser.

 

The edge of the Sahara in the north

The final part of the Sahara, Egypt we experienced was in the extreme north of the country, as we headed toward the country’s second largest city, Alexandria.

Situated on the Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara almost touches the end of the African continent here. Our last actual historical site we visited where you can still see has the desert as its foundations, was ‘Pompey’s Pillar’ – a site that is virtually streets away from the sea.

 

Sahara Egypt 38
Pompay’s Pillar in the city of Alexandria. Photo: James Visser.

 

Here is a site where you see a single pillar that remains from 400 that made up the Temple of Serapeum, a magnificent structure that stood here in ancient times.

 

Conclusion

Exploring the Sahara, Egypt from Abu Simbel and Lake Nassar in the south to Alexandria in the north and out to Hurghada in the east made for a very fulfilling trip.

It is just impossible to cram everything we were able to experience into a single article here. Instead I have tried to share what I think were the highlights that most people would be interested in and to provide a feel for the Sahara, the desert life of today and ancient treasures of bygone eras.

Although not everyone’s idea of the ideal vacation, experiencing the Sahara in a country steeped with so much history that is hard to compare with anywhere else, is something I would thoroughly recommend.

 

Did you enjoy this piece on the natural beauty of the Sahara, Egypt?

Do let me know your impressions or if you have any questions via the comments below.

Also: do stay tuned for more upcoming articles similar to the Sahara Egypt, covering our journey on the Nile, time spent exploring the Rea Sed, Lake Nassar, Alexandria and a train journey with views from Cairo to Aswan…

 

Founder and Publisher at | Website

Outdoor adventure enthusiast that loves nature having travelled locations across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Passionate Travel Writer, Blogger and Influencer.

134 thoughts on “The Natural Beauty of the Sahara, Egypt

  • November 8, 2019 at 12:58 am
    Permalink

    WOW – as I was reading through this post, each location seemed more amazing and fantastic than the last. How wonderful to be able to experience such an ancient culture, while at the same time it looked so much fun from the buggy ride to the quad bikes! When I make it to Egypt, I will definitely be sure to include this type of Sahara trip!

    Reply
    • November 8, 2019 at 2:17 am
      Permalink

      That is such a lovely comment, Mireille, thank you. There’s no doubt that there are so many things to see, do and appreciate around the mighty Sahara in Egypt. I’m so pleased you are planning a trip to include the many things shown here. Do also have a look at the other posts in a total of 7 on this amazing country for more ideas of what you might like to enjoy while you are there.

      Reply
  • November 4, 2019 at 9:17 pm
    Permalink

    When we were in Dubai, we did a desert “adventure” and it was quite frankly a big disappointment. We did not get the vast desert experience we were looking for. I really would have liked to spend time out there. But I do understand the cautions you have raised. Quad biking looks like it would be a lot of fun. It was great that you went out into the desert by the pyramids to get a view of them from that angle. We loved our visit to Luxor even if we did not really get to experience the desert. The temples and sites were simply stunning. You caught some good shots of the wall colours that still miraculously can be seen. A good journey through the Sahara.

    Reply
    • November 5, 2019 at 6:33 am
      Permalink

      Thank you so much for such a great comment Linda. We were lucky in that we saw quite a bit of the Sahara from many different vantage points and took a lot of photos of the various aspects and colors that you can see. From what you have said, you also did see bits and pieces of the Sahara and no doubt got a feel for the vastness that it is. I certainly hope you enjoyed your trip to Egypt as much as James and I did.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2019 at 1:17 am
    Permalink

    Oh that would be amazing to see in person. I have never been to that part of the world. It’s def on my bucket list.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 11:29 am
    Permalink

    From the Philippines to Egypt, it will be a luxury to fly and visit this country though I admit I really want to visit it (still saving for this trip). It was so huge and so hot and glad you like the place. So much old history there and I bet all worth it.

    Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 1:43 pm
    Permalink

    How is it I have never heard of the Luxor Temple?!!?! I mean, geez – I have heard of the Luxor in Vegas, for crying out loud! OMG!!! How incredible! I really love your photos and story. Egypt has just moved to the top of my list!

    Reply
    • July 25, 2019 at 10:56 pm
      Permalink

      Sonya, I guess that’s because the Luxor in Vegas is more commercially promoted than the actual Luxor city and temple it is named after! Thank you so much for your kind comments on the story and photos – I really hope you plan your trip soon. Let me know if I can be of any help as I know you would love it just as much.

      Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 1:06 pm
    Permalink

    I knew the Sarah was big but 3,600,000 square miles is huge! I hadn’t seen a close up of the Great Pyramid before, it truly is incredible. I would love to visit this area and see the Giza Pryamids Light and Sound show. Luxor is also high on my list. Those statues and hieroglyphics are a must see.

    Reply
    • July 25, 2019 at 10:52 pm
      Permalink

      There is no doubting that the pyramids are just epic, as much as the Sahara itself Sherianne. I would agree you should see the fabulous ancient attractions around Luxor, including the Nile of course. If you have an interest in history, you will completely love Egypt.

      Reply
  • July 24, 2019 at 1:58 pm
    Permalink

    Seeing the Sahara Dessert sounds like a phenomenal experience! I honestly had no idea how huge the Sahara was. Of course, I would love to see the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx. And, seeing the Luxor Temple at sunset and at night seems really magical. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your travel journeys!

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:23 pm
      Permalink

      Thank you so much Kristy. The Sahara and the fabulous monuments, temples and other attractions are certainly a massive reason to visit, quite aside from the natural beauty to be enjoyed there.

      Reply
  • July 24, 2019 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    Wow! I’d never thought about adding the Sahara to my bucket list, but your post and photos have convinced me that I’d love to see it someday. The history and artwork of the pyramids alone is worth the trip! It’s gorgeous both in the daylight and at night.

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:20 pm
      Permalink

      That’s wonderful you would add this to your bucket list Tracy. There is no doubting that the pyramids by themselves are a huge drawcard for tourists the world over. However, the word is definitely getting out of so many other fabulous attractions (natural and man-made) that make Egypt a compelling choice for a holiday. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  • July 24, 2019 at 4:13 am
    Permalink

    I have mixed feelings about whether I want to visit Egypt or not. I would love to visit the pyramids of Giza, or Luxor Temple and even the Valley of Kings and the main reason I wish to go is because of the number of historical associations you can find there. It is, after all, one of the oldest civilisations that existed! But visiting the Sahara and any middle eastern or north African country is almost like going to a place very similar to where I live (Dubai) and I like going to places completely opposite of where I live!

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:17 pm
      Permalink

      I can completely understand what you mean Medha, but if you decide to have just one trip within the Middle East – North Africa region, then I would strongly recommend you consider Egypt for the very reasons you mentioned. Egypt, after all, does have so much that the rest of the region doesn’t and this would be worth a trip at some point. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your comment.

      Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 2:01 pm
    Permalink

    Wow, you totally convinced me that the natural beauty in the Sahara in Egypt is worth visiting. Looks like the trip of a lifetime. I can’t get over those ancient tombs, pyramids, the temples in Luxor, and rich culture. It looks stunning at night the way the pyramids are lit up. It must have been so special to see the history that we grow up reading about in school.

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:12 pm
      Permalink

      I completely agree Susanna. For me, it was very special indeed and felt quite surreal at times. Thank you so much for such a nice comment and I hope you also make the trip to experience all Egypt has to offer.

      Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 10:42 am
    Permalink

    Egypt looks absolutely incredible, and despite the recent problems I think it is one of the best destinations for 2019. I have been to the Sahara desert in Morocco (managed to get stung by a scorpion) and it has nothing quite like Egypt. How incredible are these Pyramids, I love your close up photo. It really shows how big they are. It almost seems impossible they were built by humans more than 4000 years ago…

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:07 pm
      Permalink

      That’s for sure Jenny. There are many that say we couldn’t even properly replicate these monuments with everything we have at our disposal today. That is fabulous that you experienced the Sahara in Morocco although that was rotten luck with the scorpion. There is no doubt that tourism in Egypt is also on the way up again now since recent events that drove tourists away and I hope you make the journey there as well.

      Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 10:03 am
    Permalink

    I must admit that Egypt has never been high on my travel bucket list, especially because of the heat. But your photos and virtual tour may have changed my mind. It really is a breathtaking place! I’m also really excited to read your upcoming post about The Nile. Please let me know when you publish that one. I think going into the tombs would be a must for me when visiting. They are certainly a marvel, and it makes you wonder how it was done.

    Reply
    • July 24, 2019 at 9:01 pm
      Permalink

      I agree there is so much beauty to photograph in Egypt, Erica. The heat can be minimized somewhat if you travel in their winter but that is also (understandably) peak season as well. The tombs are indeed so fascinating – both in the Valley of the Kings as well as within the pyramids. The post on the Nile is the next in the Egypt series and this will be published 2 days from now, so I do hope you enjoy that one as well. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 3:05 am
    Permalink

    I have always been interested in Egypt, historically and geographically. I would love to visit there by myself and experience the pyramids, along with the light and sound show in the evening. You also managed to visit Abu Simbel in the south – that is another interesting location along with Saqqara, Aswan, and more. That is a detailed itinerary you have shared.

    Reply