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. 


The Black Desert (Arabic: ‏الصحراء السوداء‎‎, aṣ-Ṣaḥrāʾ as-sawdāʾ) is a region of volcano-shaped and widely spaced mounds, distributed along about 30 km (19 miles) in western Egypt between the White Desert in the south and the Bahariya Oasis in the north. Most of its mounds are capped by basalt sills, giving them the characteristic black color.

The mounds of the Black Desert, up to 100 m high (328 feet), vary in size, composition, height, and shape as some are dark consisting of iron quartzite while others are more reddish as its surface rocks consist of iron sandstone. On the outskirts of the Black Desert are volcanic hills proving the eruption of dark volcanic dolerite, dating back to the Jurassic period 180 million years ago.

Remains of shrubs, and fossilized woodlands have been found in the Black Desert indicating that it once has worn a dress of greenery and freshness.

After discovering a large dinosaur skeleton on its borders, the Black Desert has been declared a natural reserve as of 2010.

It's hard to imagine now, but In the very distant past this area was a lush swampland.  In the not so distant past, the black desert was a green savannah.

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