Bahariyya is an oasis town in Egypt's Western Desert. As the closest of the five Western Oases to Cairo, it serves as a jumping-off point to other destinations in the desert. Bahariya Oasis is easy to reach from Cairo (you will pass through much desert), Bahariya is in the middle of Egypt's Western Desert, about 365 km south-west of Cairo and it is the best starting point for the Black and White Desert. Set in a depression covering over 2000 sq. km., Bahariya Oasis is surrounded by black hills made up of ferruginous quartzite and dolorite. The oasis is provided with water by many springs. The most famous of these, a thermal spring with medicinal and restorative properties, comes out in the Bedouin village of Bawiti. Wildlife is plentiful, especially birds such as wheatears, Bahariya Oasis might also appeal rock hounds. Golden Mummies were discovered - 'Valley of the Mummies' is the biggest of its kind. Estimates are the four-mile strip of desert holds 5,000 - 10,000 mummies. The mummies are covered with a thin layer of gold and wearing gypsum masks. Sumptuous gilded death masks depict lifelike faces of real people, rather than stereotypical images. They were found in four tombs in the town of Bawiti in Bahariya Oasis.
There are regular bus services from Cairo to Bahariyya and back. Buses start from Turgoman Square bus-station in Cairo. Buses start early in the morning (7:00am/8:00am) and also during afternoon. It typically takes about 5 hours by bus for the Cairo-Bahariyya trip. One way cost is typically about 80 LE for locals and 100 LE for foreigners. Seats are numbered but Egyptians regularly will take your seat or demand that you get up from where you're sitting if you're in the first row. On some buses they will have the TV blaring. Sometimes all speakers don't work. If you end up sitting near a speaker that does work or the only one that works, don't be afraid to ask to switch your seat. Be firm and demand it. The regular bus is not advised for tourists solely because the Tourism Police await the arrival of foreigners at the main bus station in Bawiti town, where they will insist on a copy of your passport and follow you during your time in Bahariyya (known practice of the police in Egypt, for safety).
There are regular microbuses that go from Cairo to Bahariyya. Microbuses are available at the same place (El Moneeb bus-station). A one-way trip costs about 300-400 LE or possibly cheaper if you organise this through a helpful host from your hotel/hostel. Time taken is about 3.5-4 hours depending on breaks. A microbus is the preferred way to get to Bahariyya as the Tourism Police will not know about your arrival and consequently cannot follow you during your time in Bahariyya.
It is also possible to speak to your hotel or hostel to organise a car to drive you from Cairo or Cairo International Airport to Bahariya.
The Black Desert
This is located about half an hour's drive away from Bahariyya. It consists of an area of the Sahara Desert which consists of small mountains and hillocks which are sooty black in color. The combination of the black stones covering the hills along with the orange/ochre ground of the desert makes for dramatic viewing. A climb up one of the hills rewards the visitor with an excellent view of a fascinating landscape.
White Desert National Park
This is a large expanse of the Sahara Desert characterized by white chalk formations. Centuries of erosion have moulded the rock into fantastic shapes and has resulted in a spectacular sights which have become extremely popular with visitors. The White Desert National Park is located about 100 km from Bahariya off the road that goes to Farafra. The usual way to go there is via a 4X4 - though there is also the option of going on a walking tour once you reach the place. More adventurous travelers can pack a sleeping bag, food and a lot (a lot!) of water and ask the driver of some Bahariya-Farafra bus to stop in the middle of the desert (there are at least two Upper Egypt buses daily plus a variety of local transports). This should be arranged in either of the oases before the bus takes off, as the driver will probably require a consent of the Tourist Police first. After one or two days in the desert, you will run out of water - just return to the road and hail another bus (if you are spotted by the police, you may be taken to the nearest checkpoint for your safety, do not worry).
Except the museum or going for the desert, there is not much to do/see here.
Visit the Oasis Heritage Museum, 45 EGP. It is splitted in 3 parts: a mummies museum (about 6-8), two well-conserved tombs and a third one (?). The first two can easily be joined by foot, but you need a car to get to the third.
Bahariya serves as the main departure point for safaris in the Western Desert ranging from one-day-trips to the nearby White Desert to long-range expeditions to the remote Gilf el-Kebir near the Libyan border or the Great Sand Sea. Since the desert is not a children’s playground, it is strongly recommended to book a tour with a local operator who is familiar with both the imminent dangers and the hidden beauties of the Western Desert.
Most of them offer 4x4 (usually a Toyota Land Cruiser), camel or hiking tours with overnight and open sky camping in the desert – with all meals prepared on site. Even though network coverage is fairly good – at least in the White Desert area – make sure your guide has a satellite phone.
There are no ATMs in the nearby town of Bawiti.
Prices seems a bit higher than in cities, about 20-40 EGP, most of the time rice with vegetables and bread and some meat (chicken, kofta, ...). There is not many restaurants. It is usually simpler to eat at your hotel.
Do try the local dates (one of the main produce from Bahariyya).