The White Desert is a huge chalk and limestone landscape in Al- Farafra Depression and one of the most astounding natural wonders of Egypt. The strange rock formations that rise above the white surface of the desert are known as inselbergs (from the German for 'island mountain').
Here at Farafra, they form a 20km long series of free-standing formations in front of the northern escarpment. They are also found on other planets and the ones in the White Desert of Farafra have been studied closely to promote greater understanding of the surface of Mars. Here on Earth they are formed when a plateau begins to break down leaving the harder rock still standing while the softer parts erode. The rock layers were deposited when the desert was underwater and marine fauna which died settled at the bottom of the ocean forming sedimentary rocks. Also the strong wind carried out the sand pieces which did the curving to the lower parts of each piece to form the unrepeated formations of the White desert over the years. Viewing the sparkling white landscape covered with almost supernatural shapes spectacularly lit at dawn, midday and especially sunset it is hard to believe the humble origins of this dramatic and impressive scenery.
The outer parts of the White Desert nearest to the road are known as the Old White Desert because these were the areas accessible without 4WD. Almost as soon as you enter the White Desert Park you are surrounded by gleaming white mushroom shapes. Then you reach the tenacious 300 year old acacia tree known as Santa. After leaving Santa you reach the area called White House and then are into the so-called New White Desert only easily accessible since the introduction of 4WD. The New Valley authorities marked roads using stones as markers to penalize drivers who leave the designated routes.
Spending a night in the White Desert is a magical experience. Sitting by a fire smoking a sheesha (water-pipe), getting a lesson on how to navigate by the stars or simply sitting in silence staring in wonder at the clear unpolluted night sky glittering with a multitude of stars is an unforgettable way to spend time. 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 a different desert to you.