In the White Desert near Farafra, one feels transferred into a painting by Dali. Everywhere you look, wondrously shaped knobs of white chalk lime. With imagination you can find faces, animals, flames, tables and more. You don’t even need imagination to see the mushrooms. Sometimes the ground looks like snowdrifts, which look especially crazy when some yellow sand has collected in between.
The Black Desert a little further north looks as if there are countless small perfectly formed volcanoes standing around. On closer inspection, however, I realise that they are buttes instead. The black blocks that cover the red sandstone shimmering through are mainly coloured black by “desert varnish”, a coating of manganese oxide formed by evaporation of capillary rising water.
The Dakhla oasis is best known for the houses, mosques and minarets made of mud brick in the village of Al Qasr. An old man guides me through the houses, which are less dilapidated than for example in Siwa, shows me old mills, oil mills, etc. Walking through rice fields and date plantations, I am surrounded by children begging for schoolpens. But what I find most exciting is the landscape in the background, a high limestone cliff from which huge sand dunes flow down like orange-coloured glaciers.