If you only picture endless flat, uninhabited,and desolate sand dunes when you think of the Sahara, then you’re in for a surprise. There are plenty of towns, historical sites, natural wonders and activities to be done in the Sahara. Here are 15 things you didn’t know you could do and see in the Sahara.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
Go to the land before time
If you were a fan of the children’s film, “A Land Before Time” you can visit the real life landscape. The Bahariya Oasis is a part of the Sahara where dinosaurs once roamed, and today it is an active archaeological digging site.
White Desert Tours
White Desert Tours take tourists to a very unique part of the Sahara desert where you can see naturally occurring structures made of limestone and chalk. They are so impressive they appear man-made or like alien forms, but they’re just what’s left of what was once an area covered with flora and fauna.
Visit a resurrected temple
On an oasis near a major caravan road is the Temple of Hibis, a resurrected temple from the 26th century Roman Dynasty. The temples were built on top of other ruins, which many believe are the ruins of an 18th century dynasty. The structure was excavated in 1909.
Visit the Valley of Whales
Visiting the Valley of Whales is like going to a natural history museum, without the museum part. Here you’ll see enormous skeletons and fossils left over from whales and sharks. The most bizarre and beautiful site in the middle of all this dry dust and bones is four bubbly natural springs that come up around the fossils.
Visit the Land of the Cow
When Egypt was still run by pharaohs, the most isolated oases in Egypt were called the “Land of the Cow.” The area is mostly inhabited by a desert-dwelling Arabian group called the Bedouins, and has lovely natural springs. Legend has it this area is so isolated that centuries ago, the inhabitants lost track of time and had to send a camel rider to a nearby town to figure out what time it was.
Shop for olive oil
Once you’ve experienced the solitude of the Land of the Cow, you can travel into Qasr Al Farafra. Tourists make a point of going here to buy several of the handicrafts the locals make, but most importantly the olive oil–there are thousands of olive trees in the Sahara and the oil is incredibly flavorful.
Visit the man-made lake
The types of Oasis depicted in fictional representations of the Sahara really do exist. Just around 50 miles outside of Cairo is Fayoum City where you’ll find a man-made lake called the Fayoum oasis where you can relax by the water.
The monasteries at Fayoum Oasis
Once you’re already at the Fayoum Oasis, you can go for a stroll through a village of monasteries, left over from when St. Anthony built a community for hermits. Some of these monasteries are so grown over by the natural landscape they can only be accessed by four-wheel vehicles.
Visit Cleopatra’s bath
Sitting in the Siwa Oasis is a natural spring known as Cleopatra’s Bath. The water is so clear you cannot tell it is there if it isn’t moving. The water sits in a naturally occurring stone pool and some believe Queen Cleopatra herself bathed in it.
Visit an abandoned Roman temple
Just north of the city of Kharga, you can visit several well-preserved temples, but possibly the most amazing to look at is Temple of Nadura, which has fallen to ruins. The temple is said to have been built in the 2nd century when the Romans ruled Egypt.
Visit Tatooine from ‘Star Wars’
The sets from Star Wars have become a large tourist draw in Tunisia, particularly Mos Espa. Ben’s hermitage and Toshi Station can also be found on the island of Djerba. For a whole list of things to check out in Tunisia, check out this list.
If you like snowboarding but aren’t a fan of cold weather, then sandboarding is for you. You don’t need to go on a private tour or look too far to do it in the Sahara either, just go to the nearest dune, strap on a snowboard, and go.
Visit a sulfuric hot spring
If you’re already hot in the desert and used to the heat, why not visit a hot spring? Actually, it gets rather cool at night in the desert, and hot springs aren’t actually that hot (the water can be refreshing to your skin). The Dakhla Oasis in Egypt (pictured above) is just one of hundreds you can visit, though this one has special properties from the sulfur.
Run an ultra-marathon
We already covered how hot the desert was, so why not run 156 miles through it (equivalent to six marathons). Some might think you are crazy for risking your life for running in one of the hottest places on the planet. If we haven’t scared you away, the Marathon des Sables is held every year in Morocco and considered the toughest race on the planet. (Be sure to bring some gatorade, or better yet, an IV.)
See a giant eye
One of the strangest geological formations in the world is in Mauritania and is known as the Richat Structure, or “The Eye Of The Sahara.” This 30-mile-wide circular meteor impact crater looks like a giant alien eye and is one of the few landmarks on Earth that can easily be identified from space.
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