Wadi Hitan National Park
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Where the Sand and Sky Collide: An Overnight Stay in the Desert of Fayoum
Almost two hours west of Cairo you'll notice the urban skyline has long disappeared and the desert has taken over. This is the desert of Fayoum where - once you enter the protected area - sand surrounds you for as far as the eye can see and dark rocky outposts litter the landscape. Wadi El Hitan (Valley of the Whales) is nestled deep in Fayoum. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wadi El Hitan is home to hundreds of fossils; remains that point to the existence of a-now extinct sub-order of whales. Because of its proximity to Cairo Wadi El Hitan is a popular day-trip destination for families and tourists. If you have more time however, throw your sleeping bag and pillow in the back of your SUV and spend a night or two sleeping under the stars. There are places to camp a short kilometre away from the fossils, and between indulging in a BBQ that includes local dishes, taking part in rich conversations and spending hours gazing up into a jet black night, you'll find giving yourself over to the desert of Fayoum is, by far, one of the most magical things you can do in Egypt. On your return to Egypt's capital, stop at the Fayoum Oasis (85 km south of Cairo). The oasis is one of largest bodies of water in Egypt and is fed by Nile water that runs through a series of tributaries. It's on the banks of Lake Qaroun - a large salt-water basin that serves as a main drain for El Batts and El Wadi - where you can stop for lunch and take a dip before returning to the big city.
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