Desert ecotourism – Bahairya and the White Desert

Jon Jensen reports on the need to balance tourism with the needs of both environment and community  in an article on the Global Post. about tourism in Egypt’s Bahariya oasis, popular launch pad for visits to the hills around Bahariya and for tours into the remarkable White Desert.   The White Desert is part of Farafra oasis to the south of Bahariya oasis, but Bahariya is much closer to Cairo and has become a center for desert “safaris”.    Jensen says that one third of the 40,000 inhabitants of Bahariya are now employed in tourism.   He adds that 10% of all of Egypt’s tourists head for the deserts.  Desert tourism is becoming increasingly popoular.

An annual clean-up organized in the White Desert by a local tour guide is a terrible reflection on the habits of tourists who leave litter that amounts to tons of waste.

The article says that last year a ticket office was set up and that fixed routes for vehicles were laid down for the protection of the White Desert, but that estimates suggest that only a third of visitors pass through the ticket office and instead use back routes into the area.

This is a perennial problem for the deserts of Egypt.  There are too few measures taken to protect them and some of the tour operators who should know better are adding to the problem.  Local people need the income provided by tourists, but the cost is high to both local communities who are changed forever by the influx, and to the environment which is victimized by the abandonment of rubbish and by the removal of souvenirs – both natural and archaeological.

There are some very attractive photographs accompanying the article.   the one at the top of the page is one of mine from 2002.

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