Certainly there’s no chance of not being able to see the forest for the trees. There are no trees in this forest.

But there used to be, which is why the Petrified Forest is a protected area in a Cairo suburb. It is a place few tourists know about, few Egyptians also. If you want to experience the desert without driving for a few hours, this is the place.

Looking at the website after our visit, the place seems like a must-see location. Yet few Egyptians visit it, and even fewer foreigners. If you are looking for pyramids, this desert expanse is perhaps underwhelming.

Climate change of a sort took place here a few we millennia ago, turning a forest into a desert and leaving a few chunks of petrified wood. Actually a lot of chunks of petrified wood. You can check the details and the science on the website.

I can’t really envision the forest, there was only the one stump that I could see, but there were pieces of fossilized wood everywhere. It was a chance to visit the desert without leaving the city – lots of sand, a few gullies and nothing to see for miles

Well, not really miles. The place isn’t that big, and in most spots you can see the city not that far away. You can get there by public transit – which probably isn’t the case for most deserts.

Still, the Petrified Forest lets you experience the desert without having to leave the city. You can even camp overnight, though i didn’t look into the regulations. And there must be regulations – it is an environmentally sensitive area.

I didn’t get as much chance to explore as I would have liked. Such are the drawbacks of traveling with a toddler. Still, the price was right. Admission is free, though be prepared to surrender your ID at the gate. I guess that way they ensure you’ll come back out on time.

It isn’t a major tourist site, but at least the few interpretive plaques did have English. Maybe they are being hopeful that more people will discover it.

Just outside the entrance are a couple of restaurants emanating delicious smells, and a small market. My son tells me on his first visit there was only one place to eat, so there is some sort of development going on. I would like to have explored those too – but the toddler situation prevented it. No complaints – it’s always nice to leave a place wanting more.

You could take in the Petrified Forest in an hour, or spend a little more time if you wanted to hike to some of the furthest reaches of the park. It’s worth the visit, a mostly unknown gem that none of your friends who have visited Egypt have seen.

Don’t just take my word for it, go see for yourself. Best to go before the heat of summer. That would be a desert experience you don’t want to try.


One comment

  1. Oh wow, didn’t know about this one, thanks for sharing!

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