Wadi El Gemal also known as Valley of the Camels is one of Egypt’s hidden gems that lies off the beaten track but it’s the kind of place that upon visiting and witnessing its rich and diverse habitat, you become immediately enraptured by the beauty of its untapped nature. Back in 2003, it became a National Park for the sole purpose of protecting its unique terrain of rich wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and diverse marine life.
To this day, it remains to be a piece of heaven on earth and a landscape where wildlife roams freely without any human disturbances. It is the perfect place if you’re looking for quiet evenings, being surrounded by starry nights, and the feeling of unity with nature.
What’s The Area Like
Its situated 45km south of Marsa Allam with a view of the lapping waters of the Red Sea covering over 5000 square kilometers of land while its marine area makes up 2000 square kilometers. The entire area is made up of several islands, stretches of mangroves along its coastline as well as an endless array of mountains that surround its desert river valley known as a wadi.
Nature & Wildlife
Being home to a desert valley as well as fresh seawater, Wadi El Gemal offers visitors access to its rich and unique plant and animal life. Along its coastline sits mangroves which are trees capable of tolerating the salty water because of their ability to filter seawater and get rid of the salt through their leaves. These trees are quite special as they provide shade and protection to a wide collection of bird species as well as baby fish. Their roots are also home to many invertebrates including fiddler crabs.
If we step back and zoom into the rocky wadi itself, the fauna takes on new forms as Acacia trees begin to dominate the center of the valley. These umbrella-shaped trees are some of the main sources of food for the surrounding convey of camels. In that valley, you can also find endangered animals like ibex and gazelles roaming around.
Beyond the land, its sea is also home to a treasure trove of aquatic life. With more than 450 species of corals and over 1,200 species of fish, this destination is teeming with marine wildlife making it the ultimate spot for divers to hit the water and explore its depths.
An Eco-Tourism Experience
Wadi El-Gemal promotes eco-tourism with privately owned eco-lodges built there, and many operators organize eco-friendly sightseeing and birdwatching trips. One of the most renowned camps there is El-Fustat Eco-lodge. It was built in 2005 using traditional materials and architecture; the staff there is employed to educate tourists on the ecology, geology, and history of the valley. There is also a miniature cinema there, where visitors can watch documentaries about wildlife, native inhabitants, and overall history.
Its Rich History
The area was well-known to Ancient Egyptians, Greek Ptolemaians, and the Roman rulers of Egypt; the latter made fortunes mining the world’s oldest emerald mine, which was located in the heart of the valley. On an organized tour, you will still be able to see the ruins of the mine and the ancient artifacts that the workers excavated there.
There are also the ruins of the ancient city of Umm Kabu, which the workers brought down the emeralds from the mountain to prepare for inland transportation to the Nile. It then traveled down the great river to Alexandria and finally, it was shipped to Rome.
If you have time, you can still visit the ancient Roman settlement of Sakit. There, you can visit the Temple of Isis, dedicated to the ancient Egyptian Goddess of motherhood and fertility, whom the Romans adopted into their Pantheon of Gods.
The Unique Culture Of Its People
Wadi El-Gemal is home to the native Ababda Bedouin tribe, who possess a unique authentic culture and traditions. The historically nomadic people still earn their bread by herding their flocks of goats through viable grazing areas between the valleys. The Ababda’s authentic cooking is out of this world, and they are renowned for their sweet traditional tea.
A trip to Wadi El Gemal will tick off most of any travel buff’s requirements as it has the nature, history, wildlife, and culture needed for a full-fledged escapade; all into a neat little package. Visiting the valley will give you an untapped look into what a hidden gem in Egypt has to offer.