Gebel-Elba National Park, Egypt

Gebel-Elba National Park in southeastern Egypt on the border with Sudan and the Red Sea is Egypt's only oasis. It impresses with its unique flora and fauna in Egypt. Even animal species that are considered extinct and highly endangered have been sighted there unconfirmed.

Gebel Elba National Park was declared such in 1986 and is on our list of top 10 places to visit in Egypt. It is located in the Sahara Desert in southeastern Egypt, about 30km north of the border with Sudan and 20-25km from the Red Sea. This region of the so-called Hala'ib Triangle on the Red Sea in southwestern Egypt is disputed between Egypt and Sudan.


Gebel-Elba - dwelling place of the Bedouins

To this day, Gebel Elba National Park is home to a number of Bedouin tribes who are incorporated into the nature reserve. However, the prolonged water shortage, which has now lasted for several years, has forced many of them to migrate to the coastal town of Abu Ramad.

The largest tribe is the semi-nomadic Bedsha with the Ababda, a subgroup of the Bedsha. The likewise semi-nomadic Bisharin are known for their excellent camels and also trade in goats, sheep and charcoal, which are exchanged for food and commodities at the markets. They are also considered to be excellent trackers in the desert sands and are therefore always present in expeditions.

The Fuzzy Wuzzys are also a Bedouin tribe. Actually, the Bedouins formerly known as warlike are called Hadendoa, they owe their nickname to their Afro hairstyle piled high.

Gebel Elba - the only oasis in Egypt

The scimitar-horned antelope was already thought to be extinct, but has been spotted again in Gebel Elba National Park in southern Egypt - © Sergei25 / Shutterstock
© Sergei25 / Shutterstock

The area, which covers about 35,500 square kilometers, contains the only part of the country that has mangrove and forest areas of natural origin . Normally, there is no more than 50mm of precipitation annually in the desert of Egypt. In the highlands there, however, especially on the side facing the Red Sea, fog, dew and haze have created a wetland in the center of which sits the eponymous nearly 1,500-meter-high Mount Elba.

In the unique oasis of Egypt, about 500 different plant species have been catalogued so far, acacias, thorn bushes, shrubs, mosses, ferns and water-storing plants, such as cacti. The desert rose can also be seen here. It fascinates mainly by its enormous will to survive. Even in sand, rubble and scree, its roots can take root.

Like the incredible diversity of plants in Gebel Elba National Park, the wildlife is extremely remarkable for a desert area and cannot be compared to any other spot in Egypt. 23 mammal, 41 bird and 22 reptile species have found their habitat there, including gazelles, wild asses, antelopes, vultures, ostriches and eagles.

According to UNESCO, even the Mendes and cow antelope, which were originally widespread throughout the Sahara and are now extinct except for a few 100 animals, have been spotted. According to the IUCN, these are considered to be highly endangered species. Likewise, some specimens of the scimitar-horned antelope are said to be native to Gebel Elba National Park. This elegant animal with the characteristic over one meter long backward curved horns has already been declared extinct.