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Egypt’s Growing Ecotourism Industry

Ecotourism is getting a face lift in Egypt’s Dakhla Oasis, where visitors who want to experience the natural beauty of the desert without wasting local resources can head to a new crop of eco-lodges that have sprung up in response to local concerns. According to news reports, local villagers worry that too many tourists might add stress to the fragile desert environment. However, knowing that they need the tourism industry to boost the economy, they have taken proactive steps, giving visitors a way to stay in Egypt’s ancient desert in a responsible way.

Dakhla is in a remote location, deep in the western desert north of Gilf Kebir near the Siwa Oasis close to Libya. Two eco-lodges have been built here using local materials and employing local residents. One is the Desert Lodge, built on the side of a cliff with views of the village of Al Qasr and the Sahara desert. Built using local mud, the lodge runs on solar and hydropower and employs villagers from Al Qasr. Bed linens are made from 100-percent Egyptian cotton, and water is filtered, cutting down on the use of water bottles. The kitchen serves vegetables from the lodge’s own garden.

Another eco-lodge in the region is the luxurious Al Tarfa Desert Sanctuary Lodge & Spa. It too was constructed using local materials and employs local residents in its operations. Condé Nast recently selected the Al Tarfa Lodge as one of the destinations in its “Best in Egypt” category. Al Tarfa was also recently featured in Identity Magazine’s special issue devoted to tourism in Egypt, in which Egyptian Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah was quoted as saying, “We are looking forward to environmental tourism, which will provide comfort and luxury as well as protection for the environment.”

Responsible tourism enterprises are also springing up elsewhere in Egypt. The Mount Sinai region, recently highlighted by actress and environmentalist Darryl Hannah in her dhlovelife project, gives travelers a chance to experience the ancient traditions of the Bedouin culture. A growing number of tours bring guests to the land of the Bedouin, where they learn essential desert skills such as how to find shade, firewood, and water in order to survive in the harsh heat and sun. Locals also share their skills in using fresh water in sensible and environmentally friendly ways.

With the development of such tours specifically geared toward learning about local traditions, as well as the emergence eco-lodges using local materials and employing local villagers, Egypt is well on its way to becoming a prominent eco-tourism destination.

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