Last Updated on December 13, 2023
“What makes the desert beautiful […] is that it hides, somewhere, a well”, wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince.
The desert is an expanse of land made of silence and lines that seem to follow an undulatory motion, starting from the bottom and reaching the sky.
Always been no man’s land, of mystery and history difficult to reach, deserts and the cities living inside them, have always had a mysterious and attractive charm.
Human beings have managed to live in the coldest places on the planet, but also in the warmest, and have adapted to their natural environment by building houses in the middle of the water, in the heart of the jungle and also in the desert.
The latter would seem to be the least appropriate place to build a city, due to the almost null fertility and the scarcity of water, however, many cities have prospered in desert areas and even become great tourist hubs, and there is even a plan to build a utopian $400 billion desert city in the US.
Below, a list of great desert cities of the world and interesting facts about them.
Amazing Desert Cities Around the World
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The megalopolis of the desert par excellence, Dubai is a massive city that is divided into several districts, with architectural wonders and very advanced infrastructure, rich in tourist attractions, restaurants and nightlife.
Dubai offers many opportunities for entertainment and tours for those who love to go around discovering curiosities and beauties, and the Dubai desert is a hotspot for activities such as sandboarding and dune bashing.
LAS VEGAS, UNITED STATES
The sin city of Las Vegas is located in the state of Nevada in the United States of America and is the capital of Clark County.
Located in a very particular position, Las Vegas is practically an oasis in the Mojave Desert; consequently the surrounding landscape is dry and rocky and the climate is typically desert.
The desert surrounding Las Vegas is filled with rock valleys, canyons, and ghost villages. For a unique experience, enjoy the sky view from a hot air balloon.
About 300 km south of the capital Lima, on the banks of a natural lake among the sand dunes, stands this desert oasis village of Huacachina.
Legend has it that the oasis was formed when a native princess, spied by a hunter while bathing, escaped leaving behind a pool of water.
Huacachina is used as a resort for local families from the nearby city of Ica, but with each passing day it becomes more and more a destination for tourists who enjoy desert action sports such as sandboarding and racing on dune buggy cars. Nearby is also the Gran Duna, the highest dune in the World, an irresistible attraction for visitors and sports enthusiasts.
Splendid crossroads between the Draa, Dades and Zis valleys and gateway to the Ouarzazate desert, this Moroccan city amazes with its order and cleanliness, and fascinates with its beauty. The red, earthen houses look like part of a nativity scene.
Ouarzazate is also called “the second Hollywood”. At the gates of the new city, immediately visible when arriving from Marrakech, there are in fact the studios where many successful films such as Gladiator and Jesus of Nazareth were made.
The city is located between the sea and what is known as the only desert in Europe, the Tabernas Desert.
The lunar and desert aspect and its climate motivated the realization of many European western feature films, born from an Italian-Spanish collaboration in the 60s, which later became known as Spaghetti Westerns.
And it is here that lovers of the genre can retrace the main scenes of the films that have made the history of world cinema.
COOBER PEDY, AUSTRALIA
Coober Pedy is one of the most famous underground cities in the world, in the middle of the desert about 850 kilometers from Adelaide, in South Australia.
In order to resist the very high temperatures outside, the population (about 3500 inhabitants) lives in houses, called dug-outs, located in an underground network between 8 and 22 meters deep in tunnels of ancient mines.
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT
Sharm el-Sheikh is a city that overlooks the coast of the Red Sea, in the Sinai Peninsula and, despite its humble origins – it was born as a fishing village – today is one of the most popular destinations in Egypt thanks to the beauty of its beaches and its sea.
You would not think of Sharm el-Sheikh as a desert city because it’s so close to the water, yet this is one of the most famous examples of a desert oasis in the Sahara.
On the edge of the Arabian Desert lies Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Known as the “pearl of the East”, and also as “the Fragrant”, the capital of Syria has aways been praised for its beauty and is considered one of the most important cultural hubs of the Arab world.
Unfortunately, much of the city has been destroyed during the Syrian Civil War that has been going on since 2011, but today the area of Damascus is considered relatively safe and people have resumed living their life normally.
You can even visit Damascus yourself although you will need to cross the border from Lebanon by car and may need to arrange your trip via an approved travel agency, this is one city everyone should visit if they get the chance.
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