Egypt's vast desert is split into two regions by the Nile River and known locally as the Western and Eastern Deserts. Both parts are subregions of the greater Sahara ecosystem. The Western Desert covers about two thirds of the nation's entire size, earning it the nickname the 'Great Sand Sea'.

Though largely lacking in human population, there are pockets of civilization centered around the palm oases dotted across the arid landscape. The best known are the Siwa and Faiyum Oases.

The earliest evidence of settlement in the Siwa Oasis is a necropolis dating back 10,000 years. Along with a permanent communities, the oasis has also acted as a strategic stopover point for numerous military groups, from Alexander the Great on quest to conquer the Persian Empire all the way up to British and German troops during World War I and II. Permanent civilizations supported themselves largely through cultivating olives and dates or weaving baskets for the caravans that passed through. In more recent years, tourism has become a vital source of income with many of the hotels designed to celebrate the region's local style.

The Faiyum Oasis sits just south of the thriving Cairo metropolis. Unlike typical oases that get their water from springs, Faiyum is a sunken basin that gets its water from the Nile River. Historically it would receive periodic influxes of water when the Nile would flood its banks, but today channels are used to keep the land permanently watered due to its use as a key agricultural site. Cereal crops, Egyptian cotton, figs, grapes, olives, roses and sheep are the main products of the region.