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Karst Heritage as a Tourist Attraction: a Case Study in the White Desert National Park, Western Desert, Egypt

Karst Heritage as a Tourist Attraction: a Case Study in the White Desert National Park, Western... Geotourism is a form of maintainable tourism that emphasizes the geoheritage characteristics of a district. Karst landforms are one of the most imperative appealing aspects of the theme of nature-based tourism. The geomorphological regionalization of the karst landforms contributes to a better understanding of Earthʼs evolution and provides the necessary provincial knowl- edge for resource utilization, ecological protection, and general economic improvement. To achieve this goal, an integrated geomorphological approach for inventorying, appraising, and evaluating sites of karst geoheritage within the framework of geomorphosite assessment method convoyed by SWOT analysis has been performed in the White Desert National Park (WDNP), Western Desert, Egypt. The paper aims to highlight the geotourism potential of the WDNP and offer strategic plans for identifying geotourist resources to a larger community through geoeducation and geoconservation. The WDNP is covered by Upper Cretaceous-Late Tertiary karstified carbonate successions and fluvioclastic rocks that host an interesting assemblage of diverse karst landforms (geodiversity) and amazing flora (bioturbation mangrove roots) together with fauna (biodiversity), revealing a geological open-air museum. The karst sites, which offer several phenomena with significant litho- logical, morphological, and paleogeographic features, embrace aesthetic, educational, scientific/scenic, and touristic values that will endure spectators of the geological evolution of this province. The brilliant conspicuousness, scientific excellence, innovative appeal, and distinctiveness of karst geomorphosites involving poljes/uvalas, karst lakes, natural sculptures, mush- rooms, inselbergs, towers/bridges, dolines/sinkholes, cones/domes, and speleothems deliberate resources for the progress of geotourism. These landscapes can be considered tools for science and education because they give knowledge about rock/ soil types and rock permeability, and paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic circumstances. Most of their landforms can be used as habitats for endangered bird species, which attract several sightseers, an indicative of ecological significance. This excellent karst geodiversity provides an appreciated tool for geotourism and geopark development that is preferred to raise the local economy for populations and reinforce rural growth in neighboring towns and cities. The paper’s findings reveal a comprehensive base for the improvement, planning, and management of the WDNP in order for it to become a geotourism endpoint. Furthermore, they improve the position of the WDNP in the tourist market and contribute to the local maintain- able progress via giving socio-economic assistance to the local community for the advancement of geotourism through geoconservation and sustainability. Keywords White Desert National Park · Karst landforms · Geotourism · SWOT analysis · Geosite assessment · Sustainable development Introduction Visitors worldwide are interested in watching special geo- logical phenomena (Ólafsdóttir and Tverijonaite 2018), which provide assets for geotourism development (Asrat * Ezz El Din Abdel Hakim Khalaf et  al. 2012). Geotourism is an internationally evolving e.2012_khalaf@hotmail.com; Ezzkhalaf2020@gmail.com; educational, monetary, and maintainable expansion style Ezz@sci.cu.edu.eg (Ngwira 2015) with substantial comprehensive expan- Faculty of Science Geology Department, Cairo University, sion (Hose 2011). Tourism’s fascination with geological Giza, Egypt Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 94 Page 2 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 landscapes has increased promptly over recent decades the fortification of natural assets, and sustainable progress (Newsome et al. 2012). Its investigations have been wel- (Farsani et al. 2011; Ngwira 2015). Therefore, geotourism comed universally due to their scientific, educational, requests need to be combined with best practice manage- antique, communal, ethnic, and aesthetic values (Pralong ment to retain and improve the visitor experience while also 2005; Kubaliková 2013; Štrba et al. 2018; Mucivuna et al. protecting the resource (Leung et al. 2015). 2019). This style of tourism permits the detection of scarce Geomorphosites are significant landscapes of geomor - geological features in the visited regions, together with other phological heritage from the viewpoint of tourism, signify- natural and human possessions (Mucivuna et al. 2019). The ing chief resources for geotourism improvement (Reynard main goal of geotourism, which highlights the Earth’s geo- 2009; Warowna et al. 2016). A region can be considered logical and geomorphological typescripts, forming geosites a geomorphosite if the landform group and energetic geo- as tourist attractions, is understanding, improvement, and morphological processes are capable of attracting tourism management, as principal items for the sustainable amplifi- (Ielenicz 2009). Geomorphosites are surface landscapes cation of geotourism. The latter delivers a chance for busi- with distinct main aesthetic characteristics that form natural ness, entrepreneurship, and widespread job prospect for the monuments that are essential for understanding Earth’s his- inhabitants (Newsome et al. 2012; Dowling and Newsome tory (Panizza 2001). Coratza and Hobléa (2018) introduced 2018; Tomić et al. 2020). the term geomorphological heritage as a novel division of Geotourism involves an array of tourist interests, from geomorphology entitled “heritage geomorphology.” Various the specialist to the universal guest. Furthermore, it gives types of research on geomorphological heritage have been monetary, ethnic, and social assistance to both visitors conducted extensively over the last two periods (Reynard and host inhabitants by demanding proper forecasting and et al. 2017; Pica et al. 2017; Migoń and Pijet-Migoń 2017; understanding of the benefits and constraints (Ngwira 2015; Clivaz and Reynard 2018; Coratza et al. 2019; Moradipour Gordon 2019). Geotourism needs to be valued by the wider et al. 2020; Sinnyovsky et al. 2020; Tahammn et al. 2020). local, general, and global communities by balancing tourism The studies of geomorphological heritage have principally with management that promotes environmental and cultural involved the improvement of perceptions and documenta- understanding, obligation, and preservation (Gray 2008; tion, presenting the prospective geomorphosites for use (sci- Dowling 2011; Prosser et al. 2011; Gray et al. 2013a, 2013b; entific, educational, and geotourism attitude), and improve- Ólafsdóttir 2019). Geotourism must adhere to five critical ment of inventory and assessment approaches. As a result of principles: geoheritage, preservation, geointerpretation, its diverse values, geomorphological heritage can be utilized profits at the indigenous level, and tourist fulfillment (Antić as a national heritage, geopark, or geotourism destinations et al. 2019). This has been accomplished through geological (Reynard 2008; Dowling and Newsome 2010; Hose 2012; visits, the use of geological routes, the perception of scenery, Brilha 2018). The actual preservation and administration of and the requirements for scientific information linking to geomorphological heritage require an explanation of its her- the geological characteristics for geotourism and practical itage implications in a cohesive style. Karst landscapes are verification of geotourists, e.g., their favorite destinations, significant topographies of geomorphological heritage, with inspirations, and supplies; the difficulties associated with its geomorphological topographies being observed as the geotourism endpoints; and the positive/negative influences main issue from the standpoint of tourism, creating scenery of geotourism on the geographical region and local popula- and attracting tourists (Newsome and Dowling 2018). Karst tions as well as other stakeholders (Panizza and Piacente lands are categorized by extreme scientific, ethnic, ecologi - 1993; Panizza 2001; Panizza and Piacente 2003; Reynard cal, and aesthetic standards, due to the high degree of natural 2004; Reynard and Panizza 2005; Božić and Tomić 2015; environment (Quaranta 1993; Panizza 2001; Zgłobicki and Štrba et al. 2018; Tičar et al. 2018; Tomić et al. 2020). Baran-Zglobicka 2013). They are closely allied with excel- Geoparks are prominent areas with one or more geoherit- lent biodiversity. The lands affected by karst phenomena age sites picked out because of their scientific prominence, possess a pronounced value in terms of preservation, tour- scarcity, beauty, or link to geological history, procedures, ism advancement, and scientific investigation (Van Beynen and ways (Eder and Patzak 2004; Dowling 2011). Geo- 2011; Delle Rose et al. 2014; Ruban 2018). Several karst tourism and geoparks have evolved to provide a chance for locations are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites maintainable regional improvement by lowering the rate of (Williams 2008). The UNESCO World Natural Heritage joblessness and immigration, forecasting poverty by involv- List has recorded more the 50 sites for karst geoheritage; ing local residents in geopark activities, and confirming con- however, several regions everywhere in the world have the servation and educational excursions to well-known geosites possibility of being selected as national parks based on their (Zouros 2007). Geotourism consultants and geopark special- geodiversity, biodiversity, exclusive geomorphology, or val- ists, for example, have approved various positive strategies ued caves. The karst rocks are associated with the dissolu- for encouraging local participation for economic prosperity, tion characteristics of landforms in soluble rocks such as 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 3 of 30 94 cavernous carbonates and evaporate through the processes studies that have been interpreted in terms of geotourism of surface weathering, stream sinking, cave development, or described in terms of environmental significance. Simi - and tectonic uplift, resulting in unique morphological and larly, a geoscience survey in Egypt highlighted the expan- hydrological topography (White 2002; Ford and Williams sion of geoheritage as a geotourism resource, is quite rare 2007; Williams 2008; Youssef et al. 2017). The karst disso- in the light of appraising its geosites for geotourism poten- lution processes and the occurrence of subsurface channels tial. Furthermore, no research has been carried out to iden- can be used in distinguishing between karst and non-karst tify the geotourism resources and asses them qualitatively systems (Gunn 2004). Tectonics involving networks of fault through SWOT analysis within the White Desert National and fracture networks intensely affects the growth of karst Park. The latter was selected because it is characterized landforms that support the development of karstogenesis. by significant properties that have attracted active multi- In Egypt, the Western Desert (WD) is the major geo- inhabitants. So, the aim of this paper is to (1) describe graphic district, covering an area of about 681,000 km diverse landforms of karst morphology for displaying the (Fig. 1). The geological and climatic circumstances have aesthetic and scientific geological heritage; (2) recognize prepared the Western Desert (from 200 to 600  m a.s.l) the strategies for recognizing and inventorying the pre- as a province where karst phenomena are plentiful and cise resources for impending geotourism development; outstanding. The White Desert National Park (WDNP) is (3) record a set of criteria suitable for the assessment of one of the most important karst massifs in the Western potential geotourist; and (4) evaluate quantitatively and Desert (Fig. 1A), which hosts potentially unique karst fea- qualitatively the karst sites through SWOT analysis to cre- tures and was chosen for this work. There have been no ate the seats for conservation, education, and geotourism Fig. 1 A Landsat image showing the location of White Desert ing location of Qaret Sheikh Abdallah, Western Desert (Wanas et al. National Park. B Geological map of the study territory (Geologic 2009). D Karstified carbonate rocks exposed in the Western Desert Survey of Egypt 1981). C Geological sketch map of Egypt show- (Embabi 2018) 1 3 94 Page 4 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 in an appropriate organization mode following the princi- an extra cause for tourists to travel to an appropriate geo- ples of UNESCO Geopark Agenda. site and its visit facilitates (Supplementary Table 2). For each subindicator, a 5-point scale ranging from 0 to 1 was used to rate the impending of geosites, with the geoheritage Methods site attaining a max. of 15 points. The latter that is con- sidered relevant for geotourism development (Kubalíková Several quantitative and qualitative procedures have been et al. 2020). The geosite evaluation is a compulsory task planned based on presented articles on geotourism, scenic for geotourism development and should be made before the geosite inventory, and evaluation (Pereira et al. 2007; Pereira improvement of impending geotourism destinations is delib- and Pereira 2010; Vujičić et al. 2011; Fassoulas et al. 2012; erated upon (Vujičić et al. 2011; Suzuki and Takagi 2018). Kubaliková 2013; Brilha 2016; Zgłobicki et al. 2019). These measures enable recognizing areas of interest, resembling to geological heritage (Reynard and Panizza 2005; Prosser Geological Background et al. 2006; Reynard and Brilha 2018), offer preservation strategies, analogous to geoparks (Carrión Mero et al. 2018), Karst rocks spread over a wide area of Egypt involving the and provide guidelines for sustainable use, such as geotour- Eastern and Western Deserts (Fig. 1D; El Aref, et al. 1986; ism (Reynard et  al. 2011). Geosite assessment has been Halliday 2003). Several geoscientific researchers studied the extensively documented as a beneficial tool for the actual karst rocks on the Bahariya-Farafra terrain (El Aref et al. improvement, organization, and fortification of geological 1987; 1999; Sokker 1991; Waltham 2001; Brook et al. 2002; heritage (Suzuki and Takagi 2018). The four most com- Halliday 2003; Kindermann et al. 2006; Moustafa 2007; monly used techniques (appraisal of the literature, fieldwork, Wanas et  al. 2009; Pickford, et  al. 2010; Abdel Tawab and interpretation of maps together with the elucidation of 2013; El Aref et al. 2017a,b; Youssef et al. 2017; El Aref satellite images) were applied in identifying and inventory- et al. 2021). Sixteen fields of karst landform in Bahariya- ing resources for geotourism through field description of Farafra Oases have been recorded in WD, Egypt (Fig. 2, karst features based on the scale (macro- (> 10 m) and mes- El Aref et al. 2017a). Moreover, the latter authors carried oscale (1 cm–10 m)) (De La Rose 2012). Such site assess- out an inventory and assessment of the selected geosites ment should be focused not only on geodiversity charac- in these areas. Cretaceous-Eocene karstified carbonate teristics but also on facets demonstrating the connections successions interrupted by paleo-fossilized karst surfaces between geodiversity, biodiversity, and culture (Kubalíková that are covered by Quaternary to Recent sediments form- et al. 2020). The evaluation of karst landforms can deliver ing exhumed karsts (e.g., sand dunes, playa deposits, salt valuable understanding for the administration of geomor- lakes), occupy most lands of the Bahariya-Farafra terrain phological heritage, its advancement, and how to improve (Klimchouk and Ford 2000; El Aref et al. 2021). Surficial protection against destructive human activities. duricrusts involving calcrete, silcrete, dolocrete, and ferri- The inventory and assessment of karst sites for geotour- erite characterize the tops of the most karstified carbonate ism development were carried out following the criteria of rocks (El Aref et al. 2021). In the WD, enormous karstified Vujičić et al. (2011) coupled with SWOT analysis. Two main carbonate platforms are documented, which are composed sets were used: Main and Additional ones under indicators of limestone/chalk and shale/clay rhythmic beds in the time and subindicators. Vujičić et al. (2011) offered a compos- period from Upper Cretaceous/Palaeocene to Middle Mio- ite assessment model that measures scientific/educational cene (Fig. 1B, C). The eastern part of the WD is occupied (VSE), scenic/aesthetic (VSA), protection (VPr), functional by the Palaeocene–Eocene rocks, whereas the northern part (VFn), and touristic values (VTr). The indicators and sub- is represented by the Miocene rocks (Embabi 2018). The indicators used to evaluate geosites deal with not only with structural lines comprising E-W- and N-S-trending faults, themes such as earth sciences but also biodiversity, con- fractures, and joints affect these rocks. During the Upper venience, and tourist capabilities based on an appraisal of Cretaceous to Late Eocene period, the carbonate rocks were geotourism literature, scenic assessment, and geosite inven- affected by karstic activity, followed by the phases of uplift tory as well as evaluation. The Main value is linked to the and tectonic/climate change favoring karstification during intrinsic value of a geosite (the chief purpose for tourists to the Miocene time (Embabi 2018). Wind and water action visit a geosite and its fortification). Five indicators (scien- coupled with local structures, facilitated the karstification tific, educational, scenic, recreational, and protection) which processes. Karst landforms show degraded (erosional) and are supplementarily partitioned into twelve subindicators, nondegraded (depositional) characters that are locations of belong to the Main value (Supplementary Table 1). Regard- geomorphological interest, which reflects scientific value ing Additional value, two indicators (added and functional), for reconstructing Earth’s history (Panizza 2001; Clivaz and which are further subdivided into six subindicators, provide Reynard 2018). 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 5 of 30 94 Fig. 2 A Location map of the study area showing the distribu- tion of karst and nonkarst rocks (El Aref et al. 2017a). B Karst map shows different karst land- form fields in the study area (El Aref et al. 2017a) The WDNP is situated ~ 45 km from the northern part respectively (El Aref et al. 2017a). The former includes of El Farafra Oasis, Western Desert, New Valley Gov- the carbonate rocks of the El Hefhuf, Khoman Chalk, ernorate between Lat. 27° 39′ 69″ N to 28° 58′ 26″ N Tarawan, and Naqb formations (Fms) of the Upper Cre- and Long. 27° 50′ 35″ E to 29° 12′ 37″ E, covering an taceous, Palaeocene, and Eocene ages, whereas the lat- area of about 3010 km (Fig. 1). Its karst landscapes are ter includes the Bahariya, Dakhla, and Esna Fms of the commonly characterized by closed depressions, surface Upper Cretaceous and Palaeocene ages together with the drainages, and caves. The WDNP was protected to defend Quaternary sand dunes. The study area is structurally the desert ecosystems, karst landforms, and remarkable controlled by NE-SW- and NW–SE-trending faults and scenery and erosional features in the carbonate rocks. folds, which are related to the prevalent dextral wrench- The sedimentary rocks involving Upper Cretaceous ing during Upper Cretaceous deformations that are part to Late Tertiary carbonate and clastic sediments  have of the Syrian Arc System (SAS, Sehim 1993, Moustafa been described, belonging to karst and non-karst rocks, et  al. 2003). The SAS extends from Syria to Central 1 3 94 Page 6 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Egypt through the Western Desert of Egypt (Guiraud Solution depressions, speleothems, residue soils (fine- and Bosworth 1997; Guiraud et al. 2005). The structural grained sand/clay constituents), inselbergs/mushrooms, framework and the related tectonic phases have shaped towers/bridges, cones/domes, and pavement patterns are the surface of karst landforms during karstification pro- the most ubiquitous landforms recorded in the WDNP. cesses following the zones of weakness, which facilitate With respect to scale dimension, the WDNP represents the development of the secondary porosity, permeability, complex geomorphological karst landforms spanning at and fractures-controlled solution pathways of the carbon- different scales from small isolated to large panoramic ate rocks (El Aref et al. 2017a). In the field, the karst lands according to Grandgirardʼs geomorphological clas- landforms have been described as degraded and non- sification (1997). degraded forms based on their morphology and exten- sion (macro/mesoscale). Karst Poljes Karst Phenomena in the White Desert National Park The name polje means “field” in Slavic language, whereas it refers to “karst plain” or “karst field” in the The WDNP is one of the areas located in the WD that English language. Polje is a term used by geomorpholo- hosts carbonates and f luviokarst morphologies, result- gists to denote large fault/fracture-controlled bounded ing from the complex karstification processes. Sev- basins with a flat karst floor (Fig.  3A) as Bahariya/ eral shapes of karst landforms have been observed in Farafra poljes with areas ranging from 980 to 1800 km which certain forms are more far reaching than others. (Fig. 2A). Bahariya/Farafra poljes may have originated Fig. 3 A Polje basin exposed at the northern part of the WDNP. B hole features in calcite crystal-forming hill of circular outline with Polje floor is periodically flooded, forming a temporary karst lake. C distinctive solution cavity and honeycomb/tafoni weathering as diag- Natural solution hollows within carbonate pavement. D Doline/sink- nostic of karst phenomena 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 7 of 30 94 in the Middle to Late Tertiary and been subjected to Karst Depressions several climatic iterations. Some poljes are sporadically f looded by f loodwaters, which may also be amplified by These depressions are recorded in the northern part of Far- groundwater rising into impermanent karst lakes on their afra Oasis. They differ in magnitude from a few meters to f loors, as has been shown in Bahariya polje (Fig. 2A). some kilometers. These depressions denote the most mor- The karst lake occupies the northern part of the study phological features of the Western Desert, Egypt, occupy- area. It covers 2.0  km in length and 0.5  km in width ing large areas (Fig. 2). In the WDNP, they spread over (Fig.  3A, B) and was formed as the result of the col- 200 m and involve natural sinkholes. The latter are known lapse of subterranean caves, especially in water-soluble as a cenote, sink, swallet, swallow hole, Foiba (plural carbonate rocks through karstification processes (Selby Foibas or Foibe), or doline, and are characteristic of karst 1985). The lake bottom is partially insoluble rocks, lead- landscapes caused by highly fractured carbonate rocks ing to the lake formation. The water comes from very (Figs.  3C, D  and 4A, B). They are pure vertical holes/ short streams derived from the neighboring carbonate hollows which occur as a noticeable bowl, tabular, or fun- landforms through numerous emergences of discharge nel shape 1–2 m wide and 2–10 m in depth (Figs. 3D and from aquifers of the depression edges, recognizing sev- 4B). Their walls are white creamy, bedded, hard, com- eral types of hydrological regimes (Embabi 2018). Many pacted, and composed of limestone rocks or pure calcite authors believe that the creation of many karst lakes layers during Eocene period. Most dolines/sinkholes are occurs occasionally but may return often after heavy categorized  by the distribution of natural hot springs rainfall through weakening zones of joints and faults of (Fig. 4C), which have attracted people since Roman times the district (Waltham et al. 2005; Ali 2019). (El Sisi et al. 2002). They result from multi-karstification Fig. 4 A Solution doline, internally filled by crustified calcite crys- karst window spectacles. C Doline is covered by fresh hot water, tals. Notice the observed honeycomb/tafoni weathering surface. B forming springs. D Large flat plain of karst pavement Swallow hole in calcite-forming hill of semi-circular outline with 1 3 94 Page 8 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 processes aided by wind or tectonic actions (El Aref et al. Most of these flutes develop on steeply sloping rocks affected 1987; 2017a). by wind abrasion. Structural weakness planes (such as joints/ fractures) in connection with compacted rocks accelerate Karst Pavements the creation of these karst phenomena. When these planes are gradually widened, they produce clefts (grikes, Fig. 5C). Karst pavements occur as large flat plains having irregular Karstification plus wind erosion play a chief role in the or elongated forms (Fig. 4D). They cover several kilometers development of most of them. The Karren features can be in the northern part of El Farafra Oasis (Fig. 2). An array considered a tool for science and education because they of distinctive karst landforms involving Karren/Lappies give knowledge about the presence/or absence of soil, rock created by differential solutions decorate karst pavements permeability, and climatic condition. El Aref et al. (2017a) (Fig. 5A–C). Karren and Lappies are German and French concluded that solution pits were caused by regular recharge words, respectively, and both of them refer to small-scale rainwaters coupled with organic acids produced by plants solutional sculpture. They are approximately flat areas, and peat trapped in the sedimentary basins. comprising small solution pits, engraved, fluted, and pitted Sporadically, the karst pavements are covered by well- rock pinnacles separated by deep parallel grooves, flutes, rounded siliceous chalky limestone concretions related to and runnels that have several magnitudes from tiny to huge paleokarst phenomena, resembling “cannonballs/or melon flutes (Fig.  5A, B). The latter are densely clustered and have fields” that are well-known geomorphic structures within an elongation or rectangular shape, with diameters ranging the Maastrichtian and Eocene rocks in Kharga, Farafra, from 50 cm to 2 m. Sometimes the top of these grooves are Faiyum, and Bahariya Oases in Egypt (Pickford et al. 2010; characterized by bowl-shaped hollows (Kamenitza, Fig. 5B). Plyusnina et al. 2016; Sallam et al. 2018; Khalaf and Abu Fig. 5 A Subvertical parallel runnels/grooves characterizing karsti- C Limestone pavement with enlarged joints (grikes). D Mushroom fied carbonate rocks. B Bowl-shaped hollow (kamentiza) occupying karstified hills comprise irregular-shaped necks and caps displaying a the top of hilly grooves formed by karstification and wind abrasion. bowl-shaped outline 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 9 of 30 94 El-Kheir 2022). Most of these concretions are hard, com- (Fig. 6B), which host some nests of threatened bird species. pacted, spheroidal, or elliptical in shape as a result of exfo- The heights of its stems vary from 1 to 5 m. The composi- liation weathering and carbonate dissolution, forming onion- tion of the stems is mainly soft calcerous sandstone grading skin weathering and nodules on Earthʼs surface through to hard siliceous limestone at their caps. Several mushroom weathering processes. These “cannonballs” concretions landforms have been described in Gabel Qatrani, North have an imperative impact because of their wide geologic Western Desert (Mashaal et al. 2020; Khalaf and Abu El implications, signifying small-scale microbially induced Kheir 2022). and chemical heterogeneous in groundwater together with its directions that advanced the host carbonate rocks after Inselberg Karst the karstification processes (White 1988; Plan 2005; Ford and Williams 2007). Inselberg is a German word that means “island mountain,” similar to that observed in southern Africa in hot/or humid Mushroom Karst regions. The inselbergs are widely distributed over the floors of the Bahariya/Farafra depressions. They occur in the form The mushroom zone is widely distributed in the El Farafra of connected to disconnected uneven vertical hilly rocks, Oasis, occupying an area of about 244 km (Salama et al. resulting in karst inselbergs that rise abruptly from compara- 2020). This type of karst comprises vertical short stems with tively flat surroundings (Fig.  6C). Their frameworks form irregular-shaped necks and caps. The latter vary in shape, tall, upright hills that project sharply from the neighbor- ranging from bowl to bulbous outline (Figs. 5D and 6A). ing peneplains, climbing up to ~ 2–10 m. These inselbergs The necks/caps display characteristic small-scale cavities consist mainly of greyish-white compacted hard limestone Fig. 6 A Globular/spherical-shaped cap with short stems character- nected to disconnected hilly rocks forming karst inselbergs. D Sculp- izes mushroom karstified hills. B Solution cavities that are favorite turing carbonates in sphinx-like form. Note pile of carbonate debris at nests for birds portray the caps of mushroom karstified hills. C Con- photo front 1 3 94 Page 10 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 rocks that are more resistant to erosion. Some hills are cov- world. All these geomorphic karst features, such as mush- ered by brecciated and collapsed fragments, forming block/ room, inselberg, and butte landforms, have been recorded boulder-rich breccias with distinguishing cavities/voids. In in various parts of the Egyptian Deserts (Plyusnina et al. some localities, the inselbergs display peculiar geomorpho- 2016; Sallam et al. 2018; Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir 2022) logical features that resemble Sculptures of birds, turtles, due to the effect of water and wind erosion when a more and animals (Figs. 6D and 7A–D) as the result of fluvial resistant cap rock overly soft layers having less sturdy parts erosion by water, die ff rential weathering, and wind sculptur - (Nenonen et al. 2018). These typical landforms are beautiful, ing of chalky limestone beds. Remarkably conserved ancient intriguing, and attractive to tourism. They can often provide mangrove plant roots (bioturbation, Fig. 8A) of extreme sci- information about current and past erosional environments. entific rank are occasionally observed within the hilly rock sculptures. Another erosional landform besides inselbergs is Tower Karst buttes (Fig. 8B). The latter are applied to disconnected hills of siliceous chalky limestone with steep slopes and flat tops, Tower karst occurs as isolated bedded hilly chalky limestone rising up to ~ 5 m (Fig. 8C), which are dissected intermit- rocks with vertical a fl nks from the depression o fl or and ped - tently by deep parallel fracture/joint-controlled gullies and estal rocks, covering an area of about 884 km (Fig. 2B). grooves with distinctive bowl-shaped hollows (Kamenitza) Its pedestals vary in size from small to large (1–5 m) and at their tops (Fig. 8D). Buttes usually form in arid regions, in shape from spherical to rectangular. The tower tops take such as those in Mexico and Monument Valley, Arizona, the form of either spine like, cylindrical, or broad summits USA, which represent the most famous butte example in the of 2 to 15  m in height (Figs.  9A–D). Pits, crevices, and Fig. 7 Spectacular sculptures of birds/animals for outstanding karst lines. C Chicken fowl-like form beside the mushroom shape. D Sea landforms. A Domestic sheep/lamb-like form. B Turtle-like form. lion-like form. Note the amazing existence of spectacular sculptures Note remarkable occurrences of mushroom forms with circular out- of birds/animals 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 11 of 30 94 Fig. 8 A Remarkable mangrove plant roots in karstified horse-like grooves crosscut the buttes with a characteristic bowl-shaped hollow hilly carbonate rocks. B, C Disconnected hilly rocks with steep slopes (kamentiza) at their tops and flat tops forming butte morphology. D Intensive gullies and solution cavities are common features in tower walls due to parts of the world, like Southeast Asia, Central America, the effect of solution sculptures (Fig.  9B–D). Karst towers the Caribbean, Jamaica, South China, and North Vietnam are separated by dry valleys/gorges (sometimes known as (Zhu et al. 2013). Cockpit karst; Yuan 1984; El Aref et al. 1987; Day 2004; Day and Chenoweth 2004; Zhu et al. 2013) that are dis- Bridge Karst tributed between linked or detached permeable carbonate ridges. The dry valleys/gorges are considered fluviokarst, Bridge karst exhibits astonishing and remarkable karst which is defined as a landscape of active stream valleys, surface morphologies. The length and width of the bridge dry/blind valleys, and unbalanced drainage systems that do karst vary from 5 to 10 m and 0.5 to 5 m, respectively, with not normally sustain water flows (Selby 1985). Karst gorges a 3–5-m natural arch occupying a distance of about 10 m. vary in size and thickness from one locality to another and Their rock types are composed of the white chalky limestone are controlled by fracture systems (Fig. 9). The occurrence of the Upper Cretaceous (Fig. 10A, B). of these two geomorphological landforms is common in humid environments where high temperature and copious Dome Karst sedimentation deliver favorable conditions for quick and prolonged erosion (Troester 1992). The dry valleys/gorges The dome karst spreads over a large area, extending some could be developed as geotouristic attention facts within the kilometers. Dome rocks form symmetrical hilly rocks (up prevailing tourist routes (Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir 2022). to 5 m in diameter and 5 m in height) and involve two rock Tower and cockpit karsts have been described in different types: tufa carbonates and chalky limestones. The first is 1 3 94 Page 12 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 9 Differ ent profiles of tower karst displaying different sizes and characterizes karst tower. D Arched top with solution activity phe- bed thickness. A Disconnected karst towers with oval and cylindrical nomenon. Notice extensive dry valleys/gorges dissect carbonate hilly inclined tops. B Karst tower displays even flat and broad elongated rocks forming what is called a fluviokarst landscape tops with distinctive pits and crevices at karst walls. C Spine top greyish white, hard, chalky in composition, and wavy lami- fluviolustrine settings (Keppel et al. 2011; Sallam et al. nated with a stromatolite look (Fig. 10C). In some locali- 2018). Many authors interpreted that such mysterious stro- ties, tufa carbonates are bright grey, porous, dense crystal- matolites (Reitner 1993) are shaped by nonphotosynthetic line, and consist of laminated silt and clay interbedded with organisms or serpulid buildups (Mcloughlin et al. 2008; carbonate rocks (Fig. 10D). The second are massive, non- Dupraz et al. 2009). El Aref et al. (1986) recorded algal porous, hard, grey in color, and composed of disconnected filaments and moss debris in the Miocene karstified tufa brecciated and collapsed chalky limestone hills, attaining sediments of the Red Sea coastal zone, Egypt. The tufa 10 m in height (Figs. 11A, B). Solution channels, cavities, deposits represent sporadic and peculiar landforms in the and karst windows are commonly distributed within the geological list, providing critical records of paleoenviron- dome hills. Remains of open kamenitza characterize the tops ment and paleoclimatic conditions (Ford 2004; Ford and of some types (Fig. 11C). Pedley 2006; Pedley 2009; Capezzuoli et al. 2014) with The tufa deposits have been recorded in the Kurkur an amazing view. Oasis, Western Desert (Fig. 1), an indicator of spring-fed streams that previously exhausted the Eocene rocks and precipitated them as hills, terraces, and chutes (Butzer Cuesta Karst 1964, 1965; Issawi 1968; Ahmed 1996). The stromatolite form of the former domal type reflects relict landscapes A type of karst formed on a cuesta is characterized by that were deposited during the events of intense mois- moderate to high hills or ridges with a gentle slope on ture and improved groundwater discharge that formed in one side, attaining a 30–45° dip towards NW and a steep 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 13 of 30 94 Fig. 10 A, B Chalky limestone rocks with variations in extension and stromatolitic outline. D Symmetrical laminated siliceous limestone width, displaying bridge karst morphology. C Symmetrical chalky dome karst with a broad curled top dome karst with bedding structure and  a curvature top, displaying a slope or scarp on the other side (Fig. 11D). Its elevation of their cover by erosion (Field 1999). Caves within sur- varies from 2 to 8 m, covering many meters in extension face/subsurface Eocene carbonate plateaus are recorded in (1–5 m). Such landform is composed mainly of massive Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, and Kharaga Oases (Fig. 1B). chalky limestone of the Upper Cretaceous. They are well exposed at the NE-striking karst depressions known as Qarat El Sheikh Abdallah (QSA) and Crystal Speleothem Karst Mountain (CM, Fig. 1C), which have been exhumed in the El Bahariya-Farafra plateau (up to 256 m a.s.l) that encircles The term “speleothem” is a Greek word that means cave these depressions (190–200 m a.s.l, El Aref et al. 2021). deposits and associated secondary minerals that were pre- The latter authors described the two depressions (QSA and cipitated in caves. Its landforms refer to vast quantities CM) as uvalas, which are demarcated as large (in km scale) of amazing and unique karst shafts/infillings, displaying karst closed depressions with irregular plan form caused by diverse karst features (e.g., dolines/sinkholes, unroofed enhanced erosion along major tectonic zones. Four karst karst hills, and numerous remnants of degraded caves) facies forming speleothems, which include marine Kho- (Figs.  12 and 13), along with clastic sediments and red man white chalk, clast-supported conglomerates, red soils, soils formed by solution/erosion during karst uplifting, and bedded limestone/calcite strata, have been described degradation, and rejuvenation processes (Embabi 2018; at QSA and CM (Wanas et al. 2009; El Aref et al. 2021; El Aref et al. 2021). Unroofed/collapsed karst hills can be Fig. 12A). The rock facies of Khoman white chalk (Kho- defined as subsoil karsts that are depicted by several dif- man Fm) are of the Upper Cretaceous, while the rock facies ferent cave patterns during tectonic uplift with the removal of clastic sediments, red soil, and limestone/calcite strata 1 3 94 Page 14 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 11 A Symmetrical collapsed dome hills with characteristic solu- Notice the observed rubble nature and brecciation affecting the dome tion cavities and fractures/joints. B Symmetrical collapsed isolated hills. D Cuesta-shaped form with moderate to high hills having a dome with a broad pedestal outline. C Collapsed isolated dome and gentle slope on one side. Notice the occurrence of solution hollows karst window with spine tops and an open kamentiza along its wall. affecting the carbonate rocks as the result of karstification are of Paleocene (Tarawan Fm), Eocene (Farafra Fm), and by calcite, form the so-called rootsicles (Perri et al. 2012). Miocene/Oligocene periods (fluvial/Quaternary sediments, They are observed in black limestone (Fig. 12D). This is El Aref et al. 2021). These karst successions are truncated further supported by the criteria of Wanas et al. (2009), by three paleokarst surfaces (i.e., chief stratigraphic breaks) who identified several new faunas involving anurans, soric- involving Upper Cretaceous–Early Paleocene chalk (Kho- ids, bats, galagids, hystricids and glirids in the speleothem man and Tarawan Fms), Paleocene–Early Eocene carbon- deposits at Qarat Sheikh Abdallah, an indicative of a humid ate (Tarawan and Farafra Fms), and Post-Eocene–Miocene/ paleoclimatic regime between 11 and 10 Ma, with mean Oligocene fluvial and Quaternary sediments (Figs. 12B, C, annual rainfall of more than 1200 mm. The record of the El Aref et al. 2021). The record of vertebrate fossils in the faults, joints, fissures, and fractures, acting as the pathways red soils of the karst carbonate plateau of the El Bahariya- for the water infiltration in the speleothem deposits, facili- Farafra and limestone excavation in East Beni Suef (Khashm tates the carbonate dissolution (Figs.11A, 12A, and 13C, D). El-Raqaba) dated to the Late Miocene (Pickford, et al. 2006; Such structural patterns trigger the creation of sinkholes/ Wanas et al. 2009., Mein and Pickford 2010; Gunnell et al. dolines and collapsed unroofed caves that are filled by col- 2016). loform crustified  calcite layers, forming flowstones that The karst sequences are well categorized by subsidence, are favorable to form karst phenomena (Figs. 12D and 13). tilting, and sagging of the carbonate rocks with unconform- Most of the unroofed caves display remarkable remaining able overlying Khoman Fm (Figs. 12B, C). Spherical-shaped karst architectures like lion’s head or crocodile-like forms hollows (kamenitza) characterize the speleothem deposits (Figs. 14A, B). (Fig. 12D). Roots of plants/or fossils remains (?) crustified 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 15 of 30 94 Fig. 12 A Paleokarst surface separates Upper Cretaceous Khoman with conglomerate and sandstone (SS) beds with distinctive solution Chalk (Khoman Fm) at the base from Paleocene sagged chalky car- cavities. C Paleokarst surface between Paleocene sagged chalky car- bonates (Tarawan Fm) that are covered by Miocene/Oligocene  con- bonates (Tarawan Fm) and Eocene bedded limestone beds (Farafra glomerate beds and red soils of fluvial and Quaternary sediments at Fm). D Close-up view of unroofed caves that are filled with colloform the top. Note that faults crosscut the exposed rock units involving Flu- crustified calcite layers (flowstones). Notice that abundant solution vial/Quaternary sediments. B Paleokarst surface between Upper Cre- dolines and plants/or traces of fossils remain (?), characterizing Kho- taceous Khoman Chalk (Khoman Fm) and Paleocene sagged chalky man Chalk carbonates (Tarawan Fm). Notice the V-shaped depressions filled The cave walls are characterized by common cavernous colloform calcite layers forming flowstones (Figs.  15C, D). weathering involving honeycomb and tafoni geomorpho- Calcite crystals in the solution channels/opening and vugs logical phenomena (Figs.  3D, 4A, and 14C). The latter (Fig. 16A) vary in morphology and size from micro- to occur as spherical or elliptical cavities/vugs that vary in macrocrystalline crystals (up to 20 cm) and form beds, size from 0.5 to 2 cm. These cavities/vugs may indicate attaining a few meters in thickness and ~ 5 m in extension. events of ascending water flow and the probable occur - Sometimes, these crystals have a branching, curved, or rence of hypogene karst systems during the past pluvial spiral shape and may grow in any direction, forming helic- periods (Ford and Williams 1989; Williams 2008). The tite speleothems (Fig. 16B). Stalagmite samples within the most public speleothem-forming minerals are calcite crys- speleothems of the intra-Eocene Wadi Sannur cave, East- tals ((Hill and Forti 1986) that are well exposed at Crystal ern Desert, Egypt, gave a time of less than 200,000 years Mountain, near Qarat El Sheikh Abdalha (Fig. 1C). They ago based on uranium–thorium dating(Dabous and form the famous sinter styles such as solution channels Osmond 2000). All the architectures of the crustified cal- (Fig.  14C), dripstones (umbrella-shaped stalactites and cite crystals would possibly attract the attention of visitors. stalagmites, Figs.  13B, 14D, and 15A), karst windows The caves, karst towers, and inselbergs are the main or solution channels (Figs. 14B and 15B), and crustified nesting habitat for sooty falcons (Fig. 16C) in the Bahariya 1 3 94 Page 16 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 13 A Collapsed caves (speleothems) that are superimposed con- curtain structures. C, D Collapsed unroofed caves with sagged struc- glomerate beds and silt soils forming Miocene/Oligocene fluvial sedi- tures filled with crustified calcite layers and red soil. Notice that faults ments, and both of them lie under bedded sagged limestone beds. B controlled the cave borders Sagged carbonate beds with typical cavernous surfaces and drape/ Depression and WDNP, similar to unique cave and karst the highest total value and final standing among the inven- features that host a set of bird species (Anderson and Fer- tory and valuation of El Bahariya-Farafra geomophosites. ree 2010). The number of sooty falcon pairs recorded in Karst sites gained more than ten points (Table 1), which this National Park ranges from 33 to 101 annually from can be measured as an appropriate state for geotourism 2009 to 2013 (Salama et al. 2020). This natural phenom- improvement, but these potentials are not completely enon encourages geotourism and fascinates a lot of guests. developed. They have high VSE, particularly in the item of rarity, representativeness, and geological diversity, because chief outcrops are well conserved, signifying Results intact landforms, and have an assortment of geoscience characteristics (diverse karst geomorphosites, lithological The outputs of the arithmetic and qualitative evaluation variations, faults/fractures, unconformities, and hydrogeo- are shown in Tables  1 and 2. Table  2 shows the SWOT logical facets are present). Furthermore, the high scientific analysis established on the evaluation and acts as a center values are due to their scarcity and/or the convenience for precise plans of geotourist activities. The indicators of scientific awareness, which justify the need for man- and subindicators were earmarked based on an appraisal agement through the evaluation of these sites (Brilha and of geotourismʼs literature and scenic/geosite assessments. Reynard 2018). Similarly, the study of specific karst phe- The results in Table 1 show that the Main values have high nomena such as calcite crystals forming the famous sinter scores if compared with those for the Additional values. El forms, such as dripstones (stalactites, stalagmites) and Aref et al. (2017b) documented that the WDNP achieved flowstones (colloform crustified calcite layers) observed 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 17 of 30 94 Fig. 14 A, B Examples of the outstanding sculptures of residual karst fied calcite. Notice the occurrence of honeycombs and tafoni weath- forms at Qaret El Sheikh Abdallah show a lion head-like form (A) ered surfaces at the channel walls. D Umbrella-shaped stalagmites in and a crocodile-like form (B). Notice the observed open channel or the form of pillars/or columns karst window. C Folded and titled solution channel filled with crusti- in speleothems at QSA and CM (Figs.  13, 14, and 15), amusing value, which could be better endorsed to inspire provides information about paleoclimate. The clarification entertaining activities. The whole karst topography, as well of paleoclimate is of precise scientific interest for guests as the sites’ high aesthetic eminence, represent highly super- and visitors because it provides knowledge about the his- fluous values. Furthermore, most of these karst features have torical strength (amount vs. time), outgassing, pH changes, moderate to high values of representativity because they perseverance of rainfall, temperature variations, rock type, form well-exposed appearances like mushrooms, inselbergs, soil carbon sequestration, and the universal atmosphere and bridge/tower karsts, but others have low values of repre- (Sánchez and Lobo 2018). sentativity, e.g., speleothem karsts (or degraded caves). With The subindicators of scientific and educational values respect to viewpoints, surface, and surrounding landscape, possess a moderate to high level. The geomorphological karst sites have the highest VSA, like the natural sculptures landforms are vital for the understanding of the improve- or speleothem deposits, which gain an assured level of aes- ment of the WDNP. Initially, the rarity of the karst landforms thetic and visual value, like Crystal Mountain. On the other is high because of the presence of unique landscapes that hand, some Main values attain the lowest score (e.g., items are highly developed tourist endpoints. Karst Lake, wind II.4, II.5, II.6., II.8., Table 1) because the WDNP spreads sculpture landforms, speleothems, Karren/Lappies karst, and over a small region having little awareness of geoscientific stromatolite-like tufa denote some of the rare karst wonders subjects and interpretation level. in the WDNP. The former may be considered natural con- Karst sites are sheltered on a national level and are ditions for swimming (Figs. 3A, B), which is a real termi- recorded on the list of protected regions of the Egyptian nus for nature-based tourism. It owns high appealing and Environmental Affairs Agency. The White Desert National 1 3 94 Page 18 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 15 A Close-up view of unroofed stalagmites (dripstone). B (flowstones) that are considered the main constituents of the cave fill- Folded and titled solution channel forming a karst window that is ings. Notice the observed underlying clast-supported conglomerate filled with crustified calcite. C, D Colloform crustified calcite layers (C) and occurrence of wide deep dolines/hollows (D) Park has been listed as an IUCN category II-National Park with a lacking of tour guide facilities and organized excur- since 2002 (Ministerial Decree No. 2219/2002) for admin- sions. The WDNP has no sufficient tourist substructure and istration purposes (Fig.  16D). Protection value attains a amenities to identify and comprehend its landscape. Par- high score for karst sites, which allows visits of enormous ticularly notable is the lack of guide (lighting), dull path- tourist groups without triggering substantial destruction to ways, signal marks, trails, and planned excursions for visits. the ecosystem. Regarding VFn, the karst sites get a high Tourists are self-initiative when they visit these karst sites. mark, especially in the case of accessibility and proximity There are no interpretive panels that explain the diverse karst of the main road network (Fig.1B). This is notable because landforms, and they are completely absent. The closeness of an international main asphalt highway passes through the the karst sites in relation to the Research Center received a WDNP, joining the Bahariya and Farafra Oases together lower rating. Thus, visitors do not obtain useful information with a dense network of desert paths (Fig. 1B). By contrast, to understand each karst geomorphosite. Furthermore, the anthropogenic values achieve a low score. scientific awareness of the karst phenomena has not been The asphalt and desert roads have provided an appro- adequately established. The same conclusions are reached priate situation to visit the geomorphological heritage and by El Aref et al. (2017a), who concluded that adequate infra- improve both geotourism and educational activities in this structure and qualified staffs are lacking in education and region. Bahariya and Farafra Oases can provide solid, qual- interpretation. The additional studies on scientific clarifica- ity accommodation facilities, providing a visitor center for tion of the karst phenomena in the fields of geography and devious travel periods. The karst sites get a low score of VTr tourism are few if compared with several national publica- because there is not enough existence of tourism infrastruc- tions about karst themes (Antić and Tomić 2020). When ture, interpretive panels, and publicity activities together 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 19 of 30 94 Fig. 16 A Calcite crystals filling stretched cavities/vugs. B Calcite crystals forming a helictite architecture. C Sooty falcon bird in flight. D Guide signal for the protected White Desert National Park these weaknesses/or deficiencies are overcome, other factors values, it can be decided that all karsts maintain accept- of tourism enhancement can be realized. able advanced situations that are significant for tourism There are other subindicators of scenic/aesthetic val- development. A comprehensive plan study in the WDNP ues which should be evaluated. Viewpoints are imperative is compulsorily deliberated in order to diminish the break- because they give an attractive view to visitors. General down outputs, which have a great influence on the local discernibility of landforms is possible. Most parts of the residents and infrastructure, with the priority aim of tour- karsts are beautifully attractive to tourists, e.g., the karst ism growth. nests for bird species. The karst subject has a dazzling theme that achieves a high level in many scientific and SWOT Analysis non-scientific publications. The karst geomorphological processes permit a high to a moderate level that can be The SWOT analysis (Dony 2017) is a framework used to simply elucidated to a public visitor. Due to the lack of facilitate a realistic, fact-based, data-driven look at the tourism development in the WDNP, the preference and the strengths coupled with weaknesses of an organization, initia- annual quantity of planned visits are valued with the low- tives, or within its industry and evaluate a company/organi- est scores. The tourism development in the deserts could zation’s competitive position to develop strategic planning have a positive influence on indigenous and provincial (Table 2). It assesses internal and external factors as well tourism and economic advance if this central deficiency as current and future potential. The organization needs to is overwhelmed. It is required to focus on investment plans keep the analysis accurate by avoiding pre-conceived beliefs and improvement schemes through advertising and admin- or grey areas (ill-defined situations) and instead focusing istrative construction. After evaluating the functional on real-life contexts. Companies should use it as a guide 1 3 94 Page 20 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Table 1 Numerical assessment of karst sites in White Desert National Park, Western Desert, Egypt Indicators/subindicators Description Score Main indicators/subindicators   I. Integrity and current status The quality of being sincere 0.75   II. Scientific/Educational value     II.1. Rarity Number of closest identical sites 0.75     II.2. Representativeness Well-exposed classic characteristics of the site due to its good quality 0.75     II.3. Diversity of the Earth science features Assortment of natural phenomena like stratigraphy, geomorphology, fauna, 1.00 rocks/minerals, hydrology, etc     II.4. Knowledge on geoscientific issues Number of written papers in journals, presentations, and other publications 0.5     II.5. Level of interpretation Understanding of geological and geomorphologic phenomena 0.5     II.6. Paleogeographical significance Interpretation of paleogeography and climate change 0.25     II.7. Ecological value The development of diverse ecosystems 0.75     II.8. Cultural value The great attendance of karst heritage in the WDNP culture, appearing in 0.25 novels, stories, legends, and different artistic representations     II.9. Historical aspect Past history of cave karst 0.25   III. Scenic/Aesthetic     III.1. Viewpoints Number of viewpoints accessible by pedestrian pathways 0.75     III.2. Surface Whole surface of the site. Each site is considered in quantitative relation to the 0 others     III.3. Surrounding landscape and nature Panoramic view quality, presence of water and vegetation, absence of human- 0.75 induced deterioration, vicinity of an urban area     III.4. Environmental fitting of sites (aesthetic value) Level of contrast to nature, a contrast of colors, the appearance of shapes, etc 1.00   IV. Protection     IV.1. Current condition (protection status) Current state of the geosite 1.00     IV.2. Protection level Protection by local or regional groups, national government, international 0.75 organizations, etc     IV.3. Vulnerability (damages and threats) Vulnerability level of the geosite 0.50 Additional indicators/subindicators   I. Functional values     I.1. Accessibility Possibilities of approaching the site 0.75     I.2. Security Safety sides of visitors     I.3. Site context The principal attractive landscapes of the national park 1.00     I.4. Additional anthropogenic values Number of additional anthropogenic values in the radius of 5 km 0.25     I.5. Vicinity of emissive centers Closeness of emissive centers     I.6. Vicinity of the important road network Closeness of important road networks within a radius of 20 km 1.00     I.7. Additional functional values Parking lots, gas stations, mechanics, etc 0.5   II. Tourist values     II.1. Promotion Level and number of promotional resources 0     II.2. Interpretative panels Interpretative characteristics of text and graphics, material quality, size, fitting 0.25 to surroundings, etc     II.3. Number of visitors Annual number of visitors 0     II.4. Tourism infrastructure Level of additional infrastructure for tourists (pedestrian pathways, resting 0 places, garbage cans, toilets, etc.)     II.5. Tour guide service If existing, expertise level, knowledge of foreign language(s), interpretative 0.25 skills, etc     II.6. Hostelry service Hostelry service close to geosite 0.25     II.7. Restaurant service Restaurant service close to geosite 0.25   III. Conservation values     III.1. Legislative protection Lawmaking for protection 0.5     III.2. Current threats Present-day intimidations/terrorizations of geosite 0.75 Total value 15 Sources: Vujičić et al. (2011), Reynard et al. (2016), and Román et al. (2020) 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 21 of 30 94 Table 2 SWOT analysis of the karst sites of geotourist interest SWOT Remarks Strengths The attendance of zonation map of karst landforms Close to main roads and Bahariya/Farafra cities The WDNP has been declared a protected area in 2002 High scientific and educational values Features of amusing or tourism consequences (e.g., karst lake, tower/bridge karst, sculptures of birds, turtles, and animals, etc.) Nests for endangered bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, signifying a close link between karst landform and biological diversity Opportunities Interpretation of links between karst landforms and biological diversity and understanding of geomorphological changes as an important source for environmental education Infrastructures are available Good public convenience The conceptual cooperation between universities and research institutions should be initiated in the field of geodiversity, eco- system, and geotourism Weaknesses No training courses/or programs for attendants and local inhabitants as official guides for karst sites The absence of public awareness and educational materials for visitors Lack of brochures, panels, and guidebooks The educational recreational and tourist potential of geomorphosite phenomena are not recognized by the public The development plan for geotourism is not involved in the development strategies Threats Erosion and degradation hazards (wind action, climate change, natural catastrophes) An increase of urban areas close to protected expanses, resulting in changes in hydrological regimes which may destroy natural landforms Lack of finance for the advancement of geodiversity and geotourism outputs The development of the geotourism concept is still misunderstood Lack of interest in geodiversity and geoheritage on the part of authorities and the public in the future The bad performance of local inhabitants or visitors leads to intimidation of the study area and not necessarily as a prescription. The SWOT analysis to reach this National Park through general and local roads has already been used by many researchers (Kubalíková and by minibusses to the park entrance, giving an appropriate Kirchner 2013, 2016; Boukhchim et al. 2018; Carrión Mero conveyance and high accessibility. The SWOT analysis et al. 2018; Ateş and Ateş 2019), which represents a vital has proved that the WDNP can be considered a composite step in the assessment of geosites because it (1) provides region for the progress of geotourism actions and mak- assessment view about strengths, weaknesses, opportuni- ing exact geotourist outputs (a geopath). Furthermore, ties, and threats; (2) serves as a root for grouping of these it shows that the study area has undergone the effect characteristics into other scheduling brochures/booklets and of a positive or negative influence on karst geoheritage the provincial development policies or site management; and (Table 2). Concerning positive creativeness, the WDNP (3) gives comprehensible vision about geodiversity and geo- has a well-prepared zonation map of karst landforms (El heritage concept for the broader community, consultants, Aref et  al. 2017a). The White Desert has a substantial management, and other organizations. The SWOT analysis number of natural geoheritage landscapes with abundant serves as a foundation for geotourist and geoeducational exceptional features. The latter has international promi- event applications, providing an explanation for applying nence and geotouristic attractions which can be appreci- precise preservation measures (both natural and cultural) to ated within the forthcoming UNESCO Global Geopark. certain locations (Kubalíková et al. 2020). These sites can Moreover, most of the karst morphologies can be used as then be confirmed as protected areas and should be incorpo- nests for threatened bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, which rated into the planning strategies. fascinates a lot of tourists and visitors. All these positive Several papers have mentioned the use of protracted impacts have allowed us to declare the White Desert a SWOT analysis for geoheritage and geopark areas (Car- national park in 2002. In order to establish the WDNP as rión Mero et  al. 2018; Kubalíková 2019). However, its an ambitious Universal Geopark, a series of steps should use is not public in geotourism research (Kubalíková et al. be planned to protect the geoheritage sites. Regarding the 2020). The White Desert is already a national geopark negative influence, the karst geoheritages lie under the with an incomplete infrastructure that is located midway condition of degradation (water/wind erosion and degrada- between Bahariya and Farafra Oases (Fig. 1B). It is easy tion hazards) and deprivation, owing to the lack of actual 1 3 94 Page 22 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 strategies of geoconservation and fortification. There are Guests traveling to geosites need to know the geologi- no systematic training courses/or programs for employees cal and geomorphological landscapes as well as the phe- and tour guides in the protected natural areas. Moreover, nomena linked to biodiversity and culture as declared in there is no communication with the stakeholder team of the description of the geotourism designation. Some of the well-known universal geoparks. Local residents are not karst sites are unique biological habitats, indicative of their conscious of the meaning and appreciation of geoheritage. ecological significance, like the development of an amazing They also have low intelligence and awareness of environ- flora (bioturbation by mangrove roots) and fossil remains mental conservation. All the geoheritage sites lack educa- (Figs. 8A and 12D) that add supplementary enthusiasm for tion materials, instructional signs, and geological interpre- itinerants to visit these sites. Wanas et al. (2009) recorded tations. As commended by Martín-Duque et al. (2012) in endemic faunal species including anurans, snakes, soricids, those circumstances whereas the impact of human action bats, galagids, hystricids, and glirids in speleothem karst enlarge the welfares and improve the endorsement to geo- at Qaret El Sheikh Abdallha (Fig. 1C), providing evidence heritage, the subsequent equilibrium should be measured of a humid palaeoclimatic nature during karstic geomor- as positive and well-matched with geoconservation. phological processes. Moreover, the karst landforms have uniform environmental situations for nesting and breeding of migratory birds (e.g., sooty falcon, Fig. 16D). Nests for Discussion endangered bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, signify a close relationship between karst landform and biological diversity Assessment Significance of Karst Sites (Salama et al. 2020), justifying their ecological importance. for Geotourism Development The fortification of bird species depends on the protection of their territories. Without acceptable preservation actions, All natural heritage landscapes have been recorded in the these nests may become fragile sites and will perhaps result region of the WDNP. These denote surface karst features, in the extermination of the wild bird inhabitants, which are springs, valleys/gorges, and other geomorphological phe- dynamic homelands for them (McGrady et al. 2010). The nomena. The diverse, exceptional, and pretty karst landforms protection of biodiversity and increasing information about of the WDNP resulted from numerous paleo-karstification its value is a vital introductory stage towards the sustain- processes during the Cretaceous-Oligocene/Miocene paleo- able growth of geotourism, especially ecotourism. Hence, topographic evolution of the tropical paleoclimate (El Aref the existence of miscellaneous geological/geomorphological et al. 2021) along with wind or tectonic actions (Said 1960; and biological features having scientic, fi educational, scenic, 1962). They have a high impending for geotourism improve- and ecological impact could assist in attracting tourists with ment, scientific/educational uses, and promotion of geologi- diverse interests. An understanding of these ecosystems is cal and geomorphological heritage, as has been shown in required to advance and justify their administration in order other studies (Migoń and Pijet-Migoń 2016; Szepesi et al. to reserve them against environmental threats. 2017). Regarding scientific, scenic, and recreational values, The karst sites have a deprived quality of informative the karst sites receive high scores, which reveal that these panels (site description, fluent explanation, clarifications of sites are currently the most appropriate for tourism activi- processes and miracles, the level of protection). Info sheets, ties. The latter has the possibility to convert the WDNP into signs, and panels should deliver guests precious knowledge tourism destinations and can meaningfully add to scarcity and fascinating proof that increase the entire interpretation improvement in various portions of the evolving world like picture (Fig. 17). The latter aids the visitors in comprehend- Egypt (Newsome and Dowling 2006). Furthermore, the ing the routes and geological wonders in order to understand development of geotourism undertakings can aid to dis- the site’s surroundings. Normally, info sheets offer knowl- cover auxiliary reserves of income for the societies exist- edge on the length and duration of the walking path, difficul- ing adjacent to these fascinations (Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir ties, and additional distinct topographies. In the absence of 2022). The record of new karst sites and their proper devel- an assistant, interpretive panels reduce complicated natural opment can add to dispersed visitors’ span of stay in the processes and deliver expressive information about the geo- area. Besides evaluating the geosites for geotourism growth, site, the length of the tourist pathway, documentation, and indicators related to biodiversity were incorporated for a cautions, and simplify the program of guests. Geotourists are broad understanding of the environment and maintainable typically individuals who know little about geological and improvement. This is reinforced by the concept of Schrodt geomorphological phenomena, so a well-organized expla- et al. (2019), which say that “a universal approach that iden- nation model (Fig. 17) is required to comprehend complex tifies the reliability of the biotic constituents of ecosystems events (Crane and Fletcher 2016). is the most actual way to report comprehensive environmen- The instructive data about the geoheritage of karst sites are tal challenges.” inadequate because the funds required for advertising actions 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 23 of 30 94 Fig. 17 Explanatory panel for the protected White Desert National Park for explaining the main karst features (adapted from Huggett 2007), which facilitate the scientific/educational understanding for the guests and visitors are very restricted. So it is necessary to take advantage of as delivering a superfluous aspect to the guest᾿ s knowledge the desirability, inclusive attention region, and low charge of (Williams 2020). It is then necessary to dramatically enhance marketing via electronic media. The latter mainly refers to tourist values (tour guides, informative boards, and publicity) the use of Internet promotion and advertising actions that rep- to increase the whole tourist skill set and attract more travel- resent one of the key elements in marketing policies (Bratić ers and guests in the upcoming period. et  al. 2020). Supplementary improvement of geotourism should be centered on the Geographical Information System’s Maintainable Geotourism Improvement (GISʼs) usage and mobile presentations (Marinoni 2004), and Geoconservation which embody one of the cleverest and the most effective means to bring geotourism nearer to a comprehensive audi- The development and management of geotourism are consid- ence (Filocamo et al. 2020). The utilization of GIS, which ered an intricate job (Newsome and Dowling 2018). The van- is an appreciated utensil for rapid management and intricate ishing of the negative influences on tourism through geocon- data handling, can assist in land use and evaluation process servation groups is the main goal of geotourism (Gray 2008). for geotourism (Marinoni 2004). The goal of the mobile Sustainability is one of the principal purposes of geotourism, application aims to offer various geotourism knowledge which should increase through the enlarged consciousness of (merging geological fascinations with extra tourist magnet- visitors and the indigenous community about the prominence ism) and yield several favorites for comprehensive audiences of conserving the geological heritage. This action has been (Marjanović et al. 2021). Geotourism advertising through a done through geological teaching and understanding (New- mobile presentation has been successfully applied in several some and Dowling 2006). Geoconservation signposts how geoparks worldwide (Perotti et al. 2020). The publicity of much people accept their responsibility to natural wonders karst sites in the WDNP aids in improving the government’s and their strategies to preserve geosites, geodiversity, geo- and people’s consciousness of the geoheritage values as well logical processes, and their fluctuations (Sharples 2002; Hose 1 3 94 Page 24 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 2005; Schutte 2009). It is likewise vital that the growth of The Bahariya/Farafra Territory is one of the most hyper- tourism improvement is made in a justifiable style to ensure arid deserts in the world with the scarcest rainfall rate during continuous economic advantage from tourism in the region. the last 7000 years (El Aref et al. 2021). The natural environs The so-called speleo-tourism, associated with ecotourism occupying this territory have significant geoheritage sites, and adventure tourism, should develop as activities that add achieving very high rankings for tourism destinations, such as to the protection of the karst heritage by producing revenue geological and geomorphological fascinations, as well as cul- and increasing the value accredited to the local populations tural and historical sites that are very gorgeous and attractive (Sánchez and Lobo 2018). situations for tourists and guests. Plentiful natural landscapes This is well-matched with the concept of Wartiti et al. in these areas are detected, such as surface karst landforms, (2008), which says that geoheritage sites have to be accu- hot freshwater springs, volcanic landforms, iron mineraliza- rately achieved to create jobs and novel economic doings, tions, palm trees, palaeontological localities like the Cenoma- especially in districts lacking few sources of income. nian Dinosaur site in Bahariya Oasis, and sand dunes, along The karst geological landscapes labeled in this work are with Black Desert consisting of black cone hills (El Aref et al. appreciated and fascinating for geotourism. The demonstra- 2006; Plysnina et al. 2016; Khalaf et al. 2019). In addition, tion of the evaluation outcomes of the main and additional indigenous anniversaries, old-fashioned houses, ancient roads, values (Table 1) could help in comprehending the grade of temples, and caves, together with Safari journeys and camping, the geosites and ranking them for maintainable geotourism add attractions to the visitors in these areas, which establish progress. Such a presentation of outcomes could be con- an innovative style for geotourism that can be managed by nected to a suitable entire tourism improvement, promo- overseas and indigenous tourists. These outstanding geological tion, and administration strategy that improve maintainable landscapes reinforce that the WDNP and its surrounding areas development (Vujičić et al. 2011). Thus, superiority in the are a central province for geotourism improvement and have a advertising and improvement of necessary services and favorable circumstance to develop as Global Geopark, which infrastructure could be given to the karst sites, representing would become the territory’s model tourist destination. The principal urgency in geotourism growth. consequences of several numerous studies have revealed (Gray Certain itineraries can provide satisfactory convenience et al. 2013a, b; Kot 2017) that the multiplicity of landscapes to geomorphological heritage and should be taken into con- like the WDNP and its neighboring places have an excessive sideration for handling tourists and geotouristic uses through potential to offer different geosystem amenities. However, it sustainable geotourism development. The WDNP can be held is imperative to incorporate the outcomes of geodiversity and liable for the administration of these ways in order to improve biodiversity investigations (Gray 2018; Brilha et al. 2018; Zar- the administration of guests and, consequently, enhance the netske et al. 2019) for the promotion of geosystem facilities, protection of geomorphological heritage and, lastly, main- geomorphological heritages, and administration along with tainable improvement of geotourism. Organizing geo-inter- preservation objectives of the WDNP. pretation conveniences and facilities at the visited geosites The other way is by constructing awareness for the indig- is one of these ways. In Africa, geology is “ignored in guide- enous populations about geotourism and the reputation of books and by excursion operators, and most tourists obtain geosites. Creating an approach to how the general public can little knowledge about the geology of the visited regions,” benefit from geotourism is likewise imperative. This marks its as has been observed by Thomas and Asrat (2018). As a potential to acquire community assistance in protecting geo- consequence, impending geotourism improvements should sites, building local inhabitants—guest dealings, and devel- be made to offer sufficient familiarity, such as scientific and oping maintainable geotourism. Karst sites in the WDNP are instructive magnitude, about the geosites for tourists. Tour- influenced by natural and anthropogenic processes, includ- ism infrastructure, monitoring visitors, stakeholders in man- ing contamination, gravel quarrying, urbanization, soil ero- agement, and the development of education from dissimilar sion, and degradation hazards (wind action, climate change, facets, providing interpretive facilities are also involved. natural catastrophes). The preparation and implementation of To increase the number of visitors to the WDNP, it is vital a legislative agenda and management design for the geosites to increase tourism services and entertainment activities are portions of the resolution in solving these difficulties for like cave surveys, trekking, climbing, paragliding, camp- conservation, geosite protection, and sustainable geotourism ing, and biking. Guests can also enjoy watching birds and improvement. Supplementary studies are required to develop their nests. Along with these geotouristic activities, tourists profitable and maintainable tourism, such as geological and can also make excursions and ecotours to local communi- geomorphological mapping, analysis of geological and envi- ties such as Bahariya/Farafra oases to gain knowledge about ronmental susceptibility, and comprehensive evaluation of human–environment interaction. The Bahariya/Farafra oases the substantial topographies that outline the region’s geoher- were confirmed under law number 102/1983 in the context of itage. Preparing combined geoheritage maps, explanatory sheltered regions in Egypt (Fig. 1). panel diagrams (Fig. 17), and identifying promising sites for 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 25 of 30 94 understanding the different karst landforms and their environ- activities should be upgraded and prolonged to the national ment complications in the WDNP along with its surround- level, as well as the organization of websites comprising more ings are mandatory for geotourism, inventors, managers, and geosite information, better demonstration at tourism carni- liable organizations (Reynard et al. 2016; Melelli et al. 2017). vals, more informative and imaginative brochures, and sketch The sustainable tourism administration strategy of the region maps as a guide for tourist excursions. Furthermore, organ- for long-term economic profit is active in ensuring that geo- izing collaborative workshops and education for tourists with logical topographies are preserved, protected, and applied. It dissimilar objectives would meaningfully enhance tourists’ is expected that this research will deliver crucial information awareness of maintainable improvement and the importance for emerging geotourism strategy, design, and administration of the karst geosites as geoeducation and geointerpretation, as well as emphasize the capacities of the WDNP and its sur- which are vital tasks in the confirmation of geotourism and roundings for establishing a Global Geopark. All of these steps its development. The collaboration of universities, research can be officially used as an actual tool to advance the protec- institutions, and the design of geotourism programs through tion of geological features in the Western Desert. A geopark the application of effective realism will aid not only to facili- is credible to motivate pronounced attentiveness among the tate the broadcasting and knowledge of appreciated karst geo- visitors and the residents to learn more about geology and, morphological heritage but also contribute definitively to the therefore, help in propagating geosciences. It will also support sustainable development of rustic areas as well as to the active the privilege that tourism can be sustainably advanced by mak- participation of local communities in this development. All ing use of prevailing natural topographies without excessive of these enhancements will improve tourism infrastructure as assets and with minimum damage to the environment. well as the resident economy and community participation, together with an advance in the awareness of the indigenous inhabitants and authorities regarding the requirement for Conclusion maintainable use and organization of geoheritage. With an attitude that integrates the organization of geotourism and its Egypt has several protected areas with geoheritage, geodi- administration (comprising collaboration between community versity, and biodiversity, as evidenced by the number of ini- and secluded divisions), a number of positive influences could tiatives and resources implementations. The WDNP that lies be proposed in the future. in Bahariya-Farafra halfway links to one of these sheltered Supplementary Information The online version contains supplemen- regions in the WD. This manuscript presents the evaluation tary material available at https://doi. or g/10. 1007/ s12371- 022- 00727-3 . of geomorphological karst landscapes as a potential geotour- ism in the WDNP. The latter has many different types of karst Acknowledgements The author thanks Profs. Piotr Migoń, University features due to its diversity in geologic and climatic regimes. of Wrocław, Poland, and Heros Lobo, Federal de São Carlos University, Brazil, for their comments on earlier versions, which helped improve Miscellaneous fluvial and karstic landforms together with rock this manuscript. An anonymous reviewer improved the quality of the types, faults/fractures, unconformity surfaces, and dry valleys/ paper and is gratefully acknowledged. Comments by editor Kevin Page gorges are only part of the geomorphodiversity of the WDNP helped enlighten the manuscript significantly. and its surroundings, which needs distinctive awareness for geotourism advancement, management, and scientific/educa- Funding Open access funding provided by The Science, Technology & tional uses. In fact, the various karst features can play a vital Innovation Funding Authority (STDF) in cooperation with The Egyp- tian Knowledge Bank (EKB). role in endorsing the attractiveness, scientific, educational, and aesthetic value of geomorphological heritage and its bet- Declarations ter understanding. The results of geomorphosite assessments signpost that the analyzed karst sites maintain generous geo- Competing Interests The author declares no competing interests. tourism potential for creating the WDNP a geotourism pur- pose or world heritage and geopark. However, there are many Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri- actions for the enhancement of additional functional values, bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta- tourist infrastructure, interpretative panels, visitor centers, tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long authorized tour guide amenities, and interpretative boards as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, that permit geological and geomorphological topographies provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are to be presented to tourists. Policy strategies together with the included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated participation of the local inhabitants must be applied in order otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in to exploit the total use of tourism as possible, leading to pro- the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not vincial economic development and highlighting the site of the permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a WDNP in the tourist market. In order for the karst geomor- copy of this licence, visit http://cr eativ ecommons. or g/licen ses/ b y/4.0/ . phosites to have a positive economic influence, promotional 1 3 94 Page 26 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Capezzuoli E, Gandin A, Pedley M (2014) Decoding tufa and travertine References (fresh water carbonates) in the sedimentary record: the state of the art. Sedimentol 61:1–21 Abdel Tawab S (2013) Karst limestone geohazards in Egypt and Saudi Carrión Mero P, Herrera Franco G, Briones J (2018) Geotourism and Arabia. 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Karst Heritage as a Tourist Attraction: a Case Study in the White Desert National Park, Western Desert, Egypt

Geoheritage , Volume 14 (3) – Sep 1, 2022

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References (211)

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Springer Journals
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Copyright © The Author(s) 2022
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1867-2477
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10.1007/s12371-022-00727-3
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Abstract

Geotourism is a form of maintainable tourism that emphasizes the geoheritage characteristics of a district. Karst landforms are one of the most imperative appealing aspects of the theme of nature-based tourism. The geomorphological regionalization of the karst landforms contributes to a better understanding of Earthʼs evolution and provides the necessary provincial knowl- edge for resource utilization, ecological protection, and general economic improvement. To achieve this goal, an integrated geomorphological approach for inventorying, appraising, and evaluating sites of karst geoheritage within the framework of geomorphosite assessment method convoyed by SWOT analysis has been performed in the White Desert National Park (WDNP), Western Desert, Egypt. The paper aims to highlight the geotourism potential of the WDNP and offer strategic plans for identifying geotourist resources to a larger community through geoeducation and geoconservation. The WDNP is covered by Upper Cretaceous-Late Tertiary karstified carbonate successions and fluvioclastic rocks that host an interesting assemblage of diverse karst landforms (geodiversity) and amazing flora (bioturbation mangrove roots) together with fauna (biodiversity), revealing a geological open-air museum. The karst sites, which offer several phenomena with significant litho- logical, morphological, and paleogeographic features, embrace aesthetic, educational, scientific/scenic, and touristic values that will endure spectators of the geological evolution of this province. The brilliant conspicuousness, scientific excellence, innovative appeal, and distinctiveness of karst geomorphosites involving poljes/uvalas, karst lakes, natural sculptures, mush- rooms, inselbergs, towers/bridges, dolines/sinkholes, cones/domes, and speleothems deliberate resources for the progress of geotourism. These landscapes can be considered tools for science and education because they give knowledge about rock/ soil types and rock permeability, and paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic circumstances. Most of their landforms can be used as habitats for endangered bird species, which attract several sightseers, an indicative of ecological significance. This excellent karst geodiversity provides an appreciated tool for geotourism and geopark development that is preferred to raise the local economy for populations and reinforce rural growth in neighboring towns and cities. The paper’s findings reveal a comprehensive base for the improvement, planning, and management of the WDNP in order for it to become a geotourism endpoint. Furthermore, they improve the position of the WDNP in the tourist market and contribute to the local maintain- able progress via giving socio-economic assistance to the local community for the advancement of geotourism through geoconservation and sustainability. Keywords White Desert National Park · Karst landforms · Geotourism · SWOT analysis · Geosite assessment · Sustainable development Introduction Visitors worldwide are interested in watching special geo- logical phenomena (Ólafsdóttir and Tverijonaite 2018), which provide assets for geotourism development (Asrat * Ezz El Din Abdel Hakim Khalaf et  al. 2012). Geotourism is an internationally evolving e.2012_khalaf@hotmail.com; Ezzkhalaf2020@gmail.com; educational, monetary, and maintainable expansion style Ezz@sci.cu.edu.eg (Ngwira 2015) with substantial comprehensive expan- Faculty of Science Geology Department, Cairo University, sion (Hose 2011). Tourism’s fascination with geological Giza, Egypt Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 94 Page 2 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 landscapes has increased promptly over recent decades the fortification of natural assets, and sustainable progress (Newsome et al. 2012). Its investigations have been wel- (Farsani et al. 2011; Ngwira 2015). Therefore, geotourism comed universally due to their scientific, educational, requests need to be combined with best practice manage- antique, communal, ethnic, and aesthetic values (Pralong ment to retain and improve the visitor experience while also 2005; Kubaliková 2013; Štrba et al. 2018; Mucivuna et al. protecting the resource (Leung et al. 2015). 2019). This style of tourism permits the detection of scarce Geomorphosites are significant landscapes of geomor - geological features in the visited regions, together with other phological heritage from the viewpoint of tourism, signify- natural and human possessions (Mucivuna et al. 2019). The ing chief resources for geotourism improvement (Reynard main goal of geotourism, which highlights the Earth’s geo- 2009; Warowna et al. 2016). A region can be considered logical and geomorphological typescripts, forming geosites a geomorphosite if the landform group and energetic geo- as tourist attractions, is understanding, improvement, and morphological processes are capable of attracting tourism management, as principal items for the sustainable amplifi- (Ielenicz 2009). Geomorphosites are surface landscapes cation of geotourism. The latter delivers a chance for busi- with distinct main aesthetic characteristics that form natural ness, entrepreneurship, and widespread job prospect for the monuments that are essential for understanding Earth’s his- inhabitants (Newsome et al. 2012; Dowling and Newsome tory (Panizza 2001). Coratza and Hobléa (2018) introduced 2018; Tomić et al. 2020). the term geomorphological heritage as a novel division of Geotourism involves an array of tourist interests, from geomorphology entitled “heritage geomorphology.” Various the specialist to the universal guest. Furthermore, it gives types of research on geomorphological heritage have been monetary, ethnic, and social assistance to both visitors conducted extensively over the last two periods (Reynard and host inhabitants by demanding proper forecasting and et al. 2017; Pica et al. 2017; Migoń and Pijet-Migoń 2017; understanding of the benefits and constraints (Ngwira 2015; Clivaz and Reynard 2018; Coratza et al. 2019; Moradipour Gordon 2019). Geotourism needs to be valued by the wider et al. 2020; Sinnyovsky et al. 2020; Tahammn et al. 2020). local, general, and global communities by balancing tourism The studies of geomorphological heritage have principally with management that promotes environmental and cultural involved the improvement of perceptions and documenta- understanding, obligation, and preservation (Gray 2008; tion, presenting the prospective geomorphosites for use (sci- Dowling 2011; Prosser et al. 2011; Gray et al. 2013a, 2013b; entific, educational, and geotourism attitude), and improve- Ólafsdóttir 2019). Geotourism must adhere to five critical ment of inventory and assessment approaches. As a result of principles: geoheritage, preservation, geointerpretation, its diverse values, geomorphological heritage can be utilized profits at the indigenous level, and tourist fulfillment (Antić as a national heritage, geopark, or geotourism destinations et al. 2019). This has been accomplished through geological (Reynard 2008; Dowling and Newsome 2010; Hose 2012; visits, the use of geological routes, the perception of scenery, Brilha 2018). The actual preservation and administration of and the requirements for scientific information linking to geomorphological heritage require an explanation of its her- the geological characteristics for geotourism and practical itage implications in a cohesive style. Karst landscapes are verification of geotourists, e.g., their favorite destinations, significant topographies of geomorphological heritage, with inspirations, and supplies; the difficulties associated with its geomorphological topographies being observed as the geotourism endpoints; and the positive/negative influences main issue from the standpoint of tourism, creating scenery of geotourism on the geographical region and local popula- and attracting tourists (Newsome and Dowling 2018). Karst tions as well as other stakeholders (Panizza and Piacente lands are categorized by extreme scientific, ethnic, ecologi - 1993; Panizza 2001; Panizza and Piacente 2003; Reynard cal, and aesthetic standards, due to the high degree of natural 2004; Reynard and Panizza 2005; Božić and Tomić 2015; environment (Quaranta 1993; Panizza 2001; Zgłobicki and Štrba et al. 2018; Tičar et al. 2018; Tomić et al. 2020). Baran-Zglobicka 2013). They are closely allied with excel- Geoparks are prominent areas with one or more geoherit- lent biodiversity. The lands affected by karst phenomena age sites picked out because of their scientific prominence, possess a pronounced value in terms of preservation, tour- scarcity, beauty, or link to geological history, procedures, ism advancement, and scientific investigation (Van Beynen and ways (Eder and Patzak 2004; Dowling 2011). Geo- 2011; Delle Rose et al. 2014; Ruban 2018). Several karst tourism and geoparks have evolved to provide a chance for locations are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites maintainable regional improvement by lowering the rate of (Williams 2008). The UNESCO World Natural Heritage joblessness and immigration, forecasting poverty by involv- List has recorded more the 50 sites for karst geoheritage; ing local residents in geopark activities, and confirming con- however, several regions everywhere in the world have the servation and educational excursions to well-known geosites possibility of being selected as national parks based on their (Zouros 2007). Geotourism consultants and geopark special- geodiversity, biodiversity, exclusive geomorphology, or val- ists, for example, have approved various positive strategies ued caves. The karst rocks are associated with the dissolu- for encouraging local participation for economic prosperity, tion characteristics of landforms in soluble rocks such as 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 3 of 30 94 cavernous carbonates and evaporate through the processes studies that have been interpreted in terms of geotourism of surface weathering, stream sinking, cave development, or described in terms of environmental significance. Simi - and tectonic uplift, resulting in unique morphological and larly, a geoscience survey in Egypt highlighted the expan- hydrological topography (White 2002; Ford and Williams sion of geoheritage as a geotourism resource, is quite rare 2007; Williams 2008; Youssef et al. 2017). The karst disso- in the light of appraising its geosites for geotourism poten- lution processes and the occurrence of subsurface channels tial. Furthermore, no research has been carried out to iden- can be used in distinguishing between karst and non-karst tify the geotourism resources and asses them qualitatively systems (Gunn 2004). Tectonics involving networks of fault through SWOT analysis within the White Desert National and fracture networks intensely affects the growth of karst Park. The latter was selected because it is characterized landforms that support the development of karstogenesis. by significant properties that have attracted active multi- In Egypt, the Western Desert (WD) is the major geo- inhabitants. So, the aim of this paper is to (1) describe graphic district, covering an area of about 681,000 km diverse landforms of karst morphology for displaying the (Fig. 1). The geological and climatic circumstances have aesthetic and scientific geological heritage; (2) recognize prepared the Western Desert (from 200 to 600  m a.s.l) the strategies for recognizing and inventorying the pre- as a province where karst phenomena are plentiful and cise resources for impending geotourism development; outstanding. The White Desert National Park (WDNP) is (3) record a set of criteria suitable for the assessment of one of the most important karst massifs in the Western potential geotourist; and (4) evaluate quantitatively and Desert (Fig. 1A), which hosts potentially unique karst fea- qualitatively the karst sites through SWOT analysis to cre- tures and was chosen for this work. There have been no ate the seats for conservation, education, and geotourism Fig. 1 A Landsat image showing the location of White Desert ing location of Qaret Sheikh Abdallah, Western Desert (Wanas et al. National Park. B Geological map of the study territory (Geologic 2009). D Karstified carbonate rocks exposed in the Western Desert Survey of Egypt 1981). C Geological sketch map of Egypt show- (Embabi 2018) 1 3 94 Page 4 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 in an appropriate organization mode following the princi- an extra cause for tourists to travel to an appropriate geo- ples of UNESCO Geopark Agenda. site and its visit facilitates (Supplementary Table 2). For each subindicator, a 5-point scale ranging from 0 to 1 was used to rate the impending of geosites, with the geoheritage Methods site attaining a max. of 15 points. The latter that is con- sidered relevant for geotourism development (Kubalíková Several quantitative and qualitative procedures have been et al. 2020). The geosite evaluation is a compulsory task planned based on presented articles on geotourism, scenic for geotourism development and should be made before the geosite inventory, and evaluation (Pereira et al. 2007; Pereira improvement of impending geotourism destinations is delib- and Pereira 2010; Vujičić et al. 2011; Fassoulas et al. 2012; erated upon (Vujičić et al. 2011; Suzuki and Takagi 2018). Kubaliková 2013; Brilha 2016; Zgłobicki et al. 2019). These measures enable recognizing areas of interest, resembling to geological heritage (Reynard and Panizza 2005; Prosser Geological Background et al. 2006; Reynard and Brilha 2018), offer preservation strategies, analogous to geoparks (Carrión Mero et al. 2018), Karst rocks spread over a wide area of Egypt involving the and provide guidelines for sustainable use, such as geotour- Eastern and Western Deserts (Fig. 1D; El Aref, et al. 1986; ism (Reynard et  al. 2011). Geosite assessment has been Halliday 2003). Several geoscientific researchers studied the extensively documented as a beneficial tool for the actual karst rocks on the Bahariya-Farafra terrain (El Aref et al. improvement, organization, and fortification of geological 1987; 1999; Sokker 1991; Waltham 2001; Brook et al. 2002; heritage (Suzuki and Takagi 2018). The four most com- Halliday 2003; Kindermann et al. 2006; Moustafa 2007; monly used techniques (appraisal of the literature, fieldwork, Wanas et  al. 2009; Pickford, et  al. 2010; Abdel Tawab and interpretation of maps together with the elucidation of 2013; El Aref et al. 2017a,b; Youssef et al. 2017; El Aref satellite images) were applied in identifying and inventory- et al. 2021). Sixteen fields of karst landform in Bahariya- ing resources for geotourism through field description of Farafra Oases have been recorded in WD, Egypt (Fig. 2, karst features based on the scale (macro- (> 10 m) and mes- El Aref et al. 2017a). Moreover, the latter authors carried oscale (1 cm–10 m)) (De La Rose 2012). Such site assess- out an inventory and assessment of the selected geosites ment should be focused not only on geodiversity charac- in these areas. Cretaceous-Eocene karstified carbonate teristics but also on facets demonstrating the connections successions interrupted by paleo-fossilized karst surfaces between geodiversity, biodiversity, and culture (Kubalíková that are covered by Quaternary to Recent sediments form- et al. 2020). The evaluation of karst landforms can deliver ing exhumed karsts (e.g., sand dunes, playa deposits, salt valuable understanding for the administration of geomor- lakes), occupy most lands of the Bahariya-Farafra terrain phological heritage, its advancement, and how to improve (Klimchouk and Ford 2000; El Aref et al. 2021). Surficial protection against destructive human activities. duricrusts involving calcrete, silcrete, dolocrete, and ferri- The inventory and assessment of karst sites for geotour- erite characterize the tops of the most karstified carbonate ism development were carried out following the criteria of rocks (El Aref et al. 2021). In the WD, enormous karstified Vujičić et al. (2011) coupled with SWOT analysis. Two main carbonate platforms are documented, which are composed sets were used: Main and Additional ones under indicators of limestone/chalk and shale/clay rhythmic beds in the time and subindicators. Vujičić et al. (2011) offered a compos- period from Upper Cretaceous/Palaeocene to Middle Mio- ite assessment model that measures scientific/educational cene (Fig. 1B, C). The eastern part of the WD is occupied (VSE), scenic/aesthetic (VSA), protection (VPr), functional by the Palaeocene–Eocene rocks, whereas the northern part (VFn), and touristic values (VTr). The indicators and sub- is represented by the Miocene rocks (Embabi 2018). The indicators used to evaluate geosites deal with not only with structural lines comprising E-W- and N-S-trending faults, themes such as earth sciences but also biodiversity, con- fractures, and joints affect these rocks. During the Upper venience, and tourist capabilities based on an appraisal of Cretaceous to Late Eocene period, the carbonate rocks were geotourism literature, scenic assessment, and geosite inven- affected by karstic activity, followed by the phases of uplift tory as well as evaluation. The Main value is linked to the and tectonic/climate change favoring karstification during intrinsic value of a geosite (the chief purpose for tourists to the Miocene time (Embabi 2018). Wind and water action visit a geosite and its fortification). Five indicators (scien- coupled with local structures, facilitated the karstification tific, educational, scenic, recreational, and protection) which processes. Karst landforms show degraded (erosional) and are supplementarily partitioned into twelve subindicators, nondegraded (depositional) characters that are locations of belong to the Main value (Supplementary Table 1). Regard- geomorphological interest, which reflects scientific value ing Additional value, two indicators (added and functional), for reconstructing Earth’s history (Panizza 2001; Clivaz and which are further subdivided into six subindicators, provide Reynard 2018). 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 5 of 30 94 Fig. 2 A Location map of the study area showing the distribu- tion of karst and nonkarst rocks (El Aref et al. 2017a). B Karst map shows different karst land- form fields in the study area (El Aref et al. 2017a) The WDNP is situated ~ 45 km from the northern part respectively (El Aref et al. 2017a). The former includes of El Farafra Oasis, Western Desert, New Valley Gov- the carbonate rocks of the El Hefhuf, Khoman Chalk, ernorate between Lat. 27° 39′ 69″ N to 28° 58′ 26″ N Tarawan, and Naqb formations (Fms) of the Upper Cre- and Long. 27° 50′ 35″ E to 29° 12′ 37″ E, covering an taceous, Palaeocene, and Eocene ages, whereas the lat- area of about 3010 km (Fig. 1). Its karst landscapes are ter includes the Bahariya, Dakhla, and Esna Fms of the commonly characterized by closed depressions, surface Upper Cretaceous and Palaeocene ages together with the drainages, and caves. The WDNP was protected to defend Quaternary sand dunes. The study area is structurally the desert ecosystems, karst landforms, and remarkable controlled by NE-SW- and NW–SE-trending faults and scenery and erosional features in the carbonate rocks. folds, which are related to the prevalent dextral wrench- The sedimentary rocks involving Upper Cretaceous ing during Upper Cretaceous deformations that are part to Late Tertiary carbonate and clastic sediments  have of the Syrian Arc System (SAS, Sehim 1993, Moustafa been described, belonging to karst and non-karst rocks, et  al. 2003). The SAS extends from Syria to Central 1 3 94 Page 6 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Egypt through the Western Desert of Egypt (Guiraud Solution depressions, speleothems, residue soils (fine- and Bosworth 1997; Guiraud et al. 2005). The structural grained sand/clay constituents), inselbergs/mushrooms, framework and the related tectonic phases have shaped towers/bridges, cones/domes, and pavement patterns are the surface of karst landforms during karstification pro- the most ubiquitous landforms recorded in the WDNP. cesses following the zones of weakness, which facilitate With respect to scale dimension, the WDNP represents the development of the secondary porosity, permeability, complex geomorphological karst landforms spanning at and fractures-controlled solution pathways of the carbon- different scales from small isolated to large panoramic ate rocks (El Aref et al. 2017a). In the field, the karst lands according to Grandgirardʼs geomorphological clas- landforms have been described as degraded and non- sification (1997). degraded forms based on their morphology and exten- sion (macro/mesoscale). Karst Poljes Karst Phenomena in the White Desert National Park The name polje means “field” in Slavic language, whereas it refers to “karst plain” or “karst field” in the The WDNP is one of the areas located in the WD that English language. Polje is a term used by geomorpholo- hosts carbonates and f luviokarst morphologies, result- gists to denote large fault/fracture-controlled bounded ing from the complex karstification processes. Sev- basins with a flat karst floor (Fig.  3A) as Bahariya/ eral shapes of karst landforms have been observed in Farafra poljes with areas ranging from 980 to 1800 km which certain forms are more far reaching than others. (Fig. 2A). Bahariya/Farafra poljes may have originated Fig. 3 A Polje basin exposed at the northern part of the WDNP. B hole features in calcite crystal-forming hill of circular outline with Polje floor is periodically flooded, forming a temporary karst lake. C distinctive solution cavity and honeycomb/tafoni weathering as diag- Natural solution hollows within carbonate pavement. D Doline/sink- nostic of karst phenomena 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 7 of 30 94 in the Middle to Late Tertiary and been subjected to Karst Depressions several climatic iterations. Some poljes are sporadically f looded by f loodwaters, which may also be amplified by These depressions are recorded in the northern part of Far- groundwater rising into impermanent karst lakes on their afra Oasis. They differ in magnitude from a few meters to f loors, as has been shown in Bahariya polje (Fig. 2A). some kilometers. These depressions denote the most mor- The karst lake occupies the northern part of the study phological features of the Western Desert, Egypt, occupy- area. It covers 2.0  km in length and 0.5  km in width ing large areas (Fig. 2). In the WDNP, they spread over (Fig.  3A, B) and was formed as the result of the col- 200 m and involve natural sinkholes. The latter are known lapse of subterranean caves, especially in water-soluble as a cenote, sink, swallet, swallow hole, Foiba (plural carbonate rocks through karstification processes (Selby Foibas or Foibe), or doline, and are characteristic of karst 1985). The lake bottom is partially insoluble rocks, lead- landscapes caused by highly fractured carbonate rocks ing to the lake formation. The water comes from very (Figs.  3C, D  and 4A, B). They are pure vertical holes/ short streams derived from the neighboring carbonate hollows which occur as a noticeable bowl, tabular, or fun- landforms through numerous emergences of discharge nel shape 1–2 m wide and 2–10 m in depth (Figs. 3D and from aquifers of the depression edges, recognizing sev- 4B). Their walls are white creamy, bedded, hard, com- eral types of hydrological regimes (Embabi 2018). Many pacted, and composed of limestone rocks or pure calcite authors believe that the creation of many karst lakes layers during Eocene period. Most dolines/sinkholes are occurs occasionally but may return often after heavy categorized  by the distribution of natural hot springs rainfall through weakening zones of joints and faults of (Fig. 4C), which have attracted people since Roman times the district (Waltham et al. 2005; Ali 2019). (El Sisi et al. 2002). They result from multi-karstification Fig. 4 A Solution doline, internally filled by crustified calcite crys- karst window spectacles. C Doline is covered by fresh hot water, tals. Notice the observed honeycomb/tafoni weathering surface. B forming springs. D Large flat plain of karst pavement Swallow hole in calcite-forming hill of semi-circular outline with 1 3 94 Page 8 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 processes aided by wind or tectonic actions (El Aref et al. Most of these flutes develop on steeply sloping rocks affected 1987; 2017a). by wind abrasion. Structural weakness planes (such as joints/ fractures) in connection with compacted rocks accelerate Karst Pavements the creation of these karst phenomena. When these planes are gradually widened, they produce clefts (grikes, Fig. 5C). Karst pavements occur as large flat plains having irregular Karstification plus wind erosion play a chief role in the or elongated forms (Fig. 4D). They cover several kilometers development of most of them. The Karren features can be in the northern part of El Farafra Oasis (Fig. 2). An array considered a tool for science and education because they of distinctive karst landforms involving Karren/Lappies give knowledge about the presence/or absence of soil, rock created by differential solutions decorate karst pavements permeability, and climatic condition. El Aref et al. (2017a) (Fig. 5A–C). Karren and Lappies are German and French concluded that solution pits were caused by regular recharge words, respectively, and both of them refer to small-scale rainwaters coupled with organic acids produced by plants solutional sculpture. They are approximately flat areas, and peat trapped in the sedimentary basins. comprising small solution pits, engraved, fluted, and pitted Sporadically, the karst pavements are covered by well- rock pinnacles separated by deep parallel grooves, flutes, rounded siliceous chalky limestone concretions related to and runnels that have several magnitudes from tiny to huge paleokarst phenomena, resembling “cannonballs/or melon flutes (Fig.  5A, B). The latter are densely clustered and have fields” that are well-known geomorphic structures within an elongation or rectangular shape, with diameters ranging the Maastrichtian and Eocene rocks in Kharga, Farafra, from 50 cm to 2 m. Sometimes the top of these grooves are Faiyum, and Bahariya Oases in Egypt (Pickford et al. 2010; characterized by bowl-shaped hollows (Kamenitza, Fig. 5B). Plyusnina et al. 2016; Sallam et al. 2018; Khalaf and Abu Fig. 5 A Subvertical parallel runnels/grooves characterizing karsti- C Limestone pavement with enlarged joints (grikes). D Mushroom fied carbonate rocks. B Bowl-shaped hollow (kamentiza) occupying karstified hills comprise irregular-shaped necks and caps displaying a the top of hilly grooves formed by karstification and wind abrasion. bowl-shaped outline 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 9 of 30 94 El-Kheir 2022). Most of these concretions are hard, com- (Fig. 6B), which host some nests of threatened bird species. pacted, spheroidal, or elliptical in shape as a result of exfo- The heights of its stems vary from 1 to 5 m. The composi- liation weathering and carbonate dissolution, forming onion- tion of the stems is mainly soft calcerous sandstone grading skin weathering and nodules on Earthʼs surface through to hard siliceous limestone at their caps. Several mushroom weathering processes. These “cannonballs” concretions landforms have been described in Gabel Qatrani, North have an imperative impact because of their wide geologic Western Desert (Mashaal et al. 2020; Khalaf and Abu El implications, signifying small-scale microbially induced Kheir 2022). and chemical heterogeneous in groundwater together with its directions that advanced the host carbonate rocks after Inselberg Karst the karstification processes (White 1988; Plan 2005; Ford and Williams 2007). Inselberg is a German word that means “island mountain,” similar to that observed in southern Africa in hot/or humid Mushroom Karst regions. The inselbergs are widely distributed over the floors of the Bahariya/Farafra depressions. They occur in the form The mushroom zone is widely distributed in the El Farafra of connected to disconnected uneven vertical hilly rocks, Oasis, occupying an area of about 244 km (Salama et al. resulting in karst inselbergs that rise abruptly from compara- 2020). This type of karst comprises vertical short stems with tively flat surroundings (Fig.  6C). Their frameworks form irregular-shaped necks and caps. The latter vary in shape, tall, upright hills that project sharply from the neighbor- ranging from bowl to bulbous outline (Figs. 5D and 6A). ing peneplains, climbing up to ~ 2–10 m. These inselbergs The necks/caps display characteristic small-scale cavities consist mainly of greyish-white compacted hard limestone Fig. 6 A Globular/spherical-shaped cap with short stems character- nected to disconnected hilly rocks forming karst inselbergs. D Sculp- izes mushroom karstified hills. B Solution cavities that are favorite turing carbonates in sphinx-like form. Note pile of carbonate debris at nests for birds portray the caps of mushroom karstified hills. C Con- photo front 1 3 94 Page 10 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 rocks that are more resistant to erosion. Some hills are cov- world. All these geomorphic karst features, such as mush- ered by brecciated and collapsed fragments, forming block/ room, inselberg, and butte landforms, have been recorded boulder-rich breccias with distinguishing cavities/voids. In in various parts of the Egyptian Deserts (Plyusnina et al. some localities, the inselbergs display peculiar geomorpho- 2016; Sallam et al. 2018; Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir 2022) logical features that resemble Sculptures of birds, turtles, due to the effect of water and wind erosion when a more and animals (Figs. 6D and 7A–D) as the result of fluvial resistant cap rock overly soft layers having less sturdy parts erosion by water, die ff rential weathering, and wind sculptur - (Nenonen et al. 2018). These typical landforms are beautiful, ing of chalky limestone beds. Remarkably conserved ancient intriguing, and attractive to tourism. They can often provide mangrove plant roots (bioturbation, Fig. 8A) of extreme sci- information about current and past erosional environments. entific rank are occasionally observed within the hilly rock sculptures. Another erosional landform besides inselbergs is Tower Karst buttes (Fig. 8B). The latter are applied to disconnected hills of siliceous chalky limestone with steep slopes and flat tops, Tower karst occurs as isolated bedded hilly chalky limestone rising up to ~ 5 m (Fig. 8C), which are dissected intermit- rocks with vertical a fl nks from the depression o fl or and ped - tently by deep parallel fracture/joint-controlled gullies and estal rocks, covering an area of about 884 km (Fig. 2B). grooves with distinctive bowl-shaped hollows (Kamenitza) Its pedestals vary in size from small to large (1–5 m) and at their tops (Fig. 8D). Buttes usually form in arid regions, in shape from spherical to rectangular. The tower tops take such as those in Mexico and Monument Valley, Arizona, the form of either spine like, cylindrical, or broad summits USA, which represent the most famous butte example in the of 2 to 15  m in height (Figs.  9A–D). Pits, crevices, and Fig. 7 Spectacular sculptures of birds/animals for outstanding karst lines. C Chicken fowl-like form beside the mushroom shape. D Sea landforms. A Domestic sheep/lamb-like form. B Turtle-like form. lion-like form. Note the amazing existence of spectacular sculptures Note remarkable occurrences of mushroom forms with circular out- of birds/animals 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 11 of 30 94 Fig. 8 A Remarkable mangrove plant roots in karstified horse-like grooves crosscut the buttes with a characteristic bowl-shaped hollow hilly carbonate rocks. B, C Disconnected hilly rocks with steep slopes (kamentiza) at their tops and flat tops forming butte morphology. D Intensive gullies and solution cavities are common features in tower walls due to parts of the world, like Southeast Asia, Central America, the effect of solution sculptures (Fig.  9B–D). Karst towers the Caribbean, Jamaica, South China, and North Vietnam are separated by dry valleys/gorges (sometimes known as (Zhu et al. 2013). Cockpit karst; Yuan 1984; El Aref et al. 1987; Day 2004; Day and Chenoweth 2004; Zhu et al. 2013) that are dis- Bridge Karst tributed between linked or detached permeable carbonate ridges. The dry valleys/gorges are considered fluviokarst, Bridge karst exhibits astonishing and remarkable karst which is defined as a landscape of active stream valleys, surface morphologies. The length and width of the bridge dry/blind valleys, and unbalanced drainage systems that do karst vary from 5 to 10 m and 0.5 to 5 m, respectively, with not normally sustain water flows (Selby 1985). Karst gorges a 3–5-m natural arch occupying a distance of about 10 m. vary in size and thickness from one locality to another and Their rock types are composed of the white chalky limestone are controlled by fracture systems (Fig. 9). The occurrence of the Upper Cretaceous (Fig. 10A, B). of these two geomorphological landforms is common in humid environments where high temperature and copious Dome Karst sedimentation deliver favorable conditions for quick and prolonged erosion (Troester 1992). The dry valleys/gorges The dome karst spreads over a large area, extending some could be developed as geotouristic attention facts within the kilometers. Dome rocks form symmetrical hilly rocks (up prevailing tourist routes (Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir 2022). to 5 m in diameter and 5 m in height) and involve two rock Tower and cockpit karsts have been described in different types: tufa carbonates and chalky limestones. The first is 1 3 94 Page 12 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 9 Differ ent profiles of tower karst displaying different sizes and characterizes karst tower. D Arched top with solution activity phe- bed thickness. A Disconnected karst towers with oval and cylindrical nomenon. Notice extensive dry valleys/gorges dissect carbonate hilly inclined tops. B Karst tower displays even flat and broad elongated rocks forming what is called a fluviokarst landscape tops with distinctive pits and crevices at karst walls. C Spine top greyish white, hard, chalky in composition, and wavy lami- fluviolustrine settings (Keppel et al. 2011; Sallam et al. nated with a stromatolite look (Fig. 10C). In some locali- 2018). Many authors interpreted that such mysterious stro- ties, tufa carbonates are bright grey, porous, dense crystal- matolites (Reitner 1993) are shaped by nonphotosynthetic line, and consist of laminated silt and clay interbedded with organisms or serpulid buildups (Mcloughlin et al. 2008; carbonate rocks (Fig. 10D). The second are massive, non- Dupraz et al. 2009). El Aref et al. (1986) recorded algal porous, hard, grey in color, and composed of disconnected filaments and moss debris in the Miocene karstified tufa brecciated and collapsed chalky limestone hills, attaining sediments of the Red Sea coastal zone, Egypt. The tufa 10 m in height (Figs. 11A, B). Solution channels, cavities, deposits represent sporadic and peculiar landforms in the and karst windows are commonly distributed within the geological list, providing critical records of paleoenviron- dome hills. Remains of open kamenitza characterize the tops ment and paleoclimatic conditions (Ford 2004; Ford and of some types (Fig. 11C). Pedley 2006; Pedley 2009; Capezzuoli et al. 2014) with The tufa deposits have been recorded in the Kurkur an amazing view. Oasis, Western Desert (Fig. 1), an indicator of spring-fed streams that previously exhausted the Eocene rocks and precipitated them as hills, terraces, and chutes (Butzer Cuesta Karst 1964, 1965; Issawi 1968; Ahmed 1996). The stromatolite form of the former domal type reflects relict landscapes A type of karst formed on a cuesta is characterized by that were deposited during the events of intense mois- moderate to high hills or ridges with a gentle slope on ture and improved groundwater discharge that formed in one side, attaining a 30–45° dip towards NW and a steep 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 13 of 30 94 Fig. 10 A, B Chalky limestone rocks with variations in extension and stromatolitic outline. D Symmetrical laminated siliceous limestone width, displaying bridge karst morphology. C Symmetrical chalky dome karst with a broad curled top dome karst with bedding structure and  a curvature top, displaying a slope or scarp on the other side (Fig. 11D). Its elevation of their cover by erosion (Field 1999). Caves within sur- varies from 2 to 8 m, covering many meters in extension face/subsurface Eocene carbonate plateaus are recorded in (1–5 m). Such landform is composed mainly of massive Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, and Kharaga Oases (Fig. 1B). chalky limestone of the Upper Cretaceous. They are well exposed at the NE-striking karst depressions known as Qarat El Sheikh Abdallah (QSA) and Crystal Speleothem Karst Mountain (CM, Fig. 1C), which have been exhumed in the El Bahariya-Farafra plateau (up to 256 m a.s.l) that encircles The term “speleothem” is a Greek word that means cave these depressions (190–200 m a.s.l, El Aref et al. 2021). deposits and associated secondary minerals that were pre- The latter authors described the two depressions (QSA and cipitated in caves. Its landforms refer to vast quantities CM) as uvalas, which are demarcated as large (in km scale) of amazing and unique karst shafts/infillings, displaying karst closed depressions with irregular plan form caused by diverse karst features (e.g., dolines/sinkholes, unroofed enhanced erosion along major tectonic zones. Four karst karst hills, and numerous remnants of degraded caves) facies forming speleothems, which include marine Kho- (Figs.  12 and 13), along with clastic sediments and red man white chalk, clast-supported conglomerates, red soils, soils formed by solution/erosion during karst uplifting, and bedded limestone/calcite strata, have been described degradation, and rejuvenation processes (Embabi 2018; at QSA and CM (Wanas et al. 2009; El Aref et al. 2021; El Aref et al. 2021). Unroofed/collapsed karst hills can be Fig. 12A). The rock facies of Khoman white chalk (Kho- defined as subsoil karsts that are depicted by several dif- man Fm) are of the Upper Cretaceous, while the rock facies ferent cave patterns during tectonic uplift with the removal of clastic sediments, red soil, and limestone/calcite strata 1 3 94 Page 14 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 11 A Symmetrical collapsed dome hills with characteristic solu- Notice the observed rubble nature and brecciation affecting the dome tion cavities and fractures/joints. B Symmetrical collapsed isolated hills. D Cuesta-shaped form with moderate to high hills having a dome with a broad pedestal outline. C Collapsed isolated dome and gentle slope on one side. Notice the occurrence of solution hollows karst window with spine tops and an open kamentiza along its wall. affecting the carbonate rocks as the result of karstification are of Paleocene (Tarawan Fm), Eocene (Farafra Fm), and by calcite, form the so-called rootsicles (Perri et al. 2012). Miocene/Oligocene periods (fluvial/Quaternary sediments, They are observed in black limestone (Fig. 12D). This is El Aref et al. 2021). These karst successions are truncated further supported by the criteria of Wanas et al. (2009), by three paleokarst surfaces (i.e., chief stratigraphic breaks) who identified several new faunas involving anurans, soric- involving Upper Cretaceous–Early Paleocene chalk (Kho- ids, bats, galagids, hystricids and glirids in the speleothem man and Tarawan Fms), Paleocene–Early Eocene carbon- deposits at Qarat Sheikh Abdallah, an indicative of a humid ate (Tarawan and Farafra Fms), and Post-Eocene–Miocene/ paleoclimatic regime between 11 and 10 Ma, with mean Oligocene fluvial and Quaternary sediments (Figs. 12B, C, annual rainfall of more than 1200 mm. The record of the El Aref et al. 2021). The record of vertebrate fossils in the faults, joints, fissures, and fractures, acting as the pathways red soils of the karst carbonate plateau of the El Bahariya- for the water infiltration in the speleothem deposits, facili- Farafra and limestone excavation in East Beni Suef (Khashm tates the carbonate dissolution (Figs.11A, 12A, and 13C, D). El-Raqaba) dated to the Late Miocene (Pickford, et al. 2006; Such structural patterns trigger the creation of sinkholes/ Wanas et al. 2009., Mein and Pickford 2010; Gunnell et al. dolines and collapsed unroofed caves that are filled by col- 2016). loform crustified  calcite layers, forming flowstones that The karst sequences are well categorized by subsidence, are favorable to form karst phenomena (Figs. 12D and 13). tilting, and sagging of the carbonate rocks with unconform- Most of the unroofed caves display remarkable remaining able overlying Khoman Fm (Figs. 12B, C). Spherical-shaped karst architectures like lion’s head or crocodile-like forms hollows (kamenitza) characterize the speleothem deposits (Figs. 14A, B). (Fig. 12D). Roots of plants/or fossils remains (?) crustified 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 15 of 30 94 Fig. 12 A Paleokarst surface separates Upper Cretaceous Khoman with conglomerate and sandstone (SS) beds with distinctive solution Chalk (Khoman Fm) at the base from Paleocene sagged chalky car- cavities. C Paleokarst surface between Paleocene sagged chalky car- bonates (Tarawan Fm) that are covered by Miocene/Oligocene  con- bonates (Tarawan Fm) and Eocene bedded limestone beds (Farafra glomerate beds and red soils of fluvial and Quaternary sediments at Fm). D Close-up view of unroofed caves that are filled with colloform the top. Note that faults crosscut the exposed rock units involving Flu- crustified calcite layers (flowstones). Notice that abundant solution vial/Quaternary sediments. B Paleokarst surface between Upper Cre- dolines and plants/or traces of fossils remain (?), characterizing Kho- taceous Khoman Chalk (Khoman Fm) and Paleocene sagged chalky man Chalk carbonates (Tarawan Fm). Notice the V-shaped depressions filled The cave walls are characterized by common cavernous colloform calcite layers forming flowstones (Figs.  15C, D). weathering involving honeycomb and tafoni geomorpho- Calcite crystals in the solution channels/opening and vugs logical phenomena (Figs.  3D, 4A, and 14C). The latter (Fig. 16A) vary in morphology and size from micro- to occur as spherical or elliptical cavities/vugs that vary in macrocrystalline crystals (up to 20 cm) and form beds, size from 0.5 to 2 cm. These cavities/vugs may indicate attaining a few meters in thickness and ~ 5 m in extension. events of ascending water flow and the probable occur - Sometimes, these crystals have a branching, curved, or rence of hypogene karst systems during the past pluvial spiral shape and may grow in any direction, forming helic- periods (Ford and Williams 1989; Williams 2008). The tite speleothems (Fig. 16B). Stalagmite samples within the most public speleothem-forming minerals are calcite crys- speleothems of the intra-Eocene Wadi Sannur cave, East- tals ((Hill and Forti 1986) that are well exposed at Crystal ern Desert, Egypt, gave a time of less than 200,000 years Mountain, near Qarat El Sheikh Abdalha (Fig. 1C). They ago based on uranium–thorium dating(Dabous and form the famous sinter styles such as solution channels Osmond 2000). All the architectures of the crustified cal- (Fig.  14C), dripstones (umbrella-shaped stalactites and cite crystals would possibly attract the attention of visitors. stalagmites, Figs.  13B, 14D, and 15A), karst windows The caves, karst towers, and inselbergs are the main or solution channels (Figs. 14B and 15B), and crustified nesting habitat for sooty falcons (Fig. 16C) in the Bahariya 1 3 94 Page 16 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 13 A Collapsed caves (speleothems) that are superimposed con- curtain structures. C, D Collapsed unroofed caves with sagged struc- glomerate beds and silt soils forming Miocene/Oligocene fluvial sedi- tures filled with crustified calcite layers and red soil. Notice that faults ments, and both of them lie under bedded sagged limestone beds. B controlled the cave borders Sagged carbonate beds with typical cavernous surfaces and drape/ Depression and WDNP, similar to unique cave and karst the highest total value and final standing among the inven- features that host a set of bird species (Anderson and Fer- tory and valuation of El Bahariya-Farafra geomophosites. ree 2010). The number of sooty falcon pairs recorded in Karst sites gained more than ten points (Table 1), which this National Park ranges from 33 to 101 annually from can be measured as an appropriate state for geotourism 2009 to 2013 (Salama et al. 2020). This natural phenom- improvement, but these potentials are not completely enon encourages geotourism and fascinates a lot of guests. developed. They have high VSE, particularly in the item of rarity, representativeness, and geological diversity, because chief outcrops are well conserved, signifying Results intact landforms, and have an assortment of geoscience characteristics (diverse karst geomorphosites, lithological The outputs of the arithmetic and qualitative evaluation variations, faults/fractures, unconformities, and hydrogeo- are shown in Tables  1 and 2. Table  2 shows the SWOT logical facets are present). Furthermore, the high scientific analysis established on the evaluation and acts as a center values are due to their scarcity and/or the convenience for precise plans of geotourist activities. The indicators of scientific awareness, which justify the need for man- and subindicators were earmarked based on an appraisal agement through the evaluation of these sites (Brilha and of geotourismʼs literature and scenic/geosite assessments. Reynard 2018). Similarly, the study of specific karst phe- The results in Table 1 show that the Main values have high nomena such as calcite crystals forming the famous sinter scores if compared with those for the Additional values. El forms, such as dripstones (stalactites, stalagmites) and Aref et al. (2017b) documented that the WDNP achieved flowstones (colloform crustified calcite layers) observed 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 17 of 30 94 Fig. 14 A, B Examples of the outstanding sculptures of residual karst fied calcite. Notice the occurrence of honeycombs and tafoni weath- forms at Qaret El Sheikh Abdallah show a lion head-like form (A) ered surfaces at the channel walls. D Umbrella-shaped stalagmites in and a crocodile-like form (B). Notice the observed open channel or the form of pillars/or columns karst window. C Folded and titled solution channel filled with crusti- in speleothems at QSA and CM (Figs.  13, 14, and 15), amusing value, which could be better endorsed to inspire provides information about paleoclimate. The clarification entertaining activities. The whole karst topography, as well of paleoclimate is of precise scientific interest for guests as the sites’ high aesthetic eminence, represent highly super- and visitors because it provides knowledge about the his- fluous values. Furthermore, most of these karst features have torical strength (amount vs. time), outgassing, pH changes, moderate to high values of representativity because they perseverance of rainfall, temperature variations, rock type, form well-exposed appearances like mushrooms, inselbergs, soil carbon sequestration, and the universal atmosphere and bridge/tower karsts, but others have low values of repre- (Sánchez and Lobo 2018). sentativity, e.g., speleothem karsts (or degraded caves). With The subindicators of scientific and educational values respect to viewpoints, surface, and surrounding landscape, possess a moderate to high level. The geomorphological karst sites have the highest VSA, like the natural sculptures landforms are vital for the understanding of the improve- or speleothem deposits, which gain an assured level of aes- ment of the WDNP. Initially, the rarity of the karst landforms thetic and visual value, like Crystal Mountain. On the other is high because of the presence of unique landscapes that hand, some Main values attain the lowest score (e.g., items are highly developed tourist endpoints. Karst Lake, wind II.4, II.5, II.6., II.8., Table 1) because the WDNP spreads sculpture landforms, speleothems, Karren/Lappies karst, and over a small region having little awareness of geoscientific stromatolite-like tufa denote some of the rare karst wonders subjects and interpretation level. in the WDNP. The former may be considered natural con- Karst sites are sheltered on a national level and are ditions for swimming (Figs. 3A, B), which is a real termi- recorded on the list of protected regions of the Egyptian nus for nature-based tourism. It owns high appealing and Environmental Affairs Agency. The White Desert National 1 3 94 Page 18 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Fig. 15 A Close-up view of unroofed stalagmites (dripstone). B (flowstones) that are considered the main constituents of the cave fill- Folded and titled solution channel forming a karst window that is ings. Notice the observed underlying clast-supported conglomerate filled with crustified calcite. C, D Colloform crustified calcite layers (C) and occurrence of wide deep dolines/hollows (D) Park has been listed as an IUCN category II-National Park with a lacking of tour guide facilities and organized excur- since 2002 (Ministerial Decree No. 2219/2002) for admin- sions. The WDNP has no sufficient tourist substructure and istration purposes (Fig.  16D). Protection value attains a amenities to identify and comprehend its landscape. Par- high score for karst sites, which allows visits of enormous ticularly notable is the lack of guide (lighting), dull path- tourist groups without triggering substantial destruction to ways, signal marks, trails, and planned excursions for visits. the ecosystem. Regarding VFn, the karst sites get a high Tourists are self-initiative when they visit these karst sites. mark, especially in the case of accessibility and proximity There are no interpretive panels that explain the diverse karst of the main road network (Fig.1B). This is notable because landforms, and they are completely absent. The closeness of an international main asphalt highway passes through the the karst sites in relation to the Research Center received a WDNP, joining the Bahariya and Farafra Oases together lower rating. Thus, visitors do not obtain useful information with a dense network of desert paths (Fig. 1B). By contrast, to understand each karst geomorphosite. Furthermore, the anthropogenic values achieve a low score. scientific awareness of the karst phenomena has not been The asphalt and desert roads have provided an appro- adequately established. The same conclusions are reached priate situation to visit the geomorphological heritage and by El Aref et al. (2017a), who concluded that adequate infra- improve both geotourism and educational activities in this structure and qualified staffs are lacking in education and region. Bahariya and Farafra Oases can provide solid, qual- interpretation. The additional studies on scientific clarifica- ity accommodation facilities, providing a visitor center for tion of the karst phenomena in the fields of geography and devious travel periods. The karst sites get a low score of VTr tourism are few if compared with several national publica- because there is not enough existence of tourism infrastruc- tions about karst themes (Antić and Tomić 2020). When ture, interpretive panels, and publicity activities together 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 19 of 30 94 Fig. 16 A Calcite crystals filling stretched cavities/vugs. B Calcite crystals forming a helictite architecture. C Sooty falcon bird in flight. D Guide signal for the protected White Desert National Park these weaknesses/or deficiencies are overcome, other factors values, it can be decided that all karsts maintain accept- of tourism enhancement can be realized. able advanced situations that are significant for tourism There are other subindicators of scenic/aesthetic val- development. A comprehensive plan study in the WDNP ues which should be evaluated. Viewpoints are imperative is compulsorily deliberated in order to diminish the break- because they give an attractive view to visitors. General down outputs, which have a great influence on the local discernibility of landforms is possible. Most parts of the residents and infrastructure, with the priority aim of tour- karsts are beautifully attractive to tourists, e.g., the karst ism growth. nests for bird species. The karst subject has a dazzling theme that achieves a high level in many scientific and SWOT Analysis non-scientific publications. The karst geomorphological processes permit a high to a moderate level that can be The SWOT analysis (Dony 2017) is a framework used to simply elucidated to a public visitor. Due to the lack of facilitate a realistic, fact-based, data-driven look at the tourism development in the WDNP, the preference and the strengths coupled with weaknesses of an organization, initia- annual quantity of planned visits are valued with the low- tives, or within its industry and evaluate a company/organi- est scores. The tourism development in the deserts could zation’s competitive position to develop strategic planning have a positive influence on indigenous and provincial (Table 2). It assesses internal and external factors as well tourism and economic advance if this central deficiency as current and future potential. The organization needs to is overwhelmed. It is required to focus on investment plans keep the analysis accurate by avoiding pre-conceived beliefs and improvement schemes through advertising and admin- or grey areas (ill-defined situations) and instead focusing istrative construction. After evaluating the functional on real-life contexts. Companies should use it as a guide 1 3 94 Page 20 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Table 1 Numerical assessment of karst sites in White Desert National Park, Western Desert, Egypt Indicators/subindicators Description Score Main indicators/subindicators   I. Integrity and current status The quality of being sincere 0.75   II. Scientific/Educational value     II.1. Rarity Number of closest identical sites 0.75     II.2. Representativeness Well-exposed classic characteristics of the site due to its good quality 0.75     II.3. Diversity of the Earth science features Assortment of natural phenomena like stratigraphy, geomorphology, fauna, 1.00 rocks/minerals, hydrology, etc     II.4. Knowledge on geoscientific issues Number of written papers in journals, presentations, and other publications 0.5     II.5. Level of interpretation Understanding of geological and geomorphologic phenomena 0.5     II.6. Paleogeographical significance Interpretation of paleogeography and climate change 0.25     II.7. Ecological value The development of diverse ecosystems 0.75     II.8. Cultural value The great attendance of karst heritage in the WDNP culture, appearing in 0.25 novels, stories, legends, and different artistic representations     II.9. Historical aspect Past history of cave karst 0.25   III. Scenic/Aesthetic     III.1. Viewpoints Number of viewpoints accessible by pedestrian pathways 0.75     III.2. Surface Whole surface of the site. Each site is considered in quantitative relation to the 0 others     III.3. Surrounding landscape and nature Panoramic view quality, presence of water and vegetation, absence of human- 0.75 induced deterioration, vicinity of an urban area     III.4. Environmental fitting of sites (aesthetic value) Level of contrast to nature, a contrast of colors, the appearance of shapes, etc 1.00   IV. Protection     IV.1. Current condition (protection status) Current state of the geosite 1.00     IV.2. Protection level Protection by local or regional groups, national government, international 0.75 organizations, etc     IV.3. Vulnerability (damages and threats) Vulnerability level of the geosite 0.50 Additional indicators/subindicators   I. Functional values     I.1. Accessibility Possibilities of approaching the site 0.75     I.2. Security Safety sides of visitors     I.3. Site context The principal attractive landscapes of the national park 1.00     I.4. Additional anthropogenic values Number of additional anthropogenic values in the radius of 5 km 0.25     I.5. Vicinity of emissive centers Closeness of emissive centers     I.6. Vicinity of the important road network Closeness of important road networks within a radius of 20 km 1.00     I.7. Additional functional values Parking lots, gas stations, mechanics, etc 0.5   II. Tourist values     II.1. Promotion Level and number of promotional resources 0     II.2. Interpretative panels Interpretative characteristics of text and graphics, material quality, size, fitting 0.25 to surroundings, etc     II.3. Number of visitors Annual number of visitors 0     II.4. Tourism infrastructure Level of additional infrastructure for tourists (pedestrian pathways, resting 0 places, garbage cans, toilets, etc.)     II.5. Tour guide service If existing, expertise level, knowledge of foreign language(s), interpretative 0.25 skills, etc     II.6. Hostelry service Hostelry service close to geosite 0.25     II.7. Restaurant service Restaurant service close to geosite 0.25   III. Conservation values     III.1. Legislative protection Lawmaking for protection 0.5     III.2. Current threats Present-day intimidations/terrorizations of geosite 0.75 Total value 15 Sources: Vujičić et al. (2011), Reynard et al. (2016), and Román et al. (2020) 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 21 of 30 94 Table 2 SWOT analysis of the karst sites of geotourist interest SWOT Remarks Strengths The attendance of zonation map of karst landforms Close to main roads and Bahariya/Farafra cities The WDNP has been declared a protected area in 2002 High scientific and educational values Features of amusing or tourism consequences (e.g., karst lake, tower/bridge karst, sculptures of birds, turtles, and animals, etc.) Nests for endangered bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, signifying a close link between karst landform and biological diversity Opportunities Interpretation of links between karst landforms and biological diversity and understanding of geomorphological changes as an important source for environmental education Infrastructures are available Good public convenience The conceptual cooperation between universities and research institutions should be initiated in the field of geodiversity, eco- system, and geotourism Weaknesses No training courses/or programs for attendants and local inhabitants as official guides for karst sites The absence of public awareness and educational materials for visitors Lack of brochures, panels, and guidebooks The educational recreational and tourist potential of geomorphosite phenomena are not recognized by the public The development plan for geotourism is not involved in the development strategies Threats Erosion and degradation hazards (wind action, climate change, natural catastrophes) An increase of urban areas close to protected expanses, resulting in changes in hydrological regimes which may destroy natural landforms Lack of finance for the advancement of geodiversity and geotourism outputs The development of the geotourism concept is still misunderstood Lack of interest in geodiversity and geoheritage on the part of authorities and the public in the future The bad performance of local inhabitants or visitors leads to intimidation of the study area and not necessarily as a prescription. The SWOT analysis to reach this National Park through general and local roads has already been used by many researchers (Kubalíková and by minibusses to the park entrance, giving an appropriate Kirchner 2013, 2016; Boukhchim et al. 2018; Carrión Mero conveyance and high accessibility. The SWOT analysis et al. 2018; Ateş and Ateş 2019), which represents a vital has proved that the WDNP can be considered a composite step in the assessment of geosites because it (1) provides region for the progress of geotourism actions and mak- assessment view about strengths, weaknesses, opportuni- ing exact geotourist outputs (a geopath). Furthermore, ties, and threats; (2) serves as a root for grouping of these it shows that the study area has undergone the effect characteristics into other scheduling brochures/booklets and of a positive or negative influence on karst geoheritage the provincial development policies or site management; and (Table 2). Concerning positive creativeness, the WDNP (3) gives comprehensible vision about geodiversity and geo- has a well-prepared zonation map of karst landforms (El heritage concept for the broader community, consultants, Aref et  al. 2017a). The White Desert has a substantial management, and other organizations. The SWOT analysis number of natural geoheritage landscapes with abundant serves as a foundation for geotourist and geoeducational exceptional features. The latter has international promi- event applications, providing an explanation for applying nence and geotouristic attractions which can be appreci- precise preservation measures (both natural and cultural) to ated within the forthcoming UNESCO Global Geopark. certain locations (Kubalíková et al. 2020). These sites can Moreover, most of the karst morphologies can be used as then be confirmed as protected areas and should be incorpo- nests for threatened bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, which rated into the planning strategies. fascinates a lot of tourists and visitors. All these positive Several papers have mentioned the use of protracted impacts have allowed us to declare the White Desert a SWOT analysis for geoheritage and geopark areas (Car- national park in 2002. In order to establish the WDNP as rión Mero et  al. 2018; Kubalíková 2019). However, its an ambitious Universal Geopark, a series of steps should use is not public in geotourism research (Kubalíková et al. be planned to protect the geoheritage sites. Regarding the 2020). The White Desert is already a national geopark negative influence, the karst geoheritages lie under the with an incomplete infrastructure that is located midway condition of degradation (water/wind erosion and degrada- between Bahariya and Farafra Oases (Fig. 1B). It is easy tion hazards) and deprivation, owing to the lack of actual 1 3 94 Page 22 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 strategies of geoconservation and fortification. There are Guests traveling to geosites need to know the geologi- no systematic training courses/or programs for employees cal and geomorphological landscapes as well as the phe- and tour guides in the protected natural areas. Moreover, nomena linked to biodiversity and culture as declared in there is no communication with the stakeholder team of the description of the geotourism designation. Some of the well-known universal geoparks. Local residents are not karst sites are unique biological habitats, indicative of their conscious of the meaning and appreciation of geoheritage. ecological significance, like the development of an amazing They also have low intelligence and awareness of environ- flora (bioturbation by mangrove roots) and fossil remains mental conservation. All the geoheritage sites lack educa- (Figs. 8A and 12D) that add supplementary enthusiasm for tion materials, instructional signs, and geological interpre- itinerants to visit these sites. Wanas et al. (2009) recorded tations. As commended by Martín-Duque et al. (2012) in endemic faunal species including anurans, snakes, soricids, those circumstances whereas the impact of human action bats, galagids, hystricids, and glirids in speleothem karst enlarge the welfares and improve the endorsement to geo- at Qaret El Sheikh Abdallha (Fig. 1C), providing evidence heritage, the subsequent equilibrium should be measured of a humid palaeoclimatic nature during karstic geomor- as positive and well-matched with geoconservation. phological processes. Moreover, the karst landforms have uniform environmental situations for nesting and breeding of migratory birds (e.g., sooty falcon, Fig. 16D). Nests for Discussion endangered bird species, e.g., sooty falcon, signify a close relationship between karst landform and biological diversity Assessment Significance of Karst Sites (Salama et al. 2020), justifying their ecological importance. for Geotourism Development The fortification of bird species depends on the protection of their territories. Without acceptable preservation actions, All natural heritage landscapes have been recorded in the these nests may become fragile sites and will perhaps result region of the WDNP. These denote surface karst features, in the extermination of the wild bird inhabitants, which are springs, valleys/gorges, and other geomorphological phe- dynamic homelands for them (McGrady et al. 2010). The nomena. The diverse, exceptional, and pretty karst landforms protection of biodiversity and increasing information about of the WDNP resulted from numerous paleo-karstification its value is a vital introductory stage towards the sustain- processes during the Cretaceous-Oligocene/Miocene paleo- able growth of geotourism, especially ecotourism. Hence, topographic evolution of the tropical paleoclimate (El Aref the existence of miscellaneous geological/geomorphological et al. 2021) along with wind or tectonic actions (Said 1960; and biological features having scientic, fi educational, scenic, 1962). They have a high impending for geotourism improve- and ecological impact could assist in attracting tourists with ment, scientific/educational uses, and promotion of geologi- diverse interests. An understanding of these ecosystems is cal and geomorphological heritage, as has been shown in required to advance and justify their administration in order other studies (Migoń and Pijet-Migoń 2016; Szepesi et al. to reserve them against environmental threats. 2017). Regarding scientific, scenic, and recreational values, The karst sites have a deprived quality of informative the karst sites receive high scores, which reveal that these panels (site description, fluent explanation, clarifications of sites are currently the most appropriate for tourism activi- processes and miracles, the level of protection). Info sheets, ties. The latter has the possibility to convert the WDNP into signs, and panels should deliver guests precious knowledge tourism destinations and can meaningfully add to scarcity and fascinating proof that increase the entire interpretation improvement in various portions of the evolving world like picture (Fig. 17). The latter aids the visitors in comprehend- Egypt (Newsome and Dowling 2006). Furthermore, the ing the routes and geological wonders in order to understand development of geotourism undertakings can aid to dis- the site’s surroundings. Normally, info sheets offer knowl- cover auxiliary reserves of income for the societies exist- edge on the length and duration of the walking path, difficul- ing adjacent to these fascinations (Khalaf and Abu El-Kheir ties, and additional distinct topographies. In the absence of 2022). The record of new karst sites and their proper devel- an assistant, interpretive panels reduce complicated natural opment can add to dispersed visitors’ span of stay in the processes and deliver expressive information about the geo- area. Besides evaluating the geosites for geotourism growth, site, the length of the tourist pathway, documentation, and indicators related to biodiversity were incorporated for a cautions, and simplify the program of guests. Geotourists are broad understanding of the environment and maintainable typically individuals who know little about geological and improvement. This is reinforced by the concept of Schrodt geomorphological phenomena, so a well-organized expla- et al. (2019), which say that “a universal approach that iden- nation model (Fig. 17) is required to comprehend complex tifies the reliability of the biotic constituents of ecosystems events (Crane and Fletcher 2016). is the most actual way to report comprehensive environmen- The instructive data about the geoheritage of karst sites are tal challenges.” inadequate because the funds required for advertising actions 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 23 of 30 94 Fig. 17 Explanatory panel for the protected White Desert National Park for explaining the main karst features (adapted from Huggett 2007), which facilitate the scientific/educational understanding for the guests and visitors are very restricted. So it is necessary to take advantage of as delivering a superfluous aspect to the guest᾿ s knowledge the desirability, inclusive attention region, and low charge of (Williams 2020). It is then necessary to dramatically enhance marketing via electronic media. The latter mainly refers to tourist values (tour guides, informative boards, and publicity) the use of Internet promotion and advertising actions that rep- to increase the whole tourist skill set and attract more travel- resent one of the key elements in marketing policies (Bratić ers and guests in the upcoming period. et  al. 2020). Supplementary improvement of geotourism should be centered on the Geographical Information System’s Maintainable Geotourism Improvement (GISʼs) usage and mobile presentations (Marinoni 2004), and Geoconservation which embody one of the cleverest and the most effective means to bring geotourism nearer to a comprehensive audi- The development and management of geotourism are consid- ence (Filocamo et al. 2020). The utilization of GIS, which ered an intricate job (Newsome and Dowling 2018). The van- is an appreciated utensil for rapid management and intricate ishing of the negative influences on tourism through geocon- data handling, can assist in land use and evaluation process servation groups is the main goal of geotourism (Gray 2008). for geotourism (Marinoni 2004). The goal of the mobile Sustainability is one of the principal purposes of geotourism, application aims to offer various geotourism knowledge which should increase through the enlarged consciousness of (merging geological fascinations with extra tourist magnet- visitors and the indigenous community about the prominence ism) and yield several favorites for comprehensive audiences of conserving the geological heritage. This action has been (Marjanović et al. 2021). Geotourism advertising through a done through geological teaching and understanding (New- mobile presentation has been successfully applied in several some and Dowling 2006). Geoconservation signposts how geoparks worldwide (Perotti et al. 2020). The publicity of much people accept their responsibility to natural wonders karst sites in the WDNP aids in improving the government’s and their strategies to preserve geosites, geodiversity, geo- and people’s consciousness of the geoheritage values as well logical processes, and their fluctuations (Sharples 2002; Hose 1 3 94 Page 24 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 2005; Schutte 2009). It is likewise vital that the growth of The Bahariya/Farafra Territory is one of the most hyper- tourism improvement is made in a justifiable style to ensure arid deserts in the world with the scarcest rainfall rate during continuous economic advantage from tourism in the region. the last 7000 years (El Aref et al. 2021). The natural environs The so-called speleo-tourism, associated with ecotourism occupying this territory have significant geoheritage sites, and adventure tourism, should develop as activities that add achieving very high rankings for tourism destinations, such as to the protection of the karst heritage by producing revenue geological and geomorphological fascinations, as well as cul- and increasing the value accredited to the local populations tural and historical sites that are very gorgeous and attractive (Sánchez and Lobo 2018). situations for tourists and guests. Plentiful natural landscapes This is well-matched with the concept of Wartiti et al. in these areas are detected, such as surface karst landforms, (2008), which says that geoheritage sites have to be accu- hot freshwater springs, volcanic landforms, iron mineraliza- rately achieved to create jobs and novel economic doings, tions, palm trees, palaeontological localities like the Cenoma- especially in districts lacking few sources of income. nian Dinosaur site in Bahariya Oasis, and sand dunes, along The karst geological landscapes labeled in this work are with Black Desert consisting of black cone hills (El Aref et al. appreciated and fascinating for geotourism. The demonstra- 2006; Plysnina et al. 2016; Khalaf et al. 2019). In addition, tion of the evaluation outcomes of the main and additional indigenous anniversaries, old-fashioned houses, ancient roads, values (Table 1) could help in comprehending the grade of temples, and caves, together with Safari journeys and camping, the geosites and ranking them for maintainable geotourism add attractions to the visitors in these areas, which establish progress. Such a presentation of outcomes could be con- an innovative style for geotourism that can be managed by nected to a suitable entire tourism improvement, promo- overseas and indigenous tourists. These outstanding geological tion, and administration strategy that improve maintainable landscapes reinforce that the WDNP and its surrounding areas development (Vujičić et al. 2011). Thus, superiority in the are a central province for geotourism improvement and have a advertising and improvement of necessary services and favorable circumstance to develop as Global Geopark, which infrastructure could be given to the karst sites, representing would become the territory’s model tourist destination. The principal urgency in geotourism growth. consequences of several numerous studies have revealed (Gray Certain itineraries can provide satisfactory convenience et al. 2013a, b; Kot 2017) that the multiplicity of landscapes to geomorphological heritage and should be taken into con- like the WDNP and its neighboring places have an excessive sideration for handling tourists and geotouristic uses through potential to offer different geosystem amenities. However, it sustainable geotourism development. The WDNP can be held is imperative to incorporate the outcomes of geodiversity and liable for the administration of these ways in order to improve biodiversity investigations (Gray 2018; Brilha et al. 2018; Zar- the administration of guests and, consequently, enhance the netske et al. 2019) for the promotion of geosystem facilities, protection of geomorphological heritage and, lastly, main- geomorphological heritages, and administration along with tainable improvement of geotourism. Organizing geo-inter- preservation objectives of the WDNP. pretation conveniences and facilities at the visited geosites The other way is by constructing awareness for the indig- is one of these ways. In Africa, geology is “ignored in guide- enous populations about geotourism and the reputation of books and by excursion operators, and most tourists obtain geosites. Creating an approach to how the general public can little knowledge about the geology of the visited regions,” benefit from geotourism is likewise imperative. This marks its as has been observed by Thomas and Asrat (2018). As a potential to acquire community assistance in protecting geo- consequence, impending geotourism improvements should sites, building local inhabitants—guest dealings, and devel- be made to offer sufficient familiarity, such as scientific and oping maintainable geotourism. Karst sites in the WDNP are instructive magnitude, about the geosites for tourists. Tour- influenced by natural and anthropogenic processes, includ- ism infrastructure, monitoring visitors, stakeholders in man- ing contamination, gravel quarrying, urbanization, soil ero- agement, and the development of education from dissimilar sion, and degradation hazards (wind action, climate change, facets, providing interpretive facilities are also involved. natural catastrophes). The preparation and implementation of To increase the number of visitors to the WDNP, it is vital a legislative agenda and management design for the geosites to increase tourism services and entertainment activities are portions of the resolution in solving these difficulties for like cave surveys, trekking, climbing, paragliding, camp- conservation, geosite protection, and sustainable geotourism ing, and biking. Guests can also enjoy watching birds and improvement. Supplementary studies are required to develop their nests. Along with these geotouristic activities, tourists profitable and maintainable tourism, such as geological and can also make excursions and ecotours to local communi- geomorphological mapping, analysis of geological and envi- ties such as Bahariya/Farafra oases to gain knowledge about ronmental susceptibility, and comprehensive evaluation of human–environment interaction. The Bahariya/Farafra oases the substantial topographies that outline the region’s geoher- were confirmed under law number 102/1983 in the context of itage. Preparing combined geoheritage maps, explanatory sheltered regions in Egypt (Fig. 1). panel diagrams (Fig. 17), and identifying promising sites for 1 3 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Page 25 of 30 94 understanding the different karst landforms and their environ- activities should be upgraded and prolonged to the national ment complications in the WDNP along with its surround- level, as well as the organization of websites comprising more ings are mandatory for geotourism, inventors, managers, and geosite information, better demonstration at tourism carni- liable organizations (Reynard et al. 2016; Melelli et al. 2017). vals, more informative and imaginative brochures, and sketch The sustainable tourism administration strategy of the region maps as a guide for tourist excursions. Furthermore, organ- for long-term economic profit is active in ensuring that geo- izing collaborative workshops and education for tourists with logical topographies are preserved, protected, and applied. It dissimilar objectives would meaningfully enhance tourists’ is expected that this research will deliver crucial information awareness of maintainable improvement and the importance for emerging geotourism strategy, design, and administration of the karst geosites as geoeducation and geointerpretation, as well as emphasize the capacities of the WDNP and its sur- which are vital tasks in the confirmation of geotourism and roundings for establishing a Global Geopark. All of these steps its development. The collaboration of universities, research can be officially used as an actual tool to advance the protec- institutions, and the design of geotourism programs through tion of geological features in the Western Desert. A geopark the application of effective realism will aid not only to facili- is credible to motivate pronounced attentiveness among the tate the broadcasting and knowledge of appreciated karst geo- visitors and the residents to learn more about geology and, morphological heritage but also contribute definitively to the therefore, help in propagating geosciences. It will also support sustainable development of rustic areas as well as to the active the privilege that tourism can be sustainably advanced by mak- participation of local communities in this development. All ing use of prevailing natural topographies without excessive of these enhancements will improve tourism infrastructure as assets and with minimum damage to the environment. well as the resident economy and community participation, together with an advance in the awareness of the indigenous inhabitants and authorities regarding the requirement for Conclusion maintainable use and organization of geoheritage. With an attitude that integrates the organization of geotourism and its Egypt has several protected areas with geoheritage, geodi- administration (comprising collaboration between community versity, and biodiversity, as evidenced by the number of ini- and secluded divisions), a number of positive influences could tiatives and resources implementations. The WDNP that lies be proposed in the future. in Bahariya-Farafra halfway links to one of these sheltered Supplementary Information The online version contains supplemen- regions in the WD. This manuscript presents the evaluation tary material available at https://doi. or g/10. 1007/ s12371- 022- 00727-3 . of geomorphological karst landscapes as a potential geotour- ism in the WDNP. The latter has many different types of karst Acknowledgements The author thanks Profs. Piotr Migoń, University features due to its diversity in geologic and climatic regimes. of Wrocław, Poland, and Heros Lobo, Federal de São Carlos University, Brazil, for their comments on earlier versions, which helped improve Miscellaneous fluvial and karstic landforms together with rock this manuscript. An anonymous reviewer improved the quality of the types, faults/fractures, unconformity surfaces, and dry valleys/ paper and is gratefully acknowledged. Comments by editor Kevin Page gorges are only part of the geomorphodiversity of the WDNP helped enlighten the manuscript significantly. and its surroundings, which needs distinctive awareness for geotourism advancement, management, and scientific/educa- Funding Open access funding provided by The Science, Technology & tional uses. In fact, the various karst features can play a vital Innovation Funding Authority (STDF) in cooperation with The Egyp- tian Knowledge Bank (EKB). role in endorsing the attractiveness, scientific, educational, and aesthetic value of geomorphological heritage and its bet- Declarations ter understanding. The results of geomorphosite assessments signpost that the analyzed karst sites maintain generous geo- Competing Interests The author declares no competing interests. tourism potential for creating the WDNP a geotourism pur- pose or world heritage and geopark. However, there are many Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri- actions for the enhancement of additional functional values, bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta- tourist infrastructure, interpretative panels, visitor centers, tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long authorized tour guide amenities, and interpretative boards as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, that permit geological and geomorphological topographies provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are to be presented to tourists. Policy strategies together with the included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated participation of the local inhabitants must be applied in order otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in to exploit the total use of tourism as possible, leading to pro- the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not vincial economic development and highlighting the site of the permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a WDNP in the tourist market. In order for the karst geomor- copy of this licence, visit http://cr eativ ecommons. or g/licen ses/ b y/4.0/ . phosites to have a positive economic influence, promotional 1 3 94 Page 26 of 30 Geoheritage (2022) 14: 94 Capezzuoli E, Gandin A, Pedley M (2014) Decoding tufa and travertine References (fresh water carbonates) in the sedimentary record: the state of the art. Sedimentol 61:1–21 Abdel Tawab S (2013) Karst limestone geohazards in Egypt and Saudi Carrión Mero P, Herrera Franco G, Briones J (2018) Geotourism and Arabia. 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Journal

GeoheritageSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 1, 2022

Keywords: White Desert National Park; Karst landforms; Geotourism; SWOT analysis; Geosite assessment; Sustainable development

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