An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the vast expanse of Egypt’s Western Desert, just west of the Nile River. This oblique view shows almost the entire southern half of Egypt, with a swath of parallel wind streaks marking the arid landscape. A line of small clouds casts shadows on the desert below.
Two darker patches in the photo stand out against the light desert sand. These are large agricultural projects at East Oweinat and Toshka New Valley, near Lake Nasser. Approximately one-third of the Egyptian labor force works in farming, with most agricultural production concentrated along the Nile Valley. The pioneering agricultural projects shown above were planned to encourage people to leave the very heavily populated Nile Delta and to seek economic opportunities in the desert.
The New Valley farming project draws its water from the Toshka Lakes. Development began in the late 1990s. By the early 2000s, water levels dropped and the area of the lakes had shrunk (as did neighboring Lake Nasser) due to lower water inputs for a number of years. The lakes are barely discernable in this image.
Fresh water for East Oweinat is pumped from underground aquifers, and it is a non-renewable resource. The fossil water underground accumulated between 20,000 and 5,000 years ago when the Sahara was much wetter.
Astronaut photograph ISS054-E-54281 was acquired on April 11, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 105 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.