White Desert, Egypt
Egypt in the minds of most people is a package tourism on the Red Sea coast. Few people even think about what is behind the fence of a five-star hotel. And you know, in vain. This African country can surprise even the most sophisticated traveler. Today I will tell you about the White Desert of Egypt. After our two-week solo trip through the country, this place left the strongest impression. Look for all the reviews in the section on Egypt.
Further details about the organizational part of such a trip, brief impressions of each stage and a lot of photos. Let’s go!
ABOUT THE WHITE DESERT OF EGYPT
Let’s first go over the introductory information. What is it and where is it located?
The White Desert is the eastern part of the world famous Sahara. It is located about 500 km. from the capital of Egypt, Cairo. For tourism purposes, this region began to be developed more recently. In 2002 the White Desert was declared a national park. Since then, a thin stream of travelers in search of new emotions and adventures began to make their way here.
WHAT TO KNOW
In more than two decades of history, the national park has failed to grow into a developed tourist product. There are many reasons for this, I will try to share the facts I learned during my trip:
- Remoteness from civilization . The White Desert, as strange as it may sound, is in the desert. It is hundreds of miles of lifeless sand in every direction. The only strongholds of civilization here are the rare Bedouin settlements.
- The relationship with the ethnic inhabitants is complicated . All of these territories are for the most part inhabited by Bedouins. The government’s relations with the indigenous minorities are extremely strained. Any deployment of major tourist clusters in this region could provoke the Bedouins to violent attacks and to defend their historic homeland.
- Terrorist Threat . Egypt is a country where, unfortunately, the situation is always tense. Radical groups can move around the Sahara. The situation is especially difficult on the border with Libya. In the White Desert, a tragedy once happened to a tourist group from Mexico. But this was the fault of the military, who were patrolling the territory and mistook the jeeps with the group for terrorists on whom a hunt was declared in the area. Twelve people died in that tragedy.
Visiting the White Desert is a certain level of risk. It is important that you are aware of it and take the organization of such a trip seriously and responsibly. By no means I want to frighten you. If you take the right approach to planning, your visit will go smoothly. You will have a better chance of getting poisoned on an all-inclusive trip than getting into trouble in the White Desert.
WHITE DESERT TRIP ARRANGEMENTS
No matter what part of our planet we go to, everywhere we try to organize the trip ourselves. Starting from the general plan of the trip and ending with visiting individual attractions. The White Desert in Egypt is one case where coordinating a trip on your own is not possible. Here are a few problems that prevent you from seeing this region of the country on your own:
- You can rent a car at Cairo airport, but your trip to the White Desert will most likely end at the first checkpoint outside the city. Due to the terrorist threat in Egypt, it is forbidden for unaccompanied tourists to move around the country on their own.
- The sights of the White Desert. Where are they? There are no tourist maps or booklets. Google maps, Mapsme, forget it. Nothing is marked anywhere. The route is only in the heads of the Bedouins.
- Even if you get a route, how do you get there? Driving in the desert requires a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle and the ability to drive through the dunes.
In general, get rid of the idea of organizing a trip to the White Desert on your own. Even if you break through the roadblocks, you won’t be able to see anything on your own. Unless you just take a ride on the paved highway and then back.
You can visit the White Desert comfortably and safely only with a guide. Keep in mind that your choice of guide will determine not only your impressions of the trip, but also, to some extent, your life. Having made a cheap choice and trusting people from the street you can expose yourself to a very real threat. Be vigilant when choosing an organizer for your trip to Egypt’s White Desert.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN ORGANIZER
In my opinion, the safest way is to book an individual guide through online services:
. We took an individual trip here. Everything was great. Very knowledgeable Egyptian guide, who told a lot of interesting facts about local life. . There are many more choices of organizers. You can also join a group if an individual trip seems expensive. The guides, as a rule, do not speak Russian. Type in a search for White Desert.
Another option is to google on the Internet or take a trip on the fact in Cairo in a hotel or from the street. I do not recommend using these options. The risk of getting into an unpleasant situation is increased. The $100 saved is clearly not worth it.
WHAT ROUTE TO CHOOSE
There are several variations of visiting Egypt’s White Desert. From a one-day round trip from Cairo to an extended 5-7 day trek across the entire Western Sahara.
The most common option is a one-night visit to the White Desert. This option involves leaving Cairo in the morning, visiting several locations in the desert during the day, and spending the night in a tent. Then meeting sunrise in the morning and driving back to Cairo.
We visited the White Desert in exactly this format. Below I will describe in detail all stages of such a trip. In my opinion, it is the most suitable for the first acquaintance with the desert. It’s silly to drive here from Cairo for one day, after all, the road is 500 km one way. Spending 4-5 nights in the desert will also be quite difficult without the comforts.
ITINERARY OF THE WHITE DESERT OF EGYPT
I will write briefly and abstractly with timestamps and short comments, diluting them with photos. Also, for a general understanding of the logistics, the map with the marks below will come in handy. The points themselves are very tentative, but give a general idea of distances and locations.
Departure time from Cairo: 07:00
The trip was an individual one, you could leave at any time you wanted. But it is recommended to do it as early as possible, as the road is quite long. Exactly at 7 am a car with a driver and a Russian-speaking guide picked us up from the hotel. By the way, I can recommend quite a decent hotel in the center of Cairo with a bombastic view of the Nile – Kempinski Nile Hotel. I stayed here for a couple of nights.
Visiting time: 11:30 – 12:30
It takes about four and a half hours to get from Cairo to the first key point. To be honest, the time flew by unnoticed. All the way we were staring out the window. First on the flying residential areas of Cairo, then on the endless lifeless territories of Egypt. The views are apocalyptic. Along the road there are overturned cars, burnt-out car wrecks. It is unreasonably expensive to remove the mangled equipment, so they dump it right in the desert.
A huge plus is the Russian-speaking guide. For two days he told a lot of interesting things about the simple life and life of the Egyptians.
Let’s go back to the White Desert. The first point is the oasis of Baharia. An oasis in Egypt is not at all what our imagination draws us based on Oriental fairy tales. Yes, there is water, palm trees, and the land is fertile; they even grow something on it. But Baharia is not an oriental fairy tale. It looks more like a slum. Mostly Bedouins live in the oasis. Life here is very disconnected from modern civilization. There are no police or government offices in the community. The Bedouins themselves do not even have documents. The head of the community is a sheikh. They live solely on the basis of tradition and customs.
In Baharia we had lunch at a cafe and changed from a sedan to an SUV. From here the real journey into the White Desert was already beginning. Our team had changed slightly, the driver of the sedan remained in Baharia. We now had two Bedouins with us. One driver, the other his assistant. They deftly packed everything we needed for the night in the desert on the roof of the old Land Rover and we moved on.
Time of Visit: 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm
About 15 minutes after leaving the oasis the scenery began to change dramatically, we entered the Black Desert National Park. This is an area of volcanic sand.
We had a stop here for 30 minutes. Just enough time to climb the nearest hill and look around. It was an impressive, somewhat primal sight.
Time of visit: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Drove to the next stop for about 40 minutes. This location is known for the crystal rock on the mountain. You can not see it in the photo, it is very beautiful in person. In the sun, the crystals glisten.
The mountain itself is located just off the main road. When you go to the sands, you understand why you need a four-wheel drive jeep. Especially when going uphill from acceleration.
It was another 30 minutes or so on the highway and we were in the desert. No signs, roads, etc. At one point a Bedouin saw a landmark that only he knew and without thinking, he accelerated through the sands. From here began the most amazing and fascinating part of the trip, we finally got to the White Desert of Egypt.
Step by step, what we did here and how it was timed.
Jeep rides on the barchans.
Time of visit: 15:00 – 15:30
Adrenaline, smiling like a kid. If you have never raced in a jeep in the desert, it will be difficult to understand these emotions. Accelerating up to 80-100 km/h along the incomprehensible trajectory, bypassing the rocks and hillocks to climb to the top from the summer. And then the descent down a steep slope.
Snowboarding in the desert.
Show time: 3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Classic of the genre. We take a board, sit on it and rush down the barkhan. Unforgettable experience. I never would have thought that this attraction is so captivating. It’s true that climbing up with the board is quite hard on loose sand. We had enough for just a couple of rides.
Overnight stay in the White Desert.
Visiting time: 16:30 – 06:00
From here on, I’ll combine all my impressions into one block. After boarding, we headed deep into the desert, where we planned to spend the night.
The main feature of the White Desert is its bizarre geological formations. The processes of weathering and erosion had been forming them for thousands of years.
Another fact, the White Desert of Egypt is once the bottom of the ocean. And the sand underfoot is coral. Hence the amazing color.
Overnight stays in the national park have been forbidden for years. Tourist groups can only visit the desert as part of the day. However, who are these rules for anyway? Our jeep pulled up to the ranger who keeps order here. We dropped off some firewood, “paid our entrance fee” and went to set up camp.
The tourist’s job on this trip is to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding scenery as the sunset approaches. Bedouins and guide are busy setting up camp and cooking dinner.
After sunset, dinner and sitting around the campfire to the stories of the guide.
And after that – the most starry sky we’ve ever seen. Believe me, there is a lot to compare it with. I’m afraid that the sky in the White Desert will be difficult to beat.
In the morning rise at 5 am, breakfast and contemplation of the sunrise. And then the road to Cairo. The way back we made a total of 6 hours and at 1:00 pm were at the airport waiting for our flight to Luxor.
A few comments on the household stuff of an overnight stay in the White Desert in Egypt:
- We slept in a separate double tent. Bedouin and guide in a separate one where we had dinner set up. The tent is new and modern. We were given sleeping bags and blankets. We brought our own from Moscow. We put the ones we were given downstairs.
- The temperature drops sharply as the sun goes down in the desert. It was comfortable in a sleeping bag at +10 in November, and we wore a light jacket outside.
- About food. The dinner that the Bedouins cooked, without exaggeration, was one of the most delicious in all the time in Egypt. It is very simple and incredibly delicious food: grilled chicken, local soup, roast potatoes. Our job was just to eat.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VISITING THE WHITE DESERT
If you scrolled down here and looked at the pictures, you probably did not stay indifferent and now strongly believe that you should visit the White Desert of Egypt. I can only once again confirm it. Yes, go here, this wonderful place will add to the piggy bank of your most intrepid and exciting adventures.
All the details on the organization of the trip, I described above, in conclusion, a few recommendations:
- The most important thing is safety. Choose a trusted White Desert trip planner. Take an individual trip through Tripster with a Russian-speaking guide.
- Overnight stays in the desert are a must. There are different types of visits, including no overnight stay in the White Desert. In this case, you will miss all the most interesting things. The desert is truly revealing at sunset, with a starry sky at night and at dawn.
Everything else is just details. The main thing is a positive attitude, respect for local culture, and then you will discover the wonderful world of the Sahara, where very kind and original tribes live. I will never forget that dinner, sincere smile of the Bedouins and incredibly informative stories of the guide under the starry sky by the fire. Have a great trip to the White Desert of Egypt!
The White Desert is a national park in Egypt, a stretch in the north of the Farafra oasis. The White Desert is a stretch of the Sahara with an area of approximately 300 km.
Everyone who travels in Egypt can enjoy the beauty of the White Desert. It is important to appreciate for yourself the greatness of this national park.
White Desert National Park
The White Desert is a marvelous natural phenomenon that never fails to attract tourists to the multifaceted and mysterious Egypt. In the land of red-hot sands and mysterious pyramids, White Desert National Park seems to be “the eighth wonder of the world.
Once there was the bottom of the ancient ocean. But the waters have receded, leaving only karst formations that have formed a bizarre mountainous landscape. The magnificent white rocks are the remains of ancient marine organisms.
If you want to find yourself on another planet, leave your business and buy a ticket to Egypt. Once you’ve seen the White Desert and felt its grandeur, you won’t want to go back.
The White Desert is located north of the Farafra oasis. It is a small piece of flat terrain that is not easy to reach. Tourists prefer to come here from Cairo. You have to travel over 500 kilometers. But the roads are of good quality so you can travel quickly.
Only four hours and you are in the White Desert. Without an off-road vehicle is not necessary, because the sands are very soft.
Many tourists and travelers are willing to stay overnight in this amazing national park and camp. It is absolutely safe. But it is better to bring warm clothes, because at night it is quite chilly here.
By the way, the status of a national park was awarded to this place back in 2002.
In the moonlight because of the karst formations, it looks like a real arctic landscape. The surrounding landscape excites the imagination, intoxicates and even scares you a little. The white desert is a completely different world, created by unknown creatures. Once there, many travelers can not navigate neither in time nor in space. It is a fairy tale, real and fascinating.
Unusual mountain formations have long attracted tourists here. Especially interesting is the white rock, incredibly balancing on a bizarre pole of the same color. It seems that this stone monument is about to collapse on the heads of gaping tourists. But it seems that this thousand-year-old massif is not yet in danger of imminent destruction. Domes, towers, minarets and castles – snow-white blocks of these shapes fill the entire national park.
It is recommended to go to the White Desert from October to March, that is, during the fall and winter. Amazing White Desert. Egypt strikes different sights, but it is always out of competition. In summer, the national park is insanely hot and to tolerate 60 degrees is simply unbearable. That’s why tourists choose to travel to a cooler time of year.
The only oasis of the White Desert will not impress tourists with high-rise buildings. It stops here only the Bedouins, who live in small Egyptian houses. However, for travelers too will find a haven.
Not so long ago a small hotel was built in the oasis. Here are the most comfortable conditions for those who love nature in all its beauty.
How to spend time in the mysterious White Desert National Park? You can camp and watch the unearthly beauty of the sunrise, enjoy the grandeur of nature and forget about mundane affairs, watching the sun set over the White Desert.
There is no place for negativity, anger, or irritation in the desert. All negative emotions are swallowed up, as it were, by the limestone statues and chalk sculptures. The play of light on the snow-white giants fills everyone who happens to be there with life energy.
The main inhabitants of these places are foxes. They feel like masters in the White Desert and can even steal food from tourists, so you should be careful not to throw your belongings away.