A Camping Safari in Egypt’s White Desert

White Desert Mushroom
Amazing rock formations in Egypt’s White Desert—Caroline Helbig

Many visitors to Egypt confine themselves to the pharaonic splendours of the Nile Valley. However, it’s surprisingly easy and undeniably rewarding to venture into Egypt’s White Desert. 500 km southwest of Cairo, the White Desert is an incredible landscape of chalk monoliths carved into whimsical creatures by the relentless forces of sand and wind. The White Desert seduces visitors with its mesmerizing beauty. There’s no better way to experience its magic than on a desert safari.

Tourism has suffered greatly since the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Egyptians are desperate for visitors and they will greet you with open arms. Go now, and your White Desert adventure will be enhanced by the best choice of guides, competitive pricing and blissfully quiet campsites.

Planning a White Desert Safari

Many tour companies and independent guides offer White Desert safaris. They vary in itinerary, duration, quality and cost. You’ll need to do your homework. The classic White Desert safari is a one or two night camping excursion via 4X4 vehicle. Most tours provide return transportation from Cairo, camping gear and meals. Tours can be customized, and there are specialty excursions available, like hiking or camel treks.

To get the most out of a trip to the White Desert, hire an experienced guide and spend at least a couple of nights camping under the desert stars. Employing a respected Bedouin guide from the Bahariya or Farafra Oases can be an excellent option.

Resources like Lonely Planet Guides and Rough Guides provide recommendations for White Desert tours. It’s useful to supplement these recommendations with searches on Trip Advisor and “Thorn Tree”, Lonely Planet’s on-line travel forum. Narrow it down to a few providers and contact each, asking specific questions about itinerary, cost, food, safety and transportation.

My family had a great experience with local guide Magdy Badrmany who has lived in the Bahariya Oasis his entire life and escorts travelers from around the world to the wonders of his desert backyard. With the lack of tourists following Egypt’s revolution, we were fortunate to witness the desert in its magnificent, isolated solitude.

Camping in White DesertCamping excursion in Egypt’s White Desert—Caroline Helbig

What to Expect on a White Desert Safari

The highlight of a White Desert tour is exploring the enchanted landscape of snow white rock formations resembling giant mushrooms, prehistoric birds, camels and pharaohs. These surreal shapes take on ever- changing hues as the desert sun moves across the horizon and they will live in your mind long after the safari is over.

White Desert Mushroom
The much photographed mushroom and bird formation—C.Helbig
Luxor 002
The deep blue sky provides brilliant contrast in the White Desert—C.Helbig
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While the park is synonymous with its famous white formations,  off-road tours often include several other wonderful spots. One of my favourites is the Agabat area, meaning “wonders”. Its bizarre inselbergs and white cliffs spring from an endless expanse of sand and glow golden in the late day sun. A hit with my son, Crystal Mountain is a seemingly insignificant rock outcropping except for openings that reveal brilliant quartz crystals.

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Outside the park, closer to Baharyia, lies the eerie Black Desert. In sharp contrast to the White Desert, this landscape is dominated by volcano-shaped mounds and ridges covered with coal black rubble. We scrambled up one of the mounds for a bird’s eye view of the otherworldly terrain.

The Black Desert

The scenery on a White Desert Safari is amazing, and the experience of camping in a place so remote, so quiet, so far from the bustle of modern life is extraordinary.

Tucked behind a brightly coloured wind screen, Magdy brewed sweet Bedouin tea as we watched the sun cast long shadows across the limestone-flecked sand. Later we feasted on roasted chicken and herbed potatoes. Much to my son’s delight, Magdy taught us a desert card game; we in turn subjected him to crazy-eights. We laughed, we talked, and we got a glimpse of a fascinating life so far removed from our own. Snuggled under warm camel blankets, we drifted off to sleep under an Egyptian sky ablaze with millions of twinkling stars.

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Read more about our adventures in Cairo,  diving in Dahab, and chilling in the Siwa Oasis.

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “A Camping Safari in Egypt’s White Desert

  1. Pingback: Remembering Egypt: 10 years after the revolution | Writes of Passage

  2. These pictures are amazing Madam..!! ❤ ❤ Loved them..
    Thank you so much for sharing.. 😀
    And thank you for teaching about Geography. I went on to search about Inselbergs. Found out about different types of Inselbergs like Mesas, Buttes (and a gigantic monolith called Uluru in Australia)
    These peculiar Inselbergs are shaped thus due to prolonged periods of wind erosion. The chemical composition of the rocks give some reasons for the same.
    Never imagined any desert to be so white.
    Thank you Madam for sharing such a great post about Egypt.. 😊😊


  3. Hello.

    This is awesome. We have only made a Nile cruise. It was an experience.

    stay safe and healthy!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. When I trade in my life at sea, I know where I am headed next. Your images from here are works of art. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lisa! Egypt and particularly our desert tour hold a special place in my heart. Certainly being there just a few months after the Arab Spring uprising was experience enough. We were treated with such kindness and everyone was so optimistic about the future. Tourism was in a real slump (terrible for the country but we benefitted tremendously with no crowds). The White Desert is simply spectacular. Do try to visit. Maybe you can combine sea and desert with sailing on the Nile/Red Sea?!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: 100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me” | Writes of Passage

  6. This sounds like a really special place, and a really magical experience. Maybe one day We’ll get back to Egypt and put it on out itinerary. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Discovering the Trails at Joshua Tree National Park, California | Writz of Passage

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