Off we go to the White Desert, a place that looks like it’s out of another planet! An alien landscape of chalk-rock in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
This was way out of my comfort zone, but it was absolutely worth it! Even though I’ve done this a couple of times with my mother when I was a kid, it was still so out of my comfort zone! And it was FABULOUS!
Located in the large Western Desert of Egypt, approximately midway between Dakhla and Bahariya oasis, the White Desert is around 3/4 hours from Cairo by car. Renowned for its spectacular scenery, it did not disappoint!
About maybe 80 million years ago the White Desert was a sea bed, can you believe it? From sea to desert.
Today the White Desert is one of Egypt’s natural wonders. It is a protectorate, known as the White Desert Park.
Roadtrip to Bahareya
Off we were to our 2 day escape from the bustling city that is Cairo. We probably moved around 9 until everyone was ready, munchies were in the car, and we all filled the cars with petrol.
The road to Bahareya is pretty steady, they are currently working on making it bigger which is great.
Upon arrival we were greeted at a camp with lunch and tea and off we were to the desert.
We choose to do everything off roading and avoid roads, we prefer it that way. Most of the operating tours will be taking you in / out of the desert onto to the road for the next destination.
What is to see around the White Desert
Day one in / around Bahareya
First stop: the Bahareya Salt Lake
One of several salt lakes scattered around the Western Desert.
Second stop: Gebel El Dist
An impressive pyramid shaped mountain that can be seen from the Oasis. You can climb all the way up and enjoy the beautiful view.
Third stop: The English Mountain
This mountain located in the black desert takes its name from a WWI lookout post. From here Captain Williams, a British officer, monitored the movements of Libyan Senussi tribesmen.
And finally we arrived at our camp, in the middle of the dunes. The bedouins set up camp while we played around in the dunes with the cars during sunset.
Day two into the White Desert
First stop: Sand-boarding in the dunes
It’s fun, only problem is you will end up with sand everywhere (remember there are no showers). But also you will have to go all the way up the dune to go down etc.. We didn’t stay much there, we were more keen on off roading!
Second stop: The Black Desert
Formed by the erosion of mountain ; the black desert’s color is derived from basalt, an igneous volcanic rock. Underlying the basalt is sand comprised of pulverized Bahariya sandstone and quartz.
Third stop: Crystal Mountain
The most amazing thing, is all through the desert trip, the desert floor keeps changing. For instance, this time it became littered with quartz crystals.
The Crystal Mountain is a large rock made entirely of quartz. It is said that a thousand years ago, pharaohs used crystals from these mountains for their statue’s eyes.
Please refrain from taking anything if you do visit, leave it for the next generations to see it!
Fourth stop: The Valley of Aqabat
Off we were to some more playing in the dunes with the cars right before entering the Valley.
You will also pass by Oasis that look like that on the way.
And then finally: The White Desert
Known as sahara el beida, the White Desert is located approximatively 45 kms north of Farafra Oasis . And it feels like you landed on another planet. It’s magical! We arrived there around sunset and oh.. what a beautiful one it was!
The White Desert is made of blocks of chalk. Once covered by the sea, then a savanna region teaming with fauna and flora, and now a barren landscape occupied by an almost infinite number of alien-like rock formations.
The wind and sand have eroded three-story building-sized blocks of chalk (called inselbergs) into all sort of shapes. As wide as your imagination can go. The most famous shapes are the mushroom, the chicken and the rabbit.
Spending the night in the desert
Certainly, spending the night under the stars is so worth it! I can even start to describe what it feels like or looks like. You have to go to know! The amount of times we said WOW is not even countable.
The bedouins set up the tents, a fire. Above all they prepare amazing food. On this trip we got our own meat, but there’s an options of having them prepare chicken (which I tried in Fayoum and was incredible).
On the first night they prepared a lentil soup, with potatoes and rice and grilled our meat on the fire. For the second night we had Vermicelli Soup with pasta, vegetables and meat! Soups keeps you warm, and food is really good given it was prepared in the desert!
The bedouins that were with us prepared everything for us, but also entertained us with chanting in the evening which was fantastic! Furthermore we played games, sang etc.. You can see all of that in the video I created, (the link is at the end of this article)
We had the chance to encounter our friend the fox, yes you are not alone. The desert belongs to them!
When to go to the White Desert
The best time would be March – beginning of May and September – December.
I visited in December, during the day weather was fantastic (we are talking tshirts) but during the night it was very cold.
Though, I wouldn’t recommend going during summer as it must be unbearably hot. If you are up for freezing cold in the evening then January and February are good for you 🙂
What to pack:
- Heavy jackets and thermal for the evening (some of us had their ski pants and jackets)
- Power Banks (there’s no power)
- Swimwear (you might take a dip in the hot springs)
- Toiletries and WIPES (very important)
- Sleeping Bag
- Snacks (you will get hungry all through the day)
- A towel
- Headlights and/or torch
- and all the known rest : clothes (sneakers and change of clothes) sunglasses etc..
What to expect:
- Network is not available all the time, the best provider is Vodafone.
- There are no showers and no bathrooms in the desert.
- Stay hydrated at all times
- Stars and shooting stars (loads of them specially if there’s no moon) – Check the moon rise and moon set before you plan your trip.
I’ve created a video that you can check out by following this link !
Have you been there before? I would love to hear your opinion in the comments below.