Camping in the White Desert, Egypt: A First Timer’s Guide

Camping in the White Desert of Egypt is a must-do activity! Click to read about my first time camping experience with Egypt Tailor Made and learn how you can experience the wonders of the desert. |

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary tour in exchange for this review, but as always, all opinions are my own.

The Black and White Desert in Egypt is truly a hidden gem in Egypt, unknown by most tourists. The landscape of the Bahariya Oasis and surrounds is both unique and breathtaking, and most of the time, visitors have it to themselves. A quick Google Search of cool overnight trips from Cairo, and I was sold: I knew I had to visit the famed Bahariya Oasis and Black and White Deserts. I was a little nervous since I’d never been camping before, but I figured that camping in Egypt would be just like camping anywhere.

Bahariya Oasis and Black and White Desert Tour

At 7 am on a chilly December morning in Cairo, Egypt. I’m excited (and slightly hesitant) to go on an overnight camping trip in the White Desert. It’s my first time camping and I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I’m in for some beautiful landscapes. My mom is a trooper and has decided to come along on the adventure.

By 7:30 am my mom and I are sitting in a car with our tour guide, Mido. I’ve barely slept thanks to late night packing, so I’m in dire need of coffee. Mido points out some of Cairo’s famous sites on our way out of the city. Once we officially make it out of Cairo, I sit back and drift off into a half-sleep; we have a couple of hours until we arrive at the rest stop.

Why The Black and White Desert in Egypt?

So, where exactly was I going on this grand adventure? Well, let’s take a step back to explain why I decided to visit Egypt in the first place.

Since I’m part Egyptian and have family living in Cairo, I’ve had the fortune of visiting Egypt several times in my teens. My family and I would spend a good chunk of the summer chilling at my grandma and aunt’s houses, sleeping by day and meandering through the streets of Cairo by night. Thanks to deathly hot summer temperatures and a general lack of resourcefulness on my part, the only places I’d visited in Cairo were the Citadel, the Pharaonic Village, and the Great Pyramids. I’d also visited Alexandria, Hurghada, and Sharm el Sheikh, but was fully aware (and slightly embarrassed) that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of Egypt, despite the fact that I’d spent nearly eight months there over the course of five years.

This time around, I was determined to actually see what Egypt had to offer so I could actually give people real Egypt travel tips without feeling like I didn’t know much about the country! First, I signed up for this Intrepid Egypt tour. Then, my digging led me to stumble upon the Black Desert and the White Desert. Once I saw pictures of these mystical places, I knew I HAD to visit, which led me to partner with Egypt Tailor Made to experience their Overnight Camping Black and the White Desert tour. For those of you who know me, you know that I don’t camp. Call me a princess but I really, really value toilets and running water and genuinely fear bugs. I am so not one with nature. Let’s just say that my first camping experience was quite…interesting. More about that later. Now that you have some context, let’s get back to the tour.

The Black Desert

We arrive at the rest stop and buy some snacks and my mom and I commiserate about the state of Egyptian bathrooms (I’m usually not that much of a diva but this was a whole other level of gross bathroom). Anyway, I digress. After driving for a little bit longer, we switch over to a 4×4 desert car and meet our local Bedouin guide Ahmad, who is an expert at navigating the area. Our first stop is the Black Desert, so named thanks to the millions of black volcanic rocks dotting the desert landscape. Although volcanoes haven’t been a part of the Egyptian landscape in tens of thousands of years, wind and erosion left behind all these rocks that make the desert look like another planet. Pretty cool, huh?

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The Black Desert in Egypt

At this point, it’s late afternoon and we are starving. We stop by this little hut restaurant and feast on Egyptian beans (ful), tuna, and salad. Although the meal is simple, that ful was some the best I ate in Egypt.

Crystal Mountain

After lunch, we head over to Crystal Mountain. Funnily enough, Crystal Mountain isn’t really a mountain. Rather, it’s a large rock ridge consisting of stalagmites and stalactites. The ground is littered with tons of loose crystals, making the entire area sparkle in the sunlight. It’s pretty magical, because sparkles.

El Aqabat Valley

After taking a thousand photos or so, we clamor back into the car to our next stop – El Aqabat, a small valley at the edge the White Desert. El Aqabat means “the punishment” in Arabic; named so because it was particularly difficult for camels to get across during the good ole caravan days. Thanks to the soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom sand in this area, our car also struggled a bit to get in and out of El Aqabat.

The White Desert

At this point, it’s getting close to sunset so we drive to the White Desert, where we will be camping for the night. Although the area looks like it’s filled with snow, all that white is naturally formed limestone rock formations. Even the giant rocks are shaped naturally by the wind! Mido leads us around the desert and we all have way too much fun spotting various animals and shapes in the rocks. I swear someone is secretly carving these shapes out!

White Desert Camping, Egypt

We pile into the car once again and drive for about ten minutes before stopping in the middle of the White Desert. Mido announces that this is where we’re camping for the night. My mom and I glance at each other, quickly realizing that Egypt Desert camping is not in an official campsite like we’d assumed. It meant pitching a tent in the middle of the desert. Oh boy. Mido confirms that there is indeed no bathroom so my mom and I promptly decide that we’ve had enough to drink for the night. This would have been an excellent time to have a SheWee (teehee) – lesson learned! Since that visit (and many others), I finally wrote a comprehensive Egypt packing list!

By now the temperature is rapidly falling, so all of us huddle into the Bedouin camp area. Mido and Ahmad start a fire for us and Ahmad starts chopping veggies and boiling water for dinner. The food smells amazing (and tastes even better). While we’re waiting for dinner to cook, we snack on fruit and drink tea. I ask Mido about the political situation in Egypt because I’m curious and it quickly starts a passionate and interesting discussion about politics, religion, and culture.

Everyone goes silent once dinner is served and for good reason – everything tastes delicious. We’re each served a giant portion of grilled chicken, broiled meat, steamed rice, chicken soup and veggie stew. I’m drooling just thinking back at how good that dinner was. Oh and speaking of Egyptian food – here are some of the best eats you should try in Egypt!

Camping in the White Desert of Egypt is a must-do activity! Click to read about my first time camping experience with Egypt Tailor Made and learn how you can experience the wonders of the desert. |
Our delicious dinner, cooked by our Bedouin guide

After dinner, Ahmad serves us some Bedouin tea (it’s really strong and a bit sweet). So much for our promise to avoid liquids! As we’re drinking the tea, one of the Bedouin guides at the nearby camp walks over and invites us to join them for music around the campfire. My sleep deprivation is hitting hard at this point but we agree to join the other camp for a bit. Our companions turn out to be a Korean family who has been traveling for an entire year together. Crazy!

Their guide (whose name has since escaped me) sang some hilarious Arabic and Bedouin songs and the Korean dad even contributed a song about how he can’t live without his wife (as translated by her). SO CUTE.

Camping in the White Desert of Egypt is a must-do activity! Click to read about my first time camping experience with Egypt Tailor Made and learn how you can experience the wonders of the desert. |
Campfire in The White Desert

Now it’s officially REALLY COLD so my mom and I decide it’s time to cozy up in our tent. We scurry away from the camp to brush our teeth and go to the bathroom, giggling at the fact that we are in the middle of the Egyptian desert in January, all thanks to me. I’m actually exhausted at this point, so I have no problem falling asleep. Surprisingly, the tent combined with our four blankets is really warm, and I sleep like a baby.

The next morning we wake up to a beautiful sunrise, looking more than a little worse for wear. Sunrise at the White Desert is breathtaking, though. After breakfast, Ahmad and Mido take apart the tent and we start the drive back to Cairo.

Egypt Tailor Made Review

I loved my experience with Egypt Tailor Made and cannot say enough good things about the company. They were professional and organized, and my guide, Mido, answered all my questions about Egypt, the deserts and more. He took a ton of photos for us and never rushed us to the next stop. Plus, he made sure we were comfortable at all times.

I had arranged the tour directly with the owner of the company, Walid, and he called on our drive back to Cairo to make sure everything went smoothly. A+ for customer service.

The only thing I would have done differently would have been to ask for more details about the camp. I mistakenly assumed we would be at a campsite, and probably would have planned a little better had I known we wouldn’t be glamping.


Other things to note

  • The White Desert is around 5 hours or so from Cairo, depending on where you depart from.
  • There won’t be any phone signal once you start heading into the desert. Plan accordingly.
  • Bring warm clothing. Even though it’s warm during the day, it’s surprisingly cold at night.
  • If you can, plan your trip for spring or fall to avoid cold winds and chilly nights.
  • If you’re female and squatting isn’t your thing, invest in a SheWee. Also, don’t forget toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
  • Bring snacks if you tend to get hungry during the day! You can also buy snacks at the rest stop but they’re mostly junk food. I’m a big fan of Clif Bars or Kind Bars.

Book your spot here! Prices start at $150 per person.

Egypt Tailor Made
Sphinx Towers
Abou Al Hol Street
Giza, Egypt
Phone: +201144418853

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16 thoughts on “Camping in the White Desert, Egypt: A First Timer’s Guide

  1. Christina Pfeiffer says:

    What an adventure! Camping in the desert is definitely something I would sign up for…but maybe not with my Mum! Love those weird rock formations.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Haha that’s fair! My mom was a serious trooper (and also didn’t want me to go solo, which I totally would have). She enjoyed the entire thing and it ended up being a fun bonding trip 🙂

  2. Girlswanderlust says:

    This sounds like a wonderful experience and your pictures look beautiful! I would love to do one day the same and just pitch a tent in the middle of the desert like you did. Really inspiring!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! Yes I had an amazing time and the added amenities like food and a fire were a nice bonus :). Desert camping is truly magical though!

  3. Cori Carl says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, but this is a much more compelling reason. I never think about how amazingly interesting geology is until I look at pictures like these! Added to the bucketlist.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      YES. I mean I definitely went to the pyramids this time too but I wanted to make sure to do something a little off the beaten path so this was perfect :). And agreed, nature can be so amazing!

  4. Nisha says:

    I have never been to Egypt and whenever I see any post about this country, my urge to visit there becomes even more.
    Camping is another love for me. Loved that cute little tent as well. 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      You HAVE to go! I actually highly recommend going soon because tourism is lower (but increasing rapidly). You can avoid the crowds by going this year!

  5. Izzy Pulido says:

    Egypt has always been high on my bucket list and I plan on going in the next couple of years so this is perfect! I honestly love being in the desert and would have no idea this existed without you putting it on the radar for me. A korean family that had been traveling for a year?? That’s incredible! Also I had to click on the SheWee link cause I had no idea a contraption like that existed either!!!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      You have to go! Now’s actually a good time because tourism has been down although it seems to be picking up again. I actually had no idea this existed either until I looked up cool places right before my trip!
      Also LOL best believe I’m buying a shewee before I camp next time 🙂

  6. Eva Giblin says:

    This is amazing. Totally adding it to my bucket list. We’re just back from Morocco where we did a bit of desert glamping, really enjoyed it

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Ooh I haven’t done camping in Morocco yet but everyone I know who has gone has RAVED about it! I definitely need to make a point to do it as well :). Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  7. Jenny Muter says:

    Wow, this looks stunning – and totally worth camping out overnight for! Glad that you and your mum enjoyed it. I’ve got my parents with me in India for a couple of weeks and it’s great to share travel experiences with family 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      It really was! I was in awe by the natural landscapes the entire time! And yes agreed – it’s definitely nice to travel with them sometimes :). Happy travels to you and the fam!

  8. Metwally says:

    I’ve been there .. and I just want to clarify some points if you allow me:
    Those are not Egyptian bathrooms .. Those just the middle of desert bathrooms .. and yes they are disgusting.
    The best (Ful) in the entire Egypt is from this place.
    El Aqabat means “obstacles” not “the punishment”.

    And I want to add:
    Camping in the middle of no where is another whole story.
    leave everything you do in the city behind you .. and enjoy the experience as is.
    if you have to dig in the sands like cats .. don’t compliant, and enjoy doing that.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Hi Metwally,

      I know that those bathrooms are particularly bad, but I did spend 3 weeks traveling in Egypt (to a variety of places) and did find that a lot of bathrooms needed improvement.

      Thanks for clarifying the meaning of “el Aqabat.” The tour guide says it means the punishment but perhaps there’s a double meaning.

      I did very much enjoy my camping experience (as you can see, it was my first time). I was a bit unprepared as I did assume that I would be camping in a campsite but overall, I had a good time. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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