As tourists, we often end up thinking, “What great landscape could a country have with more than 90% of its surface is covered with sand.” If you are thinking the same, this post is about to change your mind.
Let us take you to one of the most remote places of Egypt – the White Desert.
WATCH OUR 36 HOURS OF WHITE DESERT IN TWO MINUTES
WATCH US SLIDING ON THE DUNES
- How to reach ?
- Is the white desert of Egypt safe?
- Do’s and Don’ts .
- Why should you not make a day trip to the white desert
- Why was it the best place in all of Egypt? – A complete story of two days.
Read our post “Reel to Real – ACO Origins and some Bollywood time” to know more about the filmy connection to the White desert.
How do you get to Egypt’s White Desert?
PROBABLY THE ONLY VEHICLE WHICH OVERTOOK US WAS THIS IN THAT 6HOUR JOURNEY FROM CAIRO!
Cairo to White desert Public Transport
Daily buses run between Cairo and Bawiti ( Bawiti is the nearest village to the desert) from Turgoman Square. Most travellers don’t recommend this for many reasons. The 390 km journey from Cairo is not comfortable by ill-maintained public buses. Apparently, at the Bawiti village, police check foreign passports and might create unnecessary trouble to get a bribe.
Minibuses from Cairo are the most popular among locals. The drawback is, these buses wait until all the seats are full. So you’ll be uncertain about your departure and arrival time.
Bawiti to White Desert
Once you reach Bawiti village, you must look for a local desert camping organizer. Moreover, it was not very clear for us if we need to take a permit for overnight camping in the white desert as the white desert lies in the controversial area of the Egypt-Libya border. If we had to take a permit, from “where and who” was the biggest question. With this much vagueness, we decided not to use Public Transport. Instead, like most tourists, we decided to go for a Private Tour.
Private tours are the most convenient opton to get to the White Desert from Cairo
You will avoid bribing police. 390KM journey with pitstops at the coffee shops is better. The journey is scenic through the vast desert. So you can have stops whenever you want to capture some nice shots. The risk of you entering restricted areas near the Libya border is nil. On our 6hr trip, we hardly saw any tourist buses or public buses other than oil containers and goods trains.
Is it safe to visit Egypt’s White Desert?
Bahariya oasis is around 550km away from the Libya border. Egyptian government restricts travellers visiting the Bahariya desert as it is a sensitive military area. We did not see any backpackers by themselves here. So a bigger group or private tour with a guide and the local driver is the safest and only option. We did not sense any threat or suspicious activity here. If you know your boundaries and are accompanied by a guide, you are safe.
Our guide Mamdou & local driver Admed – The usual thing you read about most Egyptians being money minded looting tourists were proved totall false with these guys
First timers’ guide to a White Desert trip – Dos and Donts
Make sure your desert camp organiser is authorised under government authority.
Do not try to get over-adventurous and enter restricted military areas.
The desert was not yet touristy when we went(2019). So be responsible, and lets continue keeping the white desert trash-free.
Most camp organisers provide tourists with sleeping bags. We did not carry our own. What Ahmed provided us was very clean and comfortable. He had a bundle of extra blankets in case we felt cold.
What to expect in the night camps in white desert
Unlike Wadi Rum, the night camping is not polished. There are no set tents, no toilets with EWC or showers. So be prepared to poop behind a rock. Carry tissue papers to wipe. Trust me, it was weirdly funny that each of us had to choose different rocks for obvious reasons,
What should I wear to White Desert Egypt?
Leave the trolley suitcase /bigger backpack at the host’s place in the village itself. Instead, carry minimum and only essential things in a separate smaller backpack for an overnight camp.
In winter- Don’t bring any changing clothes for the night. Forget removing your shirt; you can’t even remove your hand gloves. So wear thermal wear, thick pants and shirts and anything else to bear 3*c.
In Summer – Keep it to the lightest airy cotton outfits. Out of respect and for your own safety, I recommend conservative outfits like full pants and shirts.
Sleep under the stars
The desert’s rocks look amazing in the night ( if it is a full moon or near full moon). The Bedouin music by your host, freshly grilled food, no humans, unusual wind-eroded rocks in the white and sandy desert is heavenly.
Don’t worry about food. In general, the countryside food tastes better than in the towns. So Egyptian village food is exceptionally great. We had a feast of fresh cooked veggies with rice and Barbecue chicken in the night camp.
Why you shouldn’t make a day trip to White desert
DAY TRIPS ARE A BIG NO-NO! The road distance between Cairo and Bawiti is -390km. Bawiti to the white desert is around 100+km. If you come back on the same day, it will be a 980+km journey! You won’t be able to either enjoy the journey or the destination. You need to slow down to enjoy this place. If you aren’t comfortable with staying in the desert, come back to Bawiti village to stay.
Let us assume you are okay with all this tiring day trip of coming back to Cairo. But you will miss your second chance of enjoying the serene beauty of the white desert at night. Each hour sunlight affects the desert ambience. You won’t watch the sun turning the white rocks to glowing yellow colour. You won’t get to do your morning jogging or walking in noman’s land. Plus, travelling during the night is not safer in Egypt.
Two full days+ one night stay is what we did in the white desert. We are quite content with it.
If you have more time to spend, a day extra will allow you to visit nearby Alexander’s temple where Gold coffins were found. You can camp in Farafrah too for a night, explore the date fields, olive farms near Bawiti in that extra day.
Why is the white desert best of all in Egypt?
For us (may be most of us) the word “Egypt” reminds pyramids. The history buffs and architecturelovers talk about fantastic magnificient temples. But, something like this – as if the snow queen exploded in the desert and the droppling froze in time is alien. With no much tourists, not yet adultraded by mass tourism, we found bliss here. The food, the local folk songs my Mamdouh and Ahmed, impeccable nature to infinity is what makes Egypt’s white desert the best experience of Egypt.
Read our post “Crusing in the sand that looks like snow in the white desert” to know our enthralling experience in deatil.