Another stop on our tour through the Egyptian sahara was the White Desert. About 6 hours east from Siwa, this remote spot is an absolutely hidden gem. I have to be honest, prior to this trip, I never even knew this place existed. I had never heard of it or even seen pictures of this on pinterest. For a travel junkie like me, that’s a rarity, especially when it comes to cool landscapes.
I’m totally baffled as to why Egyptians keep it secret, because it is a spectacular and otherworldly portion of the desert. I can’t imagine coming to Egypt and not seeing this now. The White Desert got it’s name from the unique composition of the rock. It is an ancient sea floor that formed millions of years ago and then dried up. The white color comes the now decomposed and soldified bodies of the ancient crustaceans and sea life, which formed the bedrock. The rock is like a talc or chalk, very soft and semi-porous.
The rock itself has been eroded from the water of this ancient body of water, but also from the wind, creating these really unique formations. On the bottom of the formations, it is round and fairly smooth from the water erosion. And then above it, there are erratic formations with strange shapes from the wind erosion. You can almost visualize where the old water level used to be, because the wind vs water erosion is so drastically different. And the sand! Picture back to when you were a kid and you’d get to the bottom of the chalk box with all the soft crumbs leftover. Now imagine a whole desert of that. It is so soft and fine and white! Although, I wouldn’t recommend rolling down a dune of it; it sticks to absolutely everything and is so hard to get out.
We spent the day driving through the White Desert, enjoying the scenery in a four wheel jeep. With no AC and only the windows, you get a real feel for the heat of the desert. You’d feel the wind blow, expecting a breeze, and you’re blasted with super hot air. And the sun is completely relentless. Siesta is a must here, and we stopped at a natural spring from a few hours around lunch, just to beat the heat. But the drives in the jeeps were so fun. Our drivers were so great, but still lots of fun, plowing up and down these big sand dunes or pulling wheelies in the sand. Sorry Mom and Dad!
There were a view high points where we got some excellent views of the surrounding desert. One of them is Walid’s favorite spot scenery in Egypt, and it did not disappoint. You get to the top of a sand dune and look out over a valley of rock monuments, all in the blinding white color. At the bottom, you can practically envision the ancient water splashing on the bottom of the rocks based on how their formed. One of the people in our group said it looks like Ha Long Bay withouth the water, and I couldn’t agree with that description more. Some of the formations have nicknames based on their shapes, like the sitting camel, chicken and the tree, and rabbit rock.
After a sand filled day of driving, we made camp for the night in the middle of the White Desert. It was a very basic campsite, a few sheets to form protective walls and some mattresses on the ground. No roof, leaving the top open for a full night of stargazing. And wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars. And with no moon, we got a full view of the Milky Way, shooting stars, and complete constellations. You could see everything!
Our drivers also double as chefs, and they cooked us a lovely grilled chicken and vegetable dinner, which we enjoyed in the open air of our camp. They also played some drums and sang for us, as well as taught us a couple of Egyptian games. It was such a simple night. And I loved that about it. You don’t always need these fussy hotels or luxury comforts to enjoy yourself. Good company, good food, and beautiful nature is all I need to enjoy a night. I feel totally relaxed after these few days in the desert, it was a nice way to finish off the trip grounded and centered.