The night before our camping trip to the White Desert I had nightmares. I was scared about having to go to the bathroom in the desert as we just spent an entire day not being able to move due to our Indian Jones adventures inside the pyramids. Our legs were as stiff as metal poles, changing positions, getting out of bed, walking, using stairs and sitting on toilets were quite the ordeal. Spent the entire day hiding in our hotel room and watching movies, wondering if we would make it to our White Desert camping trip the next day. But, low and behold, our human bodys are indeed miracle machines and after a night of nightmares I was able to get out of bed easier and with excitement to truly experience the desert!
We didn’t know much about the tour other than it being a 1 night camping trip in the White desert with all food, water, and supplies included. We awoke early and had our included breakfast, which is nothing to brag about; Tea, non-toasted hot dog buns, jam, and cream cheese. But what else can you expect in Cairo for a free breakfast at a budget saving hotel? Then soon enough the hotel driver was taking us to the bus station. Our bus was a public bus that made frequent stops all the way for passengers and parcels to the small oasis town where we would be picked up by our desert guide. It was about a 5-hour drive, a drive that took us very far into the desert. So far that the midway rest point was literally in the middle of no-where! You could not see a single thing for miles except sand and the small building with a washroom and some snacks for sale.
After some typical confusion upon arriving to our pick up point we were finally off in a 4×4 Jeep with our desert guide Iman, and a security officer who carried a gun under his shirt. Iman told us it was protocol for private camping tours, both for his and our safety. Was a little strange at first as the thoughts ran through our head. The deeper we drove in the desert national park the more and more security check-points we passed… Where are we going??? But soon enough the strangeness passed as we relaxed and just enjoyed the sights going by. The sun was setting and the desert at this time of day is a beautiful glowing sight.
We had to travel through the Black desert to reach the white. The Black desert is yellow sand that is covered with black soot from volcanic cones that erupted many years ago. We quickly stopped at Black Mountain for some shots and were back in the Jeep, whipping through the sand and sliding on all the turns. We were driving fast enough to frighten me but I had to remind myself Iman drives this everyday, so just trust him and enjoy the ride! Insert adrenalin smile here.
We arrived to the White Desert shortly after sunset. The ominous glow of the sun mixed with the white and purple hues from the rocks made the terrain we were exploring look like and alien wasteland. It was quite surreal and almost dreamlike. Where in the world are we? I never knew such a place of alien beauty existed on this planet, and to think it’s located in the middle of a giant dessert. A place usually associated with nothingness.
We arrived to our campsite, located just behind a large white caulk rock formation and our guide set up camp while we enjoyed our surroundings. The sand was so soft and deep and the surrounding rock formations were something we’ve never seen before.
Soon enough, dinner was being cooked over the fire and then served to us. It was the best food we had in Egypt. Amazing! Funny how camp food is always better then regular food. We don’t even really know what we ate… it was so good we barely had a chance to examine it.
After dinner Iman disappeared for a bit and came back with a shisha pipe. Both Scott and I have never smoked out of one before, only heard about them. But this seemed like the perfect time to break our shisha cherries. The flavor was apple and it was the perfect match for sitting by a fire and enjoying the stars. The desert was so quiet that we could hear our ears ringing and the stars lit up the sky, almost to the point it seemed like we could touch them.
Soon enough the heat of the day got to us all and it was time for bed. Mats and sleeping bags were pulled out and we were presented with a bed under the stars. Iman insisted we take a huge pile of blankets, we almost didn’t but were glad we listened to him, as it got really cold later in the night. This time I fell asleep dreaming of the sunrise and hoping we would wake up to see it. Low and behold, we both woke up as we felt the heat start to rise, the sun must be rising and we had the best seat in the house to watch it! It was a breathtaking moment watching the sun rise over the lime stone formations and made us think of the Sunday morning sunrise we always stay up for at Shambhala each year.
Our time in the desert was a remarkable experience. The desert is a vast playground of nothingness that is also filled with some of the world’s most beautiful things.