Just a few hours from Cairo near Al Farafrah, Egypt lays an amazing moonscape of a desert. It is different from its surroundings. Unlike the yellow sands of the rest of the Western Desert, The White Desert protected area has blindingly white sand and unique rock formations that amaze visitors.
A protected national park of about 380 square miles, the White Desert is white because the rocks there are made of chalk. Due to what geologists call “differential weathering,” all of the wind and sand that has buffeted these rocks for millennia give them their odd shapes. Most are around ten to fifteen feet tall, and some have developed nicknames over the years. One of the most famous dual formations is called “chicken and mushroom” or “chicken and atomic cloud,” for example. There are also rocks said to resemble a weeping lady and a whale, among other things. In addition to the rock formations, there are interesting wildlife species in the park. Fennec foxes, jackals, and Barbary sheep are indigenous to the area, and two rare gazelles, the Rhim and Dorcas gazelles, can occasionally be seen as well.
Arguably, the best way to experience the wonders of the White Desert is to camp overnight there. Because the formations look most impressive at sunrise or sunset, this is a great way to get to see them in all of the changing light conditions. Bedouin guides from the area routinely take groups of tourists out for overnight camping trips, and there are several agencies that can book this popular overnight trip. Because it is a protected national park, there are rules to follow about staying on specific paths and not leaving trash behind, of course. Also, overnight visitors are advised to bring some warm clothes, because the desert nights are chilly.