The Arabian Desert is one of the world’s great wildernesses. More than three times the size of France, with only dunes, rocky escarpments and winding camel trails interrupting its sandy undulations, it’s as fascinating as it is vast. But it’s not just nice to look at — it’s also the playground of Saudi, where thrill-seeking visitors can find adventure, from sandboarding to cozy nights around the campfire.
Kashtah, or desert camping, is one of the best ways to discover this unique landscape, enjoying traditional Saudi comfort beneath a stunning Arabian starscape. We sat down with Majed Alharbi, the founder of Saudi Safari — a travel outfitter that offers desert excursions including camping, camel riding and off-roading — to learn why desert camping is an unmissable experience and what to bring when you’re departing for the dunes.
Kashtah is similar to a picnic. Normally when we go out to the desert, we cook there. We take a tent, whatever snacks, whatever supplies and tools we need. And we call this trip kashtah. It’s slang, or a local word. And so among the Saudis, kashtah means we are going to the desert and staying there for a while. We light a fire there, like camping in the desert. Maybe you are used to [camping] in your country. Similar to that, but we call it kashtah.
When you go to the desert, you will be disconnected from your life. You will be in the middle of it, no civilization there, only sands around you and the dunes and the stars up there. There are no lights, only the lights of the fire. Nothing is distracting you, and you are dealing with nature, you’re discovering nature. Sometimes you see the sands moving when there is a wind. Sometimes you just look at the stars, and you can see them very clearly in the desert at night. And this feeling, in my experience, is unique. And it will make you touch the real environment, the real nature there.
A farwa, the long coat featured above, will keep you warm when camping during winter in Saudi.
Tip: Play it safe and plan your desert excursion with one of many tour operators in Saudi.
Want to learn more about the desert and outdoor adventures in Arabia? Discover adventure tourism in Saudi on visitsaudi.com, or download this kashtah guide that includes printable packing lists for a variety of specific trips to help you plan.
—Cody Siler is a travel writer who has written for Club Traveler, Alamo’s Scenic Route, Gambit Magazine, Backroads Active Travel and more.