Explore the Kingdom's age-old love for the tradition of kashta

Explore the Kingdom's age-old love for the tradition of kashta

During winter Saudis gather under the vast desert skies for Kashta, a cherished ritual of camping that reveals the beauty of simplicity even in modern times
25 January 24
Kashta: Tented Camping Traditions in Saudi Image source: Shutterstock

As winter unfurls, a time honoured ritual comes to life across the Kingdom. To outsiders, kashta may seem like a camping excursion, but it’s so much more.

A practice deeply rooted in heritage, kashta draws Saudis from all walks of life to the vast deserts, farms, and serene wilderness of the country. As the sun sets, families and friends gather, celebrating shared moments within the folds of traditional tents, around campfires, beneath expansive skies – a tapestry of communal joy and connection with nature, echoing the customs of our ancestors.

My earliest memories of this tradition were stories my mother told me about Najdi-style kashta (specific to our region). During her childhood, her family’s chosen destination was near the eastern rail station, close to Khurais – and involved packing (literally everything) the night before, followed by a departure right after the Fajr prayer. Once there, tents were set up, breakfast was over an open flame, mountain landscapes became playgrounds and hiking trails, everyone shared traditional songs, and children danced under the starlit sky as dusk settled. Sometimes, her family would choose to camp instead at their farm in Dirab called Um Khushaim, and in Al Kharj as well.

From the journey to the artful setup to foraging for wild herbs like sorrel, the essence of kashta is embodied in moments like these – this is the heritage that we Saudis have been born into, and one that we continue with pride. Today, kashta endures but in a more contemporary manner: campsites have almost everything you need, from outdoor seating to cooking gas and tents (there’s really no need to pack much).

However, the undeniable truth remains – while modern kashta provides convenience, it remains rooted in its origins, standing as a testament to the kind of joy that springs from simplicity and connection. To experience the charm of kashta, here are some of Saudi’s best sites to set up for the evening.

Al Thumanma, Riyadh

Located north of Riyadh, Al Thumama Desert is considered one of the best spots for a kashta. Thanks to its vast expanse, it's the perfect place to unwind and take in the surrounding golden dunes. Some of the available activities include dune bashing and camel riding, and you can also visit Thumama National Park for buggy or tent rentals.

Uqair Beach and Dammam Airport Area, Eastern Province

One of the biggest beaches in the Kingdom, Uqair is situated along the Arabian Gulf coast in Hofuf, Al Ahsa. The lovely view of the sea is given an added boost by the curved coast. If you're seeking solitude, you can camp away from other people in the expansive spaces that stretch along the shore.

Ahmad Kurdi, an architect, film director, and kashta enthusiast, shared: “I enjoy spending time with my friends while camping in the Eastern Province. I usually head to the Dammam Airport area, it’s a vast area in the desert where we set camp, install a bathroom, light up a fire, grill goat meat, and enjoy the night. If we are staying for the weekend, we rent a tent from a place on the Dammam-Riyadh highway.”

Jabal Al Lawz, Tabuk

One of the highest mountains in the region, rising approximately 2,400 metres above sea level, Jabal Al Lawz is a unique camping spot as it has a multi-coloured rocky structure. It is known for being the only destination in Saudi that witnesses snowfall almost every year during the winter season, making it a picture-perfect camping destination.

Moom Mountain, Jeddah

Also called Moon Valley, it is a well-liked weekend getaway for Jeddah locals. Known for its white sands and dark black boulders, it was named after the moon because its unusual rock formations that developed over time resemble the lunar surface. Moon Mountain is the ideal spot for hiking, camping, climbing, and stargazing.

Qaa Al Haj, Al Motadel and Gharameel, AlUla

Located on the eastern part of AlUla, Qaa Al Haj is a village that was known for being a pathway for pilgrim convoys coming from neighbouring countries, crossing through Tabuk, Qaa Al Haj, and reaching Makkah. AlUla’s charm and the beautiful mountains surrounding the village makes it a top destination to set camp and stargaze.

Bandar Al Shafei, an experienced design consultant, curates special experiences for guests in the region. “Usually, right after it rains, locals camp at an area called Al Motadel. Some choose Gharameel for the astonishing rock structures, not only to camp but to stargaze as well,” he says. Bandar also offers camping experiences at local farms in AlUla.

Nayliat Mountains, Hail

Located to west of Hail, the Nayilat Mountains are known for their brown sand dunes, unique rock formations, and valleys. With these lovely surroundings, the peaks are considered a key tourist destination in the Hail region, specifically for camping.

Al Shafa Mountain, Taif

Taif has an abundance of mountains, natural areas, tourist attractions, and historical sites. One of its natural marvels is the 2,500-metre high Al Shafa Mountain, adorned by juniper trees and white fog all year long, and well-known for its cooler climate and winter snowfall. With plenty of space for camping, Al Shafa is a great location not only for kashta, but for hiking and stargazing as well.

Depending on the length of your stay, make sure to pack enough to last you during the kashta. Here are other things to also keep in mind:

  • 4x4 vehicle
  • Camping chairs and other seating arrangements
  • Lighting or a torch
  • Snacks and drinks, and ingredients for cooking
  • Cooking utensils and grilling tools
  • First aid kit and mosquito repellent
  • Warm clothes as it gets cold in the evenings
  • Toys, games and music speakers for entertainment