Wild camping, also known as “stealth” camping or free camping, is in our opinion one of the best ways to see a country, experience it’s nature, as well as save some money while on your travels.
However what about wild camping in the Middle East? Is it legal to go wild camping in Israel, Iran, Oman, Egypt, or Palestine? Well we’ve compiled a list of the de facto rules around wild camping in every country in the Middle East to help you with you plan to traverse the region, be that hitchhiking, biking, or trekking.
All the usual caveats apply though. This will just give you an idea of whether wild camping is allowed or not. Each country and region will have differing security situations, and that must be taken into account.
Camping in Bahrain
Camping in Bahrain is a very different experience to other countries, with licensed “campsites” having a range of facilities. In them you rent out a tent (Bedouin style) rather than pitch your own – a tent that often has an actual bed.
Wild camping in Bahrain is very rare, and as such there are little to no rules around it. Therefore as a general rule it appears some wild campers have found pitching a tent in a rural spot, away from population zones, main roads, and far from licensed campsites, is usually acceptable for a night, and you won’t be bothered by anyone bar the odd wandering nomad.
However, if stopped by the police, explain along the lines of wanting to experience “Bedouin lifestyle” and they will hopefully be fine with your stay.
That’s as long as you’re not on private land, near buildings, or roads and so on. Although you may be thought of as a little strange.
Camping in Egypt
While wild camping in the Egyptian desert sounds like a must-do bucket list item, you’d have to be very remote to do it.
Wild camp in areas where police are likely to see you, and you’ll almost certainly be made to pack up and taken to a hotel. While set up a tent anywhere near a city and you might evoke images of ‘Tahrir Square’ – not a clever idea in this country.
In short, go remote, and expect attention – probably unwanted – if you’re spotted.
Camping in Iran
Wild camping in Iran is legal and is a past-time of many Iranians. Choose a remote spot that won’t interfere with people’s lives and you will be left alone by authorities, and by the public.
In general there’s very few restrictions on wild camping in Iran as long as you are in the countryside and not on private property or in urban centers.
Police sometimes move campers on to another place, but it will be for their own safety, rather than due to police seeing wild camping as a nuisance.
Camping in cities is not allowed and not advised, although some cities have designated places where people can camp.
Sometimes people will camp near rural mosques so they can use their toilet facilities and also pray.
Camping in Iraq
In the north of the country, it’s certainly possible to go wild camping in Iraqi Kurdistan, with the usual caveats of ensuring you are far from cities, and private homes. The Kurdish Peshmerga and local officials are very welcoming towards tourists and while general laws on wild camping don’t appear to exist so much, respectful wild camping will probably be tolerated.
As for other parts of the country, the likelihood of gaining unwanted attention if spotted while wild camping is a lot higher. Although much of Iraq is vast expanses of desert and so there’s no doubt “getting away” with wild camping is possible.
Best bet – ask Iraqi friends, or whoever is hosting you in the country for the situation in their province.
Camping in Israel
Wild camping in Israel is definitely possible, and a great way to avoid staying at the country’s many official campsites which can often become crowded with excited families.
Camping in Israel on public land is legal, but it is still best to choose a secluded spot, or large forest for example, rather than an area where you are likely to meet people.
Beaches are also fine to camp on, while farmland is not, however some farmers will not mind if you ask their permission first.
If taking a popular hiking or walking trail that covers many miles then there is some level of expectation that dedicated hikers will camp along the route, and therefore while most of Israel’s national parks are off limits for camping, there are designated camping spots along hiking routes.
Camping in Jordan
Wild camping in Jordan is illegal, but some of the ecological and national parks are happy to have campers pitch up tents on designated camping spots with facilities.
However Jordan remains close to its Bedouin roots, and in reality if you’re remote and rural enough no one is going to mind.
Just don’t set up your tent near main roads, or villages and towns, or on private land (so common sense stuff). Follow those basic rules and your camping in Jordan experience should go smoothly.
If there’s a Bedouin-tent set up close to where you wish to camp, go and say hello (as-salaam alaykum) and introduce yourself. Jordanian hospitality is quite incredible, and their sweet tea unforgettable!
Camping in Kuwait
Wild camping in Kuwait is very easy, and while there appears to be no laws directly attached to the past-time, many Kuwaitis set up tents and enjoy camping (albeit in a more lavish way than many Western wild campers), especially when the heat of the summer dies down.
In general make sure you have your passport or copies of your passport on hand as if stopped by the police they will wish to check a form of ID, however they are highly unlikely to ask you to move on or stop camping.
While you may be able to get away with it, camping on the beach is prohibited, however elsewhere in the countryside is fine.
Camping in Lebanon
Wild camping in Lebanon does not seem to be legal, as the government wishes for tourists and walkers to stay in the many licensed campsites around the country. Many of which are around and near popular hiking routes.
Therefore if you wish to go wild camping in Lebanon, then choose a remote place where you are unlikely to be spotted, pitch your tent at dusk and put away at dawn.
The good news – some wild campers have reported that many landowners and farmers are happy for someone to camp on their land if they have given their permission first.
Camping in Oman
Laws around wild camping in Oman are very relaxed, and it’s possible and legal to camp in the countryside as long as you are not in or around a village. With a strong Bedouin culture still prevalent in Oman, as well as much of the Middle East, camping in Oman is seen by many locals as a perfectly natural way to get away from the city and relax from it all.
As a country that sees itself as the adventure tourism capital of the Middle East, wild camping in Oman will continue to become more popular, and encouraged.
Camping in Palestine
Wild camping in Palestine can be a little complicated, particularly as Israeli settlers will often begin new illegal settlements with just tents. If you wish to wild camp, do so in valleys, not on hilltops, and make sure the area is not one where confusion could occur.
Wild camping here could result in several groups being unhappy, be that the Palestinian Authority, Israeli military, settlers, or locals – it’s best to read up and study maps showing how the West Bank is broken up into different areas of control.
Palestinians do wild camp in popular local areas, it’s best to ask a local where the best spot is and they’re likely to give you a few options.
Camping in Qatar
Over winter many locals take advantage of the cooler temperatures and go camping in Qatar, setting up large family tents where people often stay for days and sometimes weeks. Therefore wild camping in Qatar is certainly tolerated.
Popular spots for camping in Qatar include Dukhan beach, and around Umm Tais National Park. However if you want to get into very remote areas, or places likely to have few wild campers, a 4×4 will probably be required.