We Are Desert Rats Again- Black and White Deserts
Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
215Trip End Dec 20, 2010
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Where I stayed
Sahara Desert Camp & Under The Stars In White Desert
After staying one night at the African House Hotel in a better room with mosquito screens we took off the very next day to the desert on a local bus heading to Bawiti Oasis, five hours drive from Cairo. Recently a great discovery was made there. Hundreds of ancient mummies were uncovered, most adorned with precious gold jewellery and amulets
Egypt's Western Desert stretches from The Nile and the Mediterranean to the Sudanese and Libyan borders, rolliing far into Africa. We only scartched the surface on this safari.
The delightful Nasser guide picks us up from the middle of Bawiti oasis village and takes us to the peaceful desert camp called 'Sahara Desert Hotel' where there are cute little huts made from natural grasses with hobbit sized doors and some funky furniture made from similar materials by a Sudanese man. The camp is 3km out of town and built next to a giant black sand hill which you can climb to get a good panorama of the surrounding desert and a forest of lush green palms, oasis style
The Bedouin are a desert-dwelling Arab nomadic pastoralist group, found throughout most of the desert belt extending from the Atlantic coast of the Sahara via the Western Desert, Sinai, and Negev to the Arabian Desert. The women are extroadinarily beautiful although the married ladies are fully veiled, including covering the eyes. The ladies of Bawiti Oasis walk the streets, shop at the markets and collect their children from school whilst looking like black ghosts floating around town. They even had their hands and arms covered in black, rayon gloves, a little bit ridiculous in the heat but absolutely neccesary. They really look invisible. In the 1960s, large numbers of Bedouin throughout the Middle East started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities. Many Bedouin have given up herding for standard jobs. Government policies in Egypt as well as a desire for improved standards of living, effectively led most Bedouin to become settled citizens rather than stateless nomadic herders
We expressed our concern at being alone with the men in the desert when it came to venture out to sleep under the stars in the White Desert, a valid concern given the sleaze factor that seems to be happening everywhere we go. A young guy named Mohammad who spoke good English filled us in on why it is that many Egyptian men ask if we would like sex. It is because many Western women do in fact come to Egypt for sex, believe it or not it's true. This would explain why so many men ask if we want sex with them, they are serious
We left the camp for some serious 4WD action in the area around the Oasis. It felt like we were on an Oh what a feeling!!! Toyota vehicle advertisement. We visited Pyramid Mountain and then watched the sunset over the oasis then went early to bed. Next day we drove the 4WD into the dusty main street and waited for the German woman Debra's bus to arrive so she could join us in the desert. We bought some bananas then tried to buy some donkey food to feed a very skinny donkey Nadine had found in the street. Of course nobody actually buys donkey food around here so they all thought it was an absurd request and that we were insane, which we agreed with. We scavenged some of the green leafy vegetation and the donkey got this and our banana peels.
Next we went burning off into the Black Desert which has giant volcano looking, golden sand hills covered with a topcoat of tiny black rocks and sand making for some dramatic charred looking scenery. The landscape looked similar to what you get when you tip one of those one-time-craze, office desk toys with the coloured glass upside down so that it layers sand in a different way each time you tip it
We stopped at a rock formation called Crystal Mountain that marked the start of the White Desert. The mountain really was a crystal ridge, made completely from clear quartz like crystals that we could pull straight from the ground in shards, they were scattered everywhere. Of course we couldn't take too many but definitely snatched a few. We were in hippie crystal heaven collecting them and wished we could have taken some of the football sized oned with us too. I've always dreamed of finding a field of crystals.
There were three police road blocks we passed with no problem although Nasser tells us that he was asked for bakeesh at one of them. The road blocks were basic shelters in the middle of nowhere in the desert manned by police who had old oil barrels lined up across the road.
We were very impressed with The White Desert which has massive white, Dr Suess-ish, chalk rock formations that have been created as a result of sandstorms in the area eroding away
Nasser set up a basic camp with rugs and blankets and made a windbreak with some of the colourful fabrics the tent makers dye in Islamic Cairo. The wind was still this night. We were camped under three of the giant rock formations and Nasser made a fire for cooking
Next morning we woke with the blazing orange glow of the morning sun beaming on our faces. I went for a walk amongst the surreal landscape and viewed the surrounding sculptures from various angles. We made a classic movie of us looking like we were walking on the moon. We started the journey back to the Oasis by driving up to some of the more interesting sculptures for a closer look and then we did a small trek up one of the volcano-shaped mountains in the Black Desert for a good panorama over the scene.
We also stopped at Agabat which is a small valley of unusually beautiful mountain formations. Here, the white cliffs common to the White Desert meet the dunes and the yellow limestone rocks of Sahara. Also, mountain sides here are steeper than elsewhere along the route between Bahariya and Farafra.
We returned to the camp, washed the sand off, said our good-byes to the Bedouins and then boarded the local bus back. A guy was drooling spit all over Debra the German girl in her seat and we were glad to be off the bus after the hot and cramped six hour journey back.
You always come away from the desert wishing for more time there but it was time up for us and we had to return to Cairo so we can hit The Red Sea before getting to India. Egypt really does have it all and it definitely rates up there with Peru for our favourite country so far.
Now, to the sea.
Lame Joke Of The Day
Two men went to the desert for a vacation. They rented a camel and headed out.
Five days later they came back but without the camel. The man who had rented them the camel was very upset and screamed, "Where is my camel?"
They replied, "Well, we were riding along when we kept hearing people say, 'Look at the two assholes on that camel!'
So finally we got off to take a look and the damn camel ran away!"