Western Desert Reviews
Camels, and Foxes, and Toyota's - Oh My. Oct 04, 2009
Ever been on a trip and wasn't quite sure what to expect? You always assume it will be fun, but there is always that chance that you just paid for a miserable waste of time. It might not be that way, but it is still in the back of your mind.
Well anyways, that is how I felt about this western desert oasis tour. There is almost no information about it. In fact, I had to enter a new location on this website for it.
So the story goes that my wife and I were picked up from our hotel by a young guide named G and our bedouin driver Behreh (Bear-ah). G was a young guy at 25, same age as my wife and 5 years younger than me. I was a little hesitant because in my opinion anyone under 30 is an idiot, my wife included... Okay, I am kidding, but I was still hesitant this "kid" would have enough experience and knowledge to show us a good time.
We boarded our Toyota Landcruiser which is the only vehicle in any desert I've been. We begin our drive through Cairo's busy streets. We were stuck in traffic for over 2 hours before we made it to the outskirts of Giza. This was our first breathtaking views of the pyramids, even if they were from a distance. Still at that distance it made my trip worth every penny. I have three things that I must see in my lifetime, the coliseum (done), the great wall of China (not done), and the pyramids (done). So it was literally a childhood dream to see them, and I finally made that reality.
I really want to display how important of a moment that was for me, so I will just say from that point on it felt like I was floating. Well for a few hours anyway.
We finally hit the desert highway, not needless to say it was dull. Nice views of the desert, but nothing like the pictures yet.
After two hours of driving we came to a small rest stop with a store. We pulled in so Behreh could have a toke of a hookah. This man couldn't go more than 2 hours without it.
While waiting we had to use the bathroom and got our first experience with dirty truck stop bathrooms in Egypt. Just like back home they make me cringe remembering them. Imagine the bathroom from Trainspotting... Yeah it was that bad.
Finally we left there, and not a second too soon. It was another 3 hours to our destination. This was the point where I found out that sideways bench seating makes me sick. They had to stop multiple times so I could puke before figuring out what the problem was. Finally I was given a front seat and felt fine.
The puking really took a lot out of me, but most importantly it showed me something I was not expecting. The side of the road that we thought was full of rocks as we were driving by at high speeds was not rocks at all. It was seashells from millions of years before when it was an ocean floor. So amazing. Oh, and Behreh had some mini limes on him that he chopped and made me eat to counteract my stomach acids. blah.....
Further on we pull over to a small oasis. This oasis was a small patch of tree's just inside the Bahaariyyaa oasis border that had a natural hot spring. We sat in the water to relax while the nice local date farmers fed us dates they had curing in the sun. Afterwards they took us on a tour of their home and farm operation. Such amazing hospitality. On our way out they gave us a bag of dates to take with us. We really weren't expecting that.
Finally we made it to our destination, the amazing panorama hotel in Bawiti. Our hotel literally looked like a pile of bricks, but inside it was very clean and cozy. The the best hotel in the world, but definitely the best in Bawiti. We checked in and then began some driving.
We drove through the desert to the last remaining part of the sea which is slowly dissolving and increasing in salt concentration. This is where all of the trucks let air out of their tires before going into the dunes.
Then it began. Fast driving over crazy dunes. This is what I wanted. I love off-roading and this was as good as it gets. We spent a couple hours driving like maniacs, but after harassing Behreh that whole time he still didn't let me drive. Something about legalities...blah blah blah...
We stopped and climbed pyramid mountain for some nice views. G told us all about his army training and how they dropped him off at that mountain and made them climb it in the dark and stay up there the entire night without anything.
Next we climbed English Mountain to watch the sunset from inside the old english barracks that are now just a pile of rocks with the odd wall standing. While up there we sat on the edge of a cliff waiting for the sun to go down. Just as the sun was setting the call to prayer happened in the surrounding towns. We were listening to this call to prayer from a dozen mosques at the same time while the sun was setting. This was really like something out of a Lawrence of Arabia movie. You just really felt the power of the moment being there and hearing this.
Once the sun set, we went into town for a coffee and snack at a local cafe. We found beer, but I was too sick to get any. My wife is a blonde, we basically the town was beginning to crowd around staring at her. G decided it would be a perfect opportunity to move on.
Now this was amazing. I still can't believe this happened, but we were in Bawiti the same night the Egyptian rally was in town. They had their own camp on the outskirts of town loaded with a large party tent, full bar, helicopters and all kinds of rigs, and best of all the rally trucks.
We went out and joined the party. G was able to pull some strings and get us in. We drank and partied all night. We met most of the drivers and their teams and even had some great conversations with them. We had a few drivers take us out to their trucks and let us start them up just to hear them. I revved it a bit just to feel the engine power rumbling everything around.
These people were amazing. One couple we met told us about how they just sold everything they owned and bought a rally truck and semi to carry it around. Their semi trailer was half a garage and half a two story home. They had no experience driving professionally, they just learned as they went. Brave people.
We went home and have a sleep after that.
Bright and early the next morning they cooked us the usual 7 course breakfast and then on the road again. We made more stops at a volcano in the black desert. Then we found the biggest dune we could find, at least 100' high. We climbed to the top with our crazy carpets and slid down. The sand was so fine that we sunk in a little more than we really needed to, slowing us down a bit. But it was fun. However, after climbing over 100 feet in soft sand in 45 celcius, we decided once was enough.
We were dirty and over heating so Behreh took us to a friends cold spring. Supposedly the coldest in the Sahara, but it was still warm. Very refreshing though, especially since we had sand everywhere. We floated in this amazing spring with the most spectacular view in the background. We followed that up by going to lunch at one of Behrehs friends restaurants. Oasis cafe. Basically a tiny restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Behreh and G cooked us a 10 course lunch. Amazing food, and this is when we learned G was originally an italian chef and that he knew 5 languages. This kid is now impressing me.
Further down the road we stopped at an amazing view of the white desert at the top of a very big hill. Then further on we started seeing the amazing rock formations. It really looked like something out of a space movie. A very alien landscape.
Finally we reached our destination, about 500 meters away from the formation that looked like a rabbit. We tried to pitch in setting up camp but were aggressively denied. Instead we were told to go relax while they did everything. So we did. We found a nice tall hill and climbed it while waiting for the sunset.
We returned to the camp and laid around the fire while Behreh and G cooked us another open flame 10 course meal. I've never eaten so well, and it was in the desert. I guess I should have mentioned that a large chunk of the herbs they used were picked by us on the way out. Wherever we seen vegetation it turns out there was all kinds of herbs and fruits.
That night we laid in the sand around the fire and G taught us about the egyptian constellations, and the greek constellations. Then he explained dating for egyptians, more specifically for muslims. He told us all about his favorite music and movies. He even went into detail about his mandatory military career and how it affects many egyptians.
We slept under the stars this night and woke up to a small desert fox trying to see what he could steal from us. Fortunately we were warned and had everything put away. We woke up nice and early the next morning to catch the sunrise. A sunrise in the desert is unreal and definitely photo worthy. As Anthony Bourdain, there is something peaceful and clean about being in the desert. I've never relaxed so well.
After they packed up our camp we took a nice quick drive back to Giza where we began the next exciting part of our tour....
Part of the Middle East travel blog
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