One of the jeeps.
6 of my friends (Allyson, Anne, Katie, Marci, Minta and Emily) and I traveled with Marci and Minta's friend, Samy, to the Bahariya
Oasis. Samy runs a company that takes people on safaries through and around the Bahariya Oasis. Samy was up in Cairo
car shopping and picking up supplies, so he picked us up at the dorm and we headed to Bahariya. On arrival at Bahariya, we picked up Samy's favorite 4 wheel-drive Jeeps. They had giant racks on top of the vehicles for gear and huge, huge wheels for desert off road driving! Let the fun begin!!
After loading up the Jeeps, we drove to the Dunes, just outside the Oasis, and set up camp.
Samy hacking up firewood.
Camp consisted of the jeeps being arranged in a "L" shape with mattresses on the sand and blankets placed all around. Samy, his friend Aref (who is also an amazing chef), and the 7 of us slept in sleeping bags under the stars. It is amazing how quiet it is in the desert and how dark it gets when there is no articical light or moon. The next morning we drove through Bahariya to make a quick stop at Aref's house where his mother fed us and then we were off through the desert to the Black Desert. The Black Desert is an old lava field filled with cinder cones and black basalt. The sand blew in over the hundreds of thousands of years. And so, the mixture of sand and basalt makes the desert look black.
Driving through the desert is a wild ride.
There aren't any roads, or other people, so the ride can be a bit bumpy at 60 or 70 mph. But, the giant wheels and huge shock absorbers absorb most of the impact. Since we had two cars, you could watch how the other car handled the sand dunes, and basalt and chalk landscapes.
Our next stop was picniking on Samy's grandfather's farm. Samy is a rarity in Egypt - an entrepeneur. He was expected by his father to help out with the family farm. But, he wanted to take a risk and start a business guiding people around the deserts around Bahariya. He loved spending time exploring them and he wanted to share this with travellers. The only person that supported this vision was his grandfather, everyone else somewhat shunned him for not sticking with tradition.
His grandfather loaned him money to start his business and now Samy has a number of drivers taking tourists on trips around Bahariya, Siwa and Kharga Oases. He's even listed in the Lonely Planet. I was pleasantly surprised how liberal and forward thinking Samy was, especially for someone coming from such a remote place as Bahariya. He had traveled throughout Europe, funded by his thriving desert tours business, and was currently planning a trip to Germany. After spending months dealing with Egyptians that treated me as less than human because I was a white female and constantly having to be a alert 24/7 to being groped and felt up - it was refreshing and a real joy to talk with an Egyptian who treated me with respect and as a human being.
The White Desert was next up on the itinerary.
The White Desert is litered with chalk formations in different shapes. The pools of chalk on the ground look like snow. We pitched camp here and that night we were joined by a nearby camp and an impromptu jam session with traditional Egyptian instruments began between Samy, Aref, and our new found friends.
On our way back to Cairo we stopped and met Samy's family, we were fed again (the Egyptians love to eat), and then headed back to Cairo, a shower and all those other wonderful modern conveniences (like toilets).