White Desert

Cairo Travel Blog

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I went to the White Desert a couple weekends ago and it was my first time ever going to a desert, well that I can remember. I guess just going to visit a desert for the first time was not enough and I agreed to camp out in the desert. Probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Going to the White Desert and camping out overnight was one of the truly memorable experiences from this trip to Egypt.

After the 5 or so hour drive to this small town by a desert oasis we at lunch in these huts. The lunch was modest, flat bread and dips. After lunch a few people jumped into the natural hot spring pool. Not I. The water was cloudy and smelled like straight sulfur. We then transferred our belongings into 4×4’s and took off into the desert. In my 4×4 was Pablo, an amazing photographer from Spain, Neha, Jamie, Elliot, Rafat(the Driver), and I. The trip to the White Desert was about another 2 hours. That’s one thing about Egypt people always tell you, “Oh this trip only takes 4 hours or so.” When in reality these trips are like 7 hours. Please people stop cutting times in half.

When we arrived in the White Desert we stopped at this Canyon-like area and took pictures. This place was truly amazing!

After another 45 minutes of driving we finally arrived at the campsite. After all this driving I was ready to get out and walk around. We set up camp here and the Bedouin guides made us a dinner that was pretty amazing. We had a ¼ Chicken, rice, and vegetables. When dinner was over the Bedouins made a campfire and played traditional Arabic music. This was really cool sitting around the fire in a desert listening to the music and singing. At midnight it was the 4th of July. We sang God Bless America in the desert, which was pretty cool. Also during this time we encountered a desert foxes. The desert foxes are sneaky little animals that enjoy stealing sandals for some reason. While the Bedouins were playing music I fell asleep on the mats.

When I woke up I looked at the stars and this was a sight I will never forget! It was amazing I could see every star in the sky like I was at a planetarium! I could even see the Milky Way!!! The freaking Milky Way!!! I’m so glad it got cold in the desert, because that is the only reason why I woke up to see all of these stars.

I woke up again before sunrise and to see the glow of the sun creep over the horizon onto the desert sands. As the sun became brighter it shined off the bright white rocks in the desert making yet another memorable sight in the desert.

Later on we went walking around and took some pictures. Went to the Black Desert and checked out the sights there. Then we made our way out of the desert and back Cairo. It was a truly amazing trip. I will now tell anyone who comes to Egypt if there is one thing they must do. It is camping in the White Desert. Also, Many thanks to Karim for setting up this amazing trip.
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This is long overdue.

I came to Cairo having some preconceived notions of what life here would be like. From my family and non-Arab friends the statement went something like; “Cairo?! Egypt?! Why?…Well I hope you make it back ok and not taken hostage.” Thanks everyone for your concerns I really appreciate it! From my Arab friends, especially my Egyptian friends, the statement was; “You will love Egypt! You will never want to leave!!!” After being here for more than a month now which statement do I agree with more? …Drum Roll please… The second! I love this place!!! Ana Ba7ebik Awi Ya Masr!!!

The Egyptian people as a whole a very genuine and love welcoming tourist and other visitors to their country. So many people have come up and talked to me English and at some point in the conversation I hear “Welcome to Egypt!” and they smile and they really mean it! On many occasions I have been invited for tea or coffee from random people on the streets. Here in Egypt it is very easy to strike up a conversation with someone, and the next thing you know it has been two hours and it seems like you have known this person your whole life. Don’t get me wrong not everyone in Cairo is like this but the vast majority of the people here are amazing!

Now for the people Cairo could do with out. People trying to hustle to make a buck anyway they can. Cairenes are born to hustle it seems like. Many are smooth talkers and can easily rip you off at first, but after you get the hang of it you can get good deals. Some taxi drivers aren’t very nice either. This being said 20 minutes after I got into an intense fight over a cab fair that was settled by people on the street, because people love to get into each other’s business here like no other! Cab rides could be settled easily if the government gave the cabbies a decent rate for their meters. Currently, if the cab rides were metered you could go from Downtown to Zamalek for around 2.5 LE or less than 50cents. Next, people get charged differently based on a few things. Egyptians get charged the least. I am ok with this because after all it is their country. People from the Middle East not of Egyptian decent get charged fractionally more than Egyptians. After this if you are a foreigner and can speak Arabic you will get charged more than the Egyptians and Arabs. Then the tourists with zero Arabic speaking skills get charged and arm and a leg and get ripped of severely. For example an Egyptian may pay 3-5 LE to go from Dokki to Tahrir Square. A tourist with zero Arabic skills gets charged maybe 20 LE depending on the taxi. The rest fall in between. Needless to say it could all be taken care of if the taxi’s had a decent meter system.

More about the mass-transit systems in Cairo. Everyone must go on the Metro when they come here. It is extremely cheap 1 LE each way, and very fast especially during Cairo’s rush hours. The downside is it is crowded and smells terrible because some people don’t believe in showers or deodorant. As a visitor to Egypt you must experience the metro. Microbus is another form of transportation and it is also very cheap, but hard to use because you have to know the hand signals for the area you want to go to. Finally, the regular green buses. These buses are also very cheap. The extreme downside of these is they are very crowed. The bus doesn’t come to a complete stop so you have to jump on and off the bus. Also you may have to hang on to the outside of the bus because it is so crowed. I have seen many people fall of the bus while trying to jump. It gets pretty ugly.

The food in Egypt is great depending on where go and what you get. Not to mention the food can be extremely cheap. There is a food store below my flat in Zamalek where I can get fool, tamayya(falafel), French fry sandwiches, and more for less than a pound a piece. I can get a full meal for something like 89 cents in America. Not all places are this cheap. This is only at places that do Egyptian style food. One night I got grilled pigeon, and oddly enough the word for pigeon is the same word as bathroom. Who would have figured?! But truthfully the pigeon was really good and must eat for people who come to Egypt. Another Egyptian classic, or more modern creation is the Viagra sandwich. This is grilled or fried shrimp and crab with sauce on a hoagie. It is soooooooooo good! One other must try while in Egypt is a soft drink called Fayrouz. It is malted and comes in four flavors pear, apple, pineapple, and peach. Pear is my personal favorite. It is by far my favorite soft drink on the planet!!!
photo by: vulindlela