And with that, we bid adieu.. the desert and I

Bahariya Travel Blog

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And thats the sun rising.. bright and early..
I hadn’t realized that the sun would be out as early as it was. I hadn’t realized that all I had as a roof on my head was the sky which would bring the rays of the sun right to me! And so, at first light, I was up. We had made camp in a sort of valley.. between rocks.. and so, even though there was light, I could really see the sun. So I trekked up a bit to a higher point. And there it was – that golden ball of fire. It looked so mild.. so incapable of anything at that hour.. And yet, there was light all about.

I have realized that I have a fascination for the sun, you know. I am unusually mesmerized by the sight of the sun setting or rising. It just captivates me so completely.. Maybe that’s why I chose the symbol of a sun as a tattoo on my arm! (I am realizing this 4 years after I got the tattoo done.
And suddenly.. out of nowhere.. there was green!!
At that time, it just looked like a pretty design to have!).
So I sat there.. on the hill, looking at the sun rise up in the sky, until it got too bright to stare at!

I made my way back to the camp site where Mahmoud was getting breakfast ready. After a quick bite of fuul and ayish (I don’t know how it is spelt!), we got packing. It was amazing how within minutes, the site looked almost completely pristine! Except for some soot from the fire, there was no sign of it ever having been used for camping!

While driving me to the desert the previous day, Mahmoud was telling me about some disturbing news regarding tourism in the desert. Bahariya was made famous in the tourist circles by these Bedouin guides who have lived there all their lives and make their living from the deserts.
Trees?? In a desert??!!
Apparently, until a few years ago, there were only a handful of guides. And these were people who had walked the desert time and again and knew it like the back of their hands. But as the demand for tourism in the area grew, more and more people took to being guides. And soon, the big tour agencies from the cities also started offering safaris to the deserts.

So there was the usual clash between the corporates and the individual guides, and the corporates won out. As a result of this, all the individual guides were banned from taking any tourists into the desert. So yes, what I did was sort of illegal! But hey, how was I to know? I didn’t get the memo! Anyways, so now what the local people have decided to do is to form a company of their own. Just to have a legal front from which to work.
And a hot water spring too!
It was sad to hear of it from him because he spoke of the desert with such passion. Calling it his home.. his land. And he claimed that the big tour agencies from the cities didn’t care for the desert like the Bedouin did. They left the campsites dirty.. they commercialized the whole area.. turned it into an amusement park of sorts.

But I don’t know, really. I have been to the camp sites in the US and I have seen how easy they try and make it for tourists to make their way around without having to have guides. So maybe that’s the intention here too. To milk the desert by making it accessible to all and sundry.. A desert nicely marked out so tourists can drive through it themselves.. at their own pace.. without having to hire a guide. Oh and while we are at that, let me tell you, local or corporate, these guides don’t come cheap.
So that was my encounter with an oasis :)


Anyways, so once the camp site was packed up, we started the drive back to the town of Bawiti from where I was to catch the bus to Cairo. It was a quiet drive.. I was taking in the sounds and sights of the barren desert land… when suddenly, out of nowhere – green!!! Lush green!!

One moment it all brown and with nothing but sand for as far as the eye could see. And the next, I could see trees! Hundreds of them! One word leapt to mine – Oasis!

Yup, that was exactly what it was.. An Oasis.. Complete with a lake and a hot water spring!

After a short stop there to freshen up, we completed the journey back to Bawiti. I was taken back to Mahmoud’s house to freshen up and then packed off to the bus station.

It was a good trip, but as always, money spoils relationships and experiences! Mahmoud had quoted the price of 400 L.E a day for this trip. (It is cheaper per person when there is a group.. but you know, story of my life.. solo travel.. tends to get more expensive that I would like it to be).
So, having arrived the previous day after noon, and leaving by the bus at 10, I figured I owe Mahmoud one day’s quoted price. Seems logical doesn’t it? Apparently not. I believe, spending a night in the desert makes it two days. No matter how late I start or how early I head out. It struck me as odd and highly unfair. But I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the argument, and so I ended up giving in.

That was the only sore point in the experience.

But then, well, money comes money goes.. if not here, somewhere else. Yes, this is how I console myself! :D

My trip is almost at an end now. I’ve been in Egypt for 12 days now. And surprisingly, it just doesn’t feel that long. It actually feels like I have a lot of unfinished business here.

So now, with just a few days left on my Egyptian experience, I feel a sense of loss at having to leave.. Its been a jam packed trip.. I’ve barely had a few hours of doing nothing. But I haven’t had enough. Not by a long shot.

I know I won’t come back again. And that kinda makes it worse.

For all its quirks and inconveniences, I have come to enjoy this place. And the people. And I only wish I could experience its charm for a little bit longer.

Well, there’s no time to brood and mull over what is not to be. I have to get to bed for another early morning trip awaits me. I’m off to Sharm El Sheikh tomorrow morning to spend the weekend with the Red Sea!!
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And thats the sun rising.. bright …
And thats the sun rising.. bright…
And suddenly.. out of nowhere.. th…
And suddenly.. out of nowhere.. t…
Trees?? In a desert??!!
Trees?? In a desert??!!
And a hot water spring too!
And a hot water spring too!
So that was my encounter with an o…
So that was my encounter with an …
Bahariya
photo by: Alfie_Badawi