After waking up covered in sand and feeling like I had a permanent layer of dirt stuck on me, I was glad to hear that we were heading to some accommodations – with showers! Don’t get me wrong – the feeling of filth was worth it for having the chance to sleep in the desert…but it’s nice to smell and feel clean.
During the journey to our next destination, Dakhla, our guides drove off the road into the desert where we saw mirages. It basically looked like we were driving near water…water that didn’t exist. The illusion is unreal. I tried to capture it on camera, so you’ll have to click for a larger image. The top half of the pic is real (it’s an oasis) but the water isn’t.
We ended up staying at Dohous Bedouin Camp in Dakhla for 2 nights. During the days, we swam in a hot spring (and smelled like sulphur after), visited a folk art museum, camel safari’d, and visited an abandoned city made of mudbrick.
El-Qasr: This is a big medieval city made of mudbrick. The picture was taken from a rooftop – and the city stretches as far as the eye can see. El-Qasr was built for defense. For example, there are narrow, short, maze-like tunnels – so that enemies couldn’t enter with camels & horses without being hindered by the height of the tunnels. And the winding tunnels with their blind corners didn’t help either. Oh yeah, by the way: it’s haunted.
The place is abandoned and nobody knows exactly why. It’s possible that people do know what happened, but nobody wants to talk about it. How’s that for mystery?
Our Bedouin guides won’t go into the city…and won’t even go remotely near it at night. Many Egyptians also refuse to enter El-Qasr. There is only one man (and his family) in living in this mudbrick city. Since they are the only people willing to live there, the government appointed them Guardians of the city.
We were told by our tour guide to jump into the spring (from approx 3 meters high)…and we were also told it was only knee-deep. Now we all know we shouldn’t jump into shallow water…but I figured the guide didn’t want us to die (too much paperwork to fill out) so I took the plunge.
And sunk into quick-sand for a brief second before getting popped back up by the gas (which makes the bubbles).
It was weird and so very cool at the same time. That’s the only way to describe it.
The good thing is that you can’t actually sink into the sand very deep – some tried to stand on each others’ shoulders – the gas just pushes you back up so you float.
Other Activities & Notes:
- Sand Tobogganing: Magic carpets work on snow & sand! Each person in the group only went down the dune once… it’s hard work climbing up a dune; and more than once probably wasn’t worth it in that kinda heat.
- Camel Safari: Camels are sloooow and the safari was a nice relaxing ride. We were in a convoy-like group of adult and baby camels.
- al-Bagawat: In the Kharga Oasis, there are Coptic Christian Tombs which have biblical paintings on the walls and ceilings. The Chapel of the Exodus depicts mostly paintings from the Old Testament. The walls in the Chapel of Peace are covered in Arabic, Coptic and Greek graffiti, while the formal decorations are of a pure, Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) style.
- My Health Condition: was bad on Day 5, and the worst on Day 6 – therefore I don’t remember much about al-Bagawat and I spent the 2nd night in the desert sleeping in a jeep.
Below are pics of the “Other Activities”.
Refer to the “Ankh vs Cross” (3rd) pic taken in al-Bagawat. Note that an Ankh – the bottom symbol – is a symbol for eternal life. As you can see, it looks a lot like a cross…
If you click on the last pic for a close-up, you can see that the painting has been defaced. The faces of figures have been chipped/scratched out. This isn’t unique to this place. In many temples and monuments, you will see that has been done – i.e. by Coptics to Islamic or Ancient Egyptian temples, and vice-versa. Not to mention the many ‘foreigners’ (Romans, Greeks) that invaded/occupied Egypt – they’ve also done their share of defacing.