Tag Archives: Desert

How About Some Desert? – Part 2

21 Sep

Location:

Western Desert

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.

mirageDuring 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 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.

farting spring“The Farting Spring”: This hot spring got its name because it bubbles (kinda like a cauldron). We all know what happens when you fart in water. Hence the name.

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.

dunessand tobogganing
Ankh vs Crosscamel safari
al-Bagawatcamel safari
al-Bagawat

How About Some Desert? – Part 1

14 Sep

Location:

Western Desert

For those who haven’t seen my pre-Egypt post, here is the map of my entire journey:

Egypt Encompassed Map For the purposes of my next couple of posts, your focus should be on the West side of the map (left side for those of you who need a hint…)

Day 3 of my journey, our Bedouin guides came to pick us up from Cairo. Our bags were loaded onto jeeps and we set off on a super long drive into the desert. When I say super long, I mean it must have been 7-8 hours of driving, plus about 2 hours added on for pit stops and food. I think my approximations are correct (I’m not sure because I slept through a lot of the ride…it’s a gift I have).

Our guides did all the cooking when we were in the desert. And the food wasn’t too bad at all. I wasn’t expecting much, so I guess it surpassed my expectations. Well, as long as I don’t have to cook it, I’ll enjoy the food. I guess one downside is the fact that the desert is where our meals started to consist of pitas…consistently…constantly – as in EVERY day. Some meals, we’d get a treat and get some other kind of bread! Oh and goat cheese was a huge part of meals too…as were cucumbers and tomatoes. Those were pretty much our staples. And those are pretty much the things I’ve been avoiding as of late.

Along the way to our destination, we stopped for some photo ops. Yup, we stopped in the middle of nowhere. To take pictures of sand, rocks, and more sand. It was really REALLY HOT. But what else do you expect when you visit Egypt in summer? (Crazy tourists…)
Here are our trusty jeeps in the middle of nowhere:

Western Desert

Our destination was the White Desert. Don’t worry, the Desert doesn’t discriminate – there’s also a Black Desert! Don’t ask about a Yellow or a Brown Desert, because I don’t think there are official deserts with those names…but all sand is pretty much brownish/yellowish so those colours dominate when it comes to desert presence (almost like Toronto…!).

It’s kind of obvious why the Black & White Deserts have their respective names.
The Black Desert gets its colour from the black rocks on the conical mounds.
The White Desert gets its colour from a combination of chalk and limestone. It kind of looks like snow, huh?

blackdesertwhitedesert

When we finally reached our destination in the White Desert, camp was set up.
When I say “camp” I mean there was an area where the Bedouins could cook and you could sit to eat (pictured).

Your sleeping area was any spot you could find in the sand – the one requirement was that you must be able to physically see the camp & jeeps from where you are. I guess you can get lost really quickly if you’re disoriented…i.e. when you wake up? – everything looks the same out there.
Photo by Andrew Rushworth

There were no tents.
No poles to pitch.
No tarps to set up.

We all slept under the stars.
On thin mattresses.
Around a campfire.

(Bliss!)

And yes, it definitely gets chilly in the desert – sleeping bags and blankets were very necessary.

The sky was clear and the stars shone brilliantly – the view upwards was nothing short of amazing. You’re just going to have to imagine what the night sky looks like with no light pollution. I’ve never seen so many shooting stars in one night.

Oh, and the moon? It was so bright, you didn’t need a flashlight at around 3-4am. After seeing the moon rise in the desert, I’m going to have to say that it definitely rivals a sunrise or a sunset. The sun’s nice when it glows red, but the moon wears red better.

The only other living things we saw that night were desert foxes. They look like little white dogs (very cute), but apparently they like to steal flip flops? So we had to keep our shoes in the jeeps. Somewhere out there, there is a fox den made of flip flops…

And here’s where I leave you with pretty pictures to sustain you until I decide to type out part 2.

Left pic: These are known as inselbergs (or outcroppings) which are shaped like a chicken under a tree. There are a lot of outcroppings in the White Desert – these ones just happen to be the famous ones.
Right pic: The sun just setting in the White Desert – view from the top of a huge inselberg.
desertsunset