By , March 18, 2013 8:12 am
The White Desert was our favourite place in Egypt. And it's not even because there were no vendors, touts, scammers, or hustlers about - although that fact certainly helped increase its status in our minds. It was the gorgeous landscape that we had all to ourselves. The only other travelers were met at common lunch stops. The peace and calm were inviting. And sleeping under the stars was unforgettable. Mike wanted to do two things in Egypt. See the pyramids and ride camels. And not at the same time. He wanted to really ride camels... as in a camel safari across the desert. Although technically possible, we found the safaris that crossed the sand sea to be both time and cost prohibitive. So we toned it back a bit. For us, the best tour we could find still came with a hefty price tag - $300 USD per person for 4 days and 3 nights. It was a lot of money, but it had camels and was a private tour (there are group tours available, but there were honestly no other tourists while we were there that were interested in more than a two day, single night tour so there was no one to group up with). Anxious to get away from the touristy bits of Cairo, we talked ourselves into it. The first day of the tour started at our Cairo hotel. We were driven to the bus station and put on a local bus out to Bahariya Oasis. We drove through miles of desert, with a rest stop halfway, at what seemed to be an industrial work camp. When we arrived at the Oasis, we were relieved to find that someone was there to meet us (we had no ticket or receipt for the tour, so we had taken a huge leap of faith by paying up front in Cairo and hoping we would get all that was promised... we didn't even know the safari company's name!).

Rest stop in the desert

We were driven to the edge of the oasis where the safari company was based. They fed us lunch, introduced us to our driver and guide for the next three days, and squeezed a little extra money out of us by making us pay for our drinking water which was supposed to be included. We climbed in the jeep with Tamr and drove off to the Black Desert where we got to snap pictures until we were satisfied we'd seen enough. Then, we drove to Crystal Mountain for more photos, before driving on to the camel camp.

Tamr, our jeep, and another tour jeep

Black Desert

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain

Desert

At the camel camp, we were informed that our camel guide was MIA. After a few phone calls, Tamr arranged for our guide to meet us later that night at our camp. We were supposed to spend about an hour riding the camels that night, but it wasn't going to happen. Our consolation prize was some sugar-saturated Bedouin tea at the camel camp.

Camel camp

Preparing the tea

We then drove to our camp for the night (which was really just an inviting bit of desert... there aren't actually defined campsites here). Tamr set up camp while we took sunset photos. He cooked us a delicious vegetarian supper (with chicken for himself... he couldn't understand why we wouldn't eat chicken. He was pretty sure it was a vegetable) and made a campfire for us to keep warm while the night chill started creeping in. When we were ready for bed, he turned our meal cushions into mattresses and made our bed - he even tucked us in!!!

Setting up camp

Sunset, Day #1

Ready for supper

Campfire

In the morning, we went for a quick walk while Tamr prepared our breakfast. Our camel guide (Mohammed) showed up with two camels. He only spoke a few words of English, so he silently led us around for the next few days. I had kind of pictured us riding and maneouvering the camels ourselves, but it was more like him walking ahead and leading them on a rope. I tried to get introduced to my camel, but she had no name... so there weren't really any introductions to be had.

Desert beetle

Scenery during our morning walk

Our camels!!!

Getting ready to go

Been to the desert on a camel with no name...

View from my camel

Camel riding "like an Egyptian"

Mohammed

We spent hours looking for different shapes in the strange rock formations

More cool rock formations

One of the few English words Mohammed knew: "chicken"

We spent about two hours on the camels before lunch and two hours on them afterwards. Lunch was a lengthy affair, which was welcome on Day 2 as a sandstorm blew in and we had to wait it out before we could leave our lunch tent. Let me just say... two hours on a camel is painful. The ride itself is actually fairly smooth, but camels are a lot wider than they look. It's really hard on your hips and legs to straddle something that wide for that long. At the end of Day 3, I got off my camel and actually couldn't walk. I just stood there, telling my legs to move... but nothing happened. If nothing else, it gave everyone besides me a good laugh. On the final morning, we helped Tamr clean up camp and climbed into the jeep to return to the Oasis. We stopped at some hot and cold springs on the way. As I described before, they were nothing like what I was imagining. Upon returning to the Oasis, we hopped on probably the most uncomfortable bus I've been on (the seat in front of me was broken, so the Korean guy in it was essentially using my knees to keep himself upright) and returned to Cairo. It was hard to leave the desert behind.

Lunch break

Sand storm is letting up

Rabbit rock

Sunset, Day #2

Enjoying the camel ride

Camp #2

Camp #2

Sunset, Day #2

Sunset, Day #2

Me and the camels. We may be in the desert, but as soon as the sun starts dropping it gets cold fast!

All tuckered out

Tamr's friend, the fox... eyeing up Mike's shoes for supper

Rhino rock

Camel teeth are sexy!

The "brakes"

Oasis lunch stop

After two days of walking without any food or water, one camel drank for about 5 seconds and the other wanted none of it

Harsh landscape... we felt bad for the camels' feet

Tree

White desert

Goodbye camels with no names!

Making sand angels (this was a few days before Christmas)

Sunset, Day #3

Sunset, Day #3

Sunset, Day #3

2 Responses to “The White Desert: Finding Peace, Quiet, and Beauty in the Middle of Egypt”

  1. Emily says:

    Very cool experience! But ahh, yes, poor camels.. glad you had at least a little decent time in Egypt!

  2. Sofie says:

    Wauw, what an amazing scenery!
    And I love how you names all of those rocks. I probably wouldn’t have seen the figures in them without the captions:)
    It seems like an amazing experience, but I don’t know if I’d like to do it three days in a row. As amazing as the view is, don’t you get a ‘sand, and more sand’ feeling after a while?

Leave a Reply