Thursday, April 19, 2007

Egypt - 2 : Into the western desert

This was definitely the best part of the trip to Egypt. We were very lucky in finding a two day trip (with Minamar hotel in Bahariyya) into the desert, it was short, but one I will not forget easily. We set off from Cairo early in the morning in a 4X4 which took us into the desert. It was a long day with the expert driver crossing 100kmph for most of the way. He was fun and chatty and made a big difference to how enjoyable the trip was. Though he does this nearly every day during the tourist season, he never looked bored at our awestruck faces.

We went from Baraharriya Oasis to the White desert, a fairly common tourist route. What makes the trip most fascinating is that unlike a regular sandy desert, the desert formations are varied and change as you drive along.

The first stop was at the Black desert (above), the vastness was enthralling, more so because in the vast desert there was not another person or car to be seen. Given the high formations which break the view, for most parts we felt like we were the only people in the pristine desert. The vastness filled me with a sensation I cannot describe. As we drove along the black desert gave way to a large more new formations and we came into the white desert.

The white desert is made of chalk that has been exposed to natural forces which has sculpted it into various shapes. Some look like outlines of animals, trees and others just amorphous shapes. This is where we set up camp with the basic equipment carried in the jeep. The driver was the chef too and cooked us one of the best meals we had in Egypt. It was simple, and having it in the desert by the fire made it a venue difficult to replicate. While we were not the only people (as we could make out by the numerous camp-fires in the distance), the desert is large enough for people not to have to camp too close to each other. We hardly slept that night.. partly because the super dusty, dirty sleeping bag made it difficult to breathe. But waking up in the desert was totally worth the lack of sleep the previous night.

The next morning we drove around a bit more, went to an area where we came across some 'desert rose' and finally drove back to Bahariyya Oasis. This is the first time I have been to an Oasis and the greenery in the middle of an arid desert looked so 'out-of-place'. Finally we were back and on our way to the Nile Cruise. What a stark contrast it was ..from having no bathroom one night to five star luxury. But for whatever roughing out it was .. it was totally worth it and here's the pictures to convince you of that.

Driving along the desert. Lots of varied formations on the way

We were driving along when our driver took a detour to come here. I was speechless at how beautiful it was.

Sunrise and pity that our trip to the desert would soon be over

The white desert by day, really really white!

Bahariyya Oasis, unbelievable how green it was in the middle of the desert.


Mr. J said...

Amazing pics, and camping out in the desert.. wow!!

I think you should next visit the amazon or something :P

30in2005 said...

Zuper pictures pea!

Mr. J said...

Hey I just remembered.. any pics of the Sphinx?

Beks said...

lovely, lovely pictures - and I didn't know there was a white desert and a black desert and it all looks incredible!

Risha said...

lovely pics!!! seems like u had a goooood time.

Anonymous said...

How was your stay at the Minamar Hotel?
You should let others know the deplorable condition that place is in.Were the windows and tiles still broken?
The desert is amazing, good to see people going out there in these tough times.

Risha said...

lovely pics!!
but I am annoyed at one thing, the april long weekend is over long back and may long weekend (both) are over too, then too no new posts :( , super busy is it?