Among topics of ancient civilisation, temples and mind blowing Red sea diving, the mention of natural beauty of Egypt sometimes gets lost. Most visitors to Egypt keep their travels along the Nile which they definitely should. After all, the river is what has kept Egypt nurtured and nourished for thousands of years and has helped create its history.
However, Egypt has lot more to offer for the more intrepid travellers and what better place to go exploring than the deserts of Egypt. At about 370 kms from Cairo, lies the Bahariya Oasis, the Black and the White desert, where some exceptional experiences wait for travellers.
The staff at our Cairo hotel were happy enough to book a 3 days and 2 nights tour for us. The initial car ride was quite long (~ 4 hours) with couple of breaks in between. We were taken to an area near the Black desert from Cairo where our desert guides picked us up in their hardy vehicle which was loaded with all the stuff we would need for our adventure during the next two days.
Abdul and Waleed seemed a bit distant in the beginning but as we kept spending time together, they turned out to be amazing people with a great sense of humour, the proud bedouins of the desert.
As the sun rose directly above us, we reached the Black desert which consists of impressive black hillocks caused as a result of volcanic activities. There was not a movement to be seen for as far as the eye could see. We were starting to realise the vastness of the desert.
We were told to try and climb one of the structures which would allow us to get a better view of the place but the slopes turned out to be very loose with small stones and we had to give up at half way. The view was still spectacular. After admiring some multi-coloured volcanic rocks, we were on our way to a small village which would be our lunch stop.
The shade of the place was a relief in the scorching heat of the day. We took in the ambience and got down to rest on the dirty cushions and mattresses.
Another group were also able to find an innocent rat who seemed to be looking for company in the idle afternoon.
The guides from our and the other group started their joint effort of preparing lunch. We’d already guessed that the menu would be simple. After all, we were in a desert village.
However, when the food arrived, it was much more than we had expected. And tasty. I know that we were tired and would gobble down anything given to us at that time, but believe me, the food was delicious.
After lunch, the guides allowed us to rest for couple of hours to pass the peak heat of the day and then we were on our way to crystal mountain. Till now we were in Bahariya and now we were on our way towards Farafra where we would experience the White desert and camp for the night.
Crystal mountain is named so because of some crystal rock formations. Apart from them, the place has some amazing and dramatic landforms.
After getting baked in the heat for some more time, it was now time for us to move on.
After a short drive, we crossed a huge dune and in front of us was one of the most dramatic landscapes we had ever seen. Abdul informed us that the place was called Agabat. He suggested that we take a walk down the sand while he would go ahead and prepare some tea for us in the shade of the structures.
We were prepared to walk anyways as it is not every day that one gets to walk the Sahara.
As the tea was being prepared, a very talented person from the other group brought out the Simsimiyya and within minutes his expert fingers were producing traditional bedouin music. Gradually, all the guides lent their voices to the song and although we had no idea of what it meant, it sounded absolutely wonderful in the middle of the desert.
In some time, we started packing again and were ready to move in few minutes.
Over the next hour or two, we were taken to different vantage points to admire the beauty of the landscape along with the gradually setting sun.
Although the heat was overwhelming, our excitement and enthusiasm knew no bounds.
At one point, we were near the entry point of the white desert and thats when we saw the other group for the last time.
Abdul stopped here to get some water for the night.
As the sun set, we started moving into the white desert. The best aspect of tourism in the white desert is that there are no permanent camps here. The tour operators bring all the supplies and required items with them, the camp is set up and after spending the night, everything is wrapped up in the morning and nothing is left behind.
As our camp was set up and the fire was lit, we lay down to rest our tired bodies. There were many other groups but they were so dispersed that every one had the feeling that they had the white desert all to themselves.
After chatting for some time, Waleed and Abdul started cooking our dinner. Again, we never expected a lavish menu but the arrangements were more than one can wish for in a desert camp.
After the dinner we walked around for some time. It would be a sin not to do so. The white desert has its name from white structures of numerous shapes all over the desert.
Luckily for us, it was a moonlit night and the everything around us looked surreal. It was as if huge white trolls were resting and sleeping all around us. There was not a single sound except for the sound of the wind. The weather had changed to cool and we felt quite pleasant.
When we asked Abdul if we could answer nature’s calls anywhere, he quipped “yes, you can go anywhere, but make sure to close the door”. It was time to sleep and we made ourselves comfortable in the comfy tent.
In the morning, the place looked completely different from the day before. When we woke up, breakfast was already served. We also came across a cute little Scarab, the beetle made so famous in the Mummy movies but it was not at all dangerous in any way.
After breakfast, we wrapped up and drove around the white desert spotting the different shapes of the structures.
After driving around the place for some more time, we were driven to our hotel in the town of Bawiti. It is a really small town and the hotel didn’t look like much initially but it was quite comfortable. Abdul was being troubled by some health problems so he took his leave and confirmed that Waleed would be completing the rest of our tour.
In the afternoon, we hopped into the vehicle with Waleed and made our way towards the pyramid mountain. On the way, Waleed treated us to some dune bashing.
We were again taken to various vantage points to get spectacular views of the place.
Finally, we hiked a little towards the English house, a ruin at one of the topmost points. The views below resembled what one can imagine to be views of an alien planet.
Finally, we witnessed one of the best sunsets ever and made our way back to the hotel. After a grand dinner and being bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes throughout the night, we were taken back to Cairo early the next morning.