The Corn Flake Traveller in Egypt
I went to Egypt because I wanted to take my little brother somewhere special to celebrate him finishing school and at the same time fuel my growing fascination with ancient civilisations. Armed with only €600 each our 5 week trip began when we arrived in Cairo at the end of June 2010.
After a couple of days acclimatising in the capital we took a tour to see the ‘White desert’ (the Sahara el Beyda) a place I had become desperate to see since seeing it featured in one of David Attenborough’s shows. We took the 8am bus, sleeping most of the way and arriving about 1 o clock in Bahariya Oasis. We were taken to a cross between a hotel and a campsite, where we were treated to some dry pasta and cucumber for lunch. Then we did what the locals do and stayed out of the sun to escape the heat, before leaving town in a 4x4 at about 4:30pm to go see some desert.
First stop was the ‘Black desert’, a beautiful area, where we climbed ‘Black Mountain’ for great views of the valley and the black pointy hills that looked like giant mole hills. From here we entered the White Desert National Park, stopping briefly at Crystal Mountain to see a nice natural arch and some crystalline rocks.
We continued on, looking out the window as the desert turned white, with lots of white chalk deposits on the ground and some huge white rock formations sculpted by the many sandstorms over the centuries. We drove around for a few hours, stopping in a few places for a close up of some of the more striking formations, like the massive white mushrooms jutting out of the ground. On our final stop the drivers/guides set up camp, cooked some dinner and then we sat around appreciating the scenery. This area is stunning and goes straight in to my ‘Top Ten’ favourite places I’ve seen on my travels so far, although it’s more realistically a Top 50.
We had dinner with a Japanese group, who were over there on a business trip, then we all watched the beautiful sunset as it made silhouettes out of the rock formations we were surrounded by. When darkness had settled a group of desert foxes came to steal the leftovers from our meal, they were cute little things with massive, disproportional ears.
We slept under the stars and due to a lack of artificial light there were huge numbers of stars, the sky was completely full. It was a fantastic moment falling asleep looking up at such a clear night, it was so clear you could easily see the ‘Milky Way’ looking like a big cloud in the sky.
Next morning I was woken by the Japanese group, not surprisingly taking photos but I couldn’t blame them as it was a beautiful sun rise but I dozed off again and got up for real about 7am. It was brilliant waking up slap bang in the middle of the desert, surrounded by amazing scenery, it put me in a really good mood waking up to a view like that.
We spent the day exploring the area further, then that evening me and my brother went for a walk and met a local farmer. The Egyptian people are so warm and friendly, the farmer was a really kind, sweet guy, who was really enthusiastic about showing us all of his crops and his irrigation system. He gave us a bag full of dates, grapes and a load of fruit I’ve never seen before, like a green fruit with a red, furry, whispy centre (the part you eat with a really weak taste). He was such a sweet man, I could have spent the whole day with him.
We then independently travelled through the desert to Luxor, jumping from one oasis to another, stopping in Al Qasr Oasis for a night. We opted for the cheapest accommodation we could find, the rooftop of a rest-house that charged us €1.50 each to put some really dirty, stinking mattresses on the floor. This suited us fine as it was nice and cheap, we had plenty of mattresses and we could fall asleep looking at the stars again. The people were again very hospitable and in the morning they brought us breakfast on the roof, which was pretty different from Western breakfasts as we ate pita bread, cheese and some spicy vegetable dishes.