want to be a Bedouin for a night?
Our stay in Egypt couldn’t be summed up with only touristy trips and sightseeing. Yes, we saw the pyramids, walked around the Islamic neighborhood, got lost in the alleys of Khan el Khalili market. We even bought a shisha (narguila). We ate falafel, lamb and pita. We sailed the Nile in a felluca. We tasted apple shisha and had at least five teas a day. We rode a camel. We took a picture jumping between the pyramids.
But I don’t like to be just a tourist. I prefer to be a traveler. I like to test my comfort zone’s limits.
Between sips of tea, shisha and chatting with Kareem, one of the owners of the hostel we stayed at (Bedouin Hotel), sitting in the comfy, colorful cushions, looking around the hostel’s decoration, I asked if he was a Bedouin.
His family was indeed of Bedouin descent as the hostel reflected, therefore being a business owner in Cairo was a huge accomplishment. He noticed we were interested in learning about living in the desert, so he offered us a (paid) trip to go camping in the Bahariya desert.
A five hour bus ride, 4×4 rides across the red and the white deserts, sleep under the stars, live like Bedouins for a day, open fire cooked meals…
We didn’t think twice. It was exactly what we wanted – leave the buzzing Cairo and witness the endless sand dunes.
We left around 6:30 am. Simou, Kareem’s brother, offered to take us to the bus station. He hailed a cab and threw our bags on top of the car, inside a metal grid. Astonished, I asked “aren’t we putting them in the trunk?”
“It’s ok, it’s ok” He replied.
“Ok, then aren’t we going to tie the bags with a rope or something?
“It’s ok, it’s ok” He replied again, smiling.
We arrived alive at the bus station after running several red lights (including a few in front of the police), and the bags were surprisingly inside the metal grid on the taxi’s roof.
As we walked by the station’s security guards, the first question was “whisky?” Could it be written in Gustavo’s forehead: tourist – carrying whisky? I wondered. He was carrying one of those tiny airplane size bottles in his bag, and decided not to lie about it.
“It’s a problem… this is Egypt!” replied the guard, angrily.
Bakshish was my first thought. It’s their word for tip, widely used for anything, varying from taking a picture inside a pyramid, to using the bathroom. Egyptians expect a tip for basically anything.
“Where you from my ‘frien’?” he quickly asked. We both have American accents and had been living for may years in the US.
“Brazil” replied Gustavo.
“Oooohhh Brasil!! Ronaldo! Romario! Ok, ok, you can go.”
It´s great to be Brazilian. Most of the time.
Bags, whisky, tickets… everything ok. Off to the correct bus gate.