camping in the desert
We found a place in the bus, which rapidly became hot, packed and fetid. The soundtrack was a mix of sad sounding Arabic chants and parts of the Koran. In each stop a peddler walked trying to sell Kleenex or nuts, children walked around eating a piece of bread (I saw their mom putting butter in the bread with her dirty fingers) and tired looking backpackers tried to figure out their seat.
Five hours later we arrived in the Bahariya Oasis, 300 kilometers from Cairo.
We had lunch at an interesting hostel (rooms were straw huts) and went for a (long) drive on 4×4 to the White Desert.
As the name says, it’s a white desert, decorated with chalk stones that look like sculptures – a result of continued sand storms.
After a three hour drive through the desert, Ahmed, our guide, stopped the car close to a mountain, went outside and grabbed a handful of sand and let it go between his fingers. He looked around and said “We camp here.”
In a matter of minutes our camp was ready – carpet on the sand, mats, table, wind blocker and campfire.
We relished the sky’s watercolor; meanwhile, Ahmed started to cook dinner – chicken, rice and vegetables. For dessert – cooked bananas and three cups of tea. The first cup is strong and bitter, the second cup flows better in the palate, and the third cup is sweet and soothing.
After dinner, we starred at the sky, absorbing the silent desert.
There were unexpected guest – a fox and a beetle.
In a moment of deep contemplation, I asked Ahmed, our guide, if he would exchange life in the desert for a better paying job in the city.
“Never”, he replied. “I wouldn’t leave this life for anything”, he continued.
As I processed his response, thinking of what we give up when we move for a job or for another opportunity, I couldn’t help but think: is the secret to happiness to live simply simpler? The more we discover, the more options, the less we decide? Are we happy if we only know our land?