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camping in the desert

December 11, 2009

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.

market in Bahariya

market in Bahariya

market in Bahariya

We had lunch at an interesting hostel (rooms were straw huts) and went for a (long) drive on 4×4 to the White Desert.

hostel in Bahariya

lunch at hostel in Bahariya

As the name says, it’s a white desert, decorated with chalk stones that look like sculptures – a result of continued sand storms.

White Desert

White Desert

White Desert

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.”

our camp site

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?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2009 8:29 pm

    Those pictures are gorgeous. I’ve never been much interested in the dessert until reading posts like these…I’m a coastal girl through and through!

  2. December 13, 2009 6:20 am

    Very cool read and I can relate. Just yesterday I was sitting on these rocks fishing on a beach in Kuta, Bali with a surf instructor. We talked about different ways of life and he also said he wouldn’t trade his life for the world. Then again most of us who get to these destinations traded our “old life” to go see the world.

    The more I travel the more I realize most people work like dogs for the whole year to get to paradise for a week. Those born here, regardless of material possessions are 1000x richer in the lives they live everyday.

  3. December 14, 2009 8:11 pm

    Your post reminded me The Sheltering Sky, novel from Paul Bowles. This must have been an awesome experience.

  4. December 14, 2009 11:53 pm

    Oh, cool! I was just saying the other day that I think it would be really cool to stay in a Bedouin camp! I’ll bet that was an amazing experience. I really like your writing style – can’t wait to read more!

  5. stace09 permalink
    December 16, 2009 8:02 pm

    Wow–gorgeous photos, and I really appreciate the ending of this post and the questions you pose, though I am still waiting for the answers.
    So happy you decided to get an English version out there!

  6. stace09 permalink
    December 16, 2009 8:03 pm

    Oh, and also, The Sheltering Sky, the book mentioned by Bailandesa, is an incredible read. You should pick it up when you get a chance.

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