06 May 2011

______ is the new Black [Desert]

On a cool Cairo morning before the rest of the city woke up, I hailed a cab outside my hostel. I was in a hurry to the bus station to make my way to the Western Desert of Egypt (just one part of the huge Sahara Desert). There was an amusing calmness about the young cab driver who collected me. With one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a cigarette, he pushed the pedal to the metal and honked his horn as frequently as he could, disrupting the rarely tranquil streets of Cairo. Whenever we stopped at the lights, he’d turn to me and shout “smoking!” before offering me a cigarette. Then he’d offer it to other cab drivers next to us.

The bus ride towards the Sahara Desert was a long but scenic one. After five hours of seeing nothing but dry, dirt landscapes, we arrived in Bawiti, a town in the middle of nowhere. Here, I saw a general market, some motels and a bus stop. Two berbers with a 4WD picked me up, along with a Canadian girl I met on the bus journey. From here we drove a couple hours into the desert, before arriving at the Black Desert.

Somewhere between Cairo and Bawiti
Welcome to the Black Desert
The Black Desert is home to what looks like a large number of orange mountains with black speckled tops. Each mountain looked like it had recently erupted with volcanic ash. At a closer glance, I noticed that the tops of the mountains were actually comprised of large quantities of small black stones. The black stones lay across the orange-brown ground but for some reason, were concentrated towards the tops of these mountains.

 Piling up/Jenga'ing/Tumble'ing some of the Black Desert Rocks
From here, we moved on to another town, which actually was in the middle of nowhere. We ate lunch and made some German friends at what seemed like one of the only buildings in town. Above the entrance, there was a hand-painted sign with the words “Welcome with you in Bedween”. The place was run by one person: a plump, cheerful widow. She had two young daughters and had recently met an Australian man who proposed to her. She had only met the man once, while he stopped over on a tour to the desert, just like me. I asked her whether she would accept his proposal. She was torn. She wanted to move to Sydney, to be away from her poverty-stricken lifestyle and to provide her daughters with a better education. On the other hand, her young daughters were reluctant to move away from home to live with a man they did not know.

Restaurant in Bedween
Ruff n Tuff Landscapes
As we left Bedween, we drove further into the desert through a variety of terrains.  We experienced some extremely bumpy rides through rugged rocky landscapes as well as slippery rides where we violently swerved left and right through fine sand.  All this without a seatbelt made it even more exhilarating!  One thing we could notice was that the further we drove, the lighter the landscapes became - we were well on our way to the amazing White Desert, but the sun had started setting quickly.

Sahara Sunset
White Desert = Next Post!


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