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Friday, February 27, 2009

Camping in the Desert

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After Linda's Ladies returned from southern Egypt, their next adventure was to go camping in the desert. Not just any desert. They headed for the White Desert and the Black Desert. These two remarkable areas are located out in the Sahara, about two hundred miles to the southwest of Cairo.

This is real desert. Not much but sand to see until you reach an oasis, or the unique rock formations that were their destinations.

The basic plan for a visit to these sites is to pack up in a four-wheel drive vehicle with a driver, tour guide, desert tour guide and your personal security detail and then head for the el Beshmo Lodge in the Bahariya Oasis.

This lodge provides the last bed before camping in the desert.

Accommodations are fairly spartan at el Beshmo. Your reaction will depend on your attitude. If you thought you were going on a desert camping trip in the Sahara you'll do just fine. If you thought you were staying at five-star hotels everywhere on your trip, you may have to adjust your attitude a bit. The Roman springs have water heavily laden with iron but reportedly very good for your health.

There was a lunch break at this desert wayside. A hut with cushions inside and an oasis stream flowing through the middle. The desert guide prepared lunch while everyone stretched their legs.

The first night they camped at Agabat, an area of large and beautiful rock formations.

After a dinner of chicken cooked over an open fire the ladies and their Egypt guide gathered around the table for a rousing game of Farkle. The armed guard seemed interested in the game so the ladies taught him to play Farkle. After two rounds of Farkel the table was removed and the sleeping mats and blankets were put in place. Two of the ladies elected to sleep in tents but Linda and Mary wanted to sleep in the open air. The temperature dipped to a refreshing 50 degrees and the wind blew all night but Linda declared that it was worth the cool temperature to see the stars gleaming from horizon to horizon. (editor's note: Linda has gone on this camping expedition a couple of times. She finds it hard to choose between camping under a full moon, with constant light playing on the desert sands and this year's new moon with only stars in the sky.)

The sunset had been beautiful, too.

The next day the group bumped across sand dunes.

They found themselves stuck in the soft sand several times, until they arrived at their second campsite in the White Desert.

The White Desert is made up of thousands of chalk formations caused by years of wind erosion. Many of these formations have recognizable shapes and are known by their shapes. For example, the chicken, the rabbit, the mushrooms.

Before the camp was set up a fox came around to see what goodies he could score. The Egypt guide set a piece of cheese on a rock and all the ladies watched as the fox cautiously approached the group and picked the cheese from the rock. Several kinds of food were set out for the fox and each time he came near and took the food. The fox in the area have learned that when people are present there is food to be had. During the night Linda heard the fox's high pitched barking several times. She also heard the fox taking the lid off the teapot in the wee hours. In the morning the lid was found lying on the sand three feet from the pot. The Egypt guide reported that he had been awakened in the middle of the night when the fox was walking on him. He shook the fox off and it left the campsite.

The second night's dinner of pasta in tomato sauce was again followed by a couple rounds of Farkle. The stars were just as brilliant the second night but the temperature fell another 10 degrees to 40. Even with two extremely heavy blankets Linda was chilled to the bone. She was happy to see the sunrise and went for a walk among the chalky shapes, both to photograph the amazing shapes and to warm up.

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