Black desert onwards,

Trip Start Mar 23, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Sunday, April 2, 2006

We made our slow way to a section of the "Black Desert" the reason why it is called this is because there are small bits of black volcanic rock throughout it- not because the sand is black. I hate camping, I haven't camped much in my life and I usually don't volunteer for it so this was going to be an experience- I'm not used to not having a toilet as an example!

We parked in an area a little way away from the road which was beside some train tracks. Sam pointed out the toilets- and sand dune to the right of the truck was the ladies and a sand dune to the left, a little way away, was the men's. Luckily there aren't many trains in this part of Egypt so us girls didn't have to worry too much about going off alone and a train coming past while we squatted in the sand trying to keep balance. (and if a train was coming you could easily here it.

A smaller group of us went off and watched the sun set, I took too many pictures as usual but it was a lovely sunset (I will bore you with them and post them up here at some point, don't worry). After this it got a little cooler but compared to Mt Sinai it was ok. A group of us, including me, were given the task to help with dinner. All I really did was wash vegetables but it sped up the entire process and it was fun being able to help out a little. We had stir-fry for dinner and custard and a type of sponge cake for after.

Being the lazy sod I am I decided for the easy option of sleeping under the stars (since breaking my arm as a child after falling over a tent peg tents and I have always had a bad relationship). It was great the peaceful night looking up at the stars (ignoring the snoring) and I actually slept a lot better than I expected. There was a 6am train that worked as an alarm clock.

3rd April,

We headed off in the early morning after breakfast to an Oasis for a shower and lunch. It was strange looking out at the green sections of the little health camp compared to the sand all around it. The owner of the health camp was about 90 years old called Mr Ali. We were told he had 9 wives and 23 children, the youngest child being only 3 years old. He says the reason he has lived so long is because of all the pot he has smoked in his life (and all the sex as well it seems).

After the girls caking on makeup and all of use getting rid of the sand that covered us we had lunch and then drove off to the White Desert. The White Desert is covered in patches of white lime stone, it was like looking at the moon when we watched the sun set.

Another group was delegated to cook dinner which we ate around the fire. A Shesha pipe was passed around- well it sat there and we passed around it. Shesha is a large pipe which is used to smoke tobacco, in our case cherry flavored, the tobacco is placed in a section at the top and then filtered through some pipes then through water before being sucked up through another pipe. (hope that makes sense). I've never smoked so the first time was ok since it wasn't too strong but the second time I tried it I coughed a bit. I think thats going to be the closest I get to smoking again in my life.

It was fun again camping in the White Desert- some girls found a "huge" bug in there tent (about the size of 2 fingers held together I think) and a rock formation which we parked near had a small horned viper living under it (two of the boys found it and it ran further back into the stone to get away from them).

4th April,

After the sun woke us we left to go to Al-Qasr. On the way we stopped off at a wonderful art gallery that was an artists house that he had made into an artwork and gallery. The artists, Badr, made sculptures and paintings, the were wonderful. I think I took more pictures around his gallery than I did around the pyramids etc. Badr carved people, animals and stylised words all over the inside walls of his house. Every room had different works, from water colours to pottery figures of old men smoking Shesha and gambling. Sam told us he was offered to become a French citizen because of his wonderful work but declined because he couldn't leave his home in the desert- it is his life and his work. We did not get to meet Badr since he was in Cairo with a exhibition he had just opened but we met "Mr Socks" who was our host and sales-man. As well as possibly being able to buy some of the work we saw we could buy some of Mr Socks' camel wool items- socks, scarves, hats- all of them knitted together presumably by him and included various bits of plant woven in with the wool, they much be bloody uncomfortable to wear with sticks sticking into you.

From the gallery we made it to Al-Qasr after a few hours of more badly-selected music (I can't remember if its was 80s music or country). We were shown around a near-by mud-brick village that was made during the Ottoman Empire (around 1500-1600 I think). The architecture was amazing, most of the village still stood in its original state (as far as I know) and one area that was used as the local Court house is now used as a Muslim school for the local boys. Outside on the way back there were some local ladies selling various woven baskets and thread-woven fans. I saw one that is a hideous bright orange-red and black colour and had to buy it. The little old (scary looking) lady wanted 25 Egyptian pounds for it so I offered he 10 and then said not to worry when she wasn't happy with that idea. She changed her mind and a local girl, about 6, suddenly "5!" once she figured out what was happening. It was so hard not to laugh when the old lady almost jumped out of her skin trying to shush the girl before the stupid foreigner asked for five. Because of this I gave her the 10 pound since it was so amusing.

That night we camped on the roof top of a local hotel. It was nice to have a shower where the water didn't leak all over the floor- even though it had to be very short since the water always goes cold if people take too long. Luckily I wasn't the last on the shower-rostar so my water was still hot.

5th April,

We woke up early (5.30am, or was it 6?) since we had an 9hr drive ahead of us to Luxor. We didn't stop anywhere except in the desert for brunch or toilet stops. It was almost surreal driving into Luxor and seeing the bright green crops of the local farms compared to the sand we had been living in for the past few days.

After the long drive it was bliss to see the hotel (not a 5 star one but it didn't matter). We had dinner in the courtyard area of the hotel- another feast of local food. There was also a lady selling papyrus paintings that she had decorated herself. She told me she had been painting for the past 15 years and they were better than most I had seen so far. She was also selling decorated bookmarks which you could get personalized with your name painted in hieroglyphs on it.

That night the bed was ok but the pillows were like over sized bricks but it didn't matter.

Luxor temples to come soon.
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