Day 6: Bedouin Village and WW1 English Fort

by - November 19, 2010

Desert Safari Home - our hostel, with our room on the bottom floor
 It seems that somebody has fixed the keyboard and installed Mozilla Firefox on this computer, so blogging has become massively easy.  First off, I have to admit something, because Tom told me that if I didn’t put it on the blog, he would put it on himself.  You know how I left my passport on a bus in Slovenia?  Well I left it in a restaurant last night.  Along with Danni’s.  LUCKILY I realised in time and sprinted back to find that they were lying on the floor where they had fallen out of my pocket, which was a massive relief as getting a replacement passport probably would have taken the rest of the trip.  Needless to say, Tom is now looking after Danni’s passport, and I have finally learnt my lesson and started wearing a money belt with it in.  My bad.  With that out of the way (and Tom happy that enough people know never to trust me with valuables), I shall describe today, our last full day in the desert.  We woke up late and had breakfast at the hostel.  This consisted of an egg and some traditional bread which is fairly filling.  Whilst the other two got ready I took the chance to take some photos of where we are staying, because it is just so pleasant.  For those of you interested in the costing of the trip (a full summary will be provided at the end), this hostel has cost us 4GBP per night each.  Pretty good.

Danni owns the locals at dominos
 After breakfast we hitched into town (it seems that so many people have seen us hitching in and out that they have stopped accepting money, which is cool) and rented the same motorbike as yesterday.  Danni and I also took the chance to do a bit more gift shopping, while Tom went and got some provisions for us to ride out into the desert in search of springs.  We took the road to the north of the town, which was in theory towards the lake around which the oasis is based and where the best hot and cold springs were meant to be.  Nothing is that far away when we are on a motorbike, so we were able to go to the furthest spring first - about 15km away.  After riding for a fair while, we didn’t quite know where we were, so asked some locals for directions.  The locals were a group of three men sitting outside their house on a rug, and upon seeing us they immediately invited us to sit down for Bedouin tea.  It seemed to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we obliged and after drinking the local tea for a bit, a small table appeared with a set of dominos.  The locals challenged us to a game, thinking that we wouldn’t be very good.  Tom and I allowed Danni to represent England in this international dominos match and amusingly she won three of the four games - much to the locals surprise.  They repeatedly offered us camel rides to the springs (I think they were camel herders) and lunch, but we couldn’t face another camel and had food with us. 

A spring in the Oasis
We did however let them take us to the spring that they had in their back yard.  It was very warm, but very pleasant with a view over the desert which was where their camels roamed.  One of the locals was particularly friendly and took some photos of/with us while we swam.  The water was very similar in temperature and smell of sulphur to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik (for those who went on the HBS trip).  However, instead of glacial blizzard, replace the surroundings with Sahara Desert and that should paint a reasonably accurate picture.  After a bit of a swim, we dried off and sat outside the farmhouse on a mat, with a bigger and bigger crowd growing to come and meet us.  One of them turned up in a pickup truck with his speaker system blaring out music and as he parked up it became apparent that this was traditional Bedouin music which they all seemed happy to clap and dance to.  We were happy to sit and clap, but it seemed they were after something more and soon Danni (to mine and Tom’s amusement) and then me and Tom (to our horror) were pulled to our feet to dance a kind of ‘hands in the air and sway dance’.  This was very amusing, but I am glad that it was only strangers who were able to see it.  As the owner of the only camera on the trip (it’s my camera, so any videos of me dancing that may or may not exist are published at my own discretion), I shall upload to facebook the video of Tom and Danni at a later date - as the computer here won’t manage it.  Well worth a watch/listen.

Lunch on a mountain top plateau
 It was difficult to tear ourselves away from such kindness, but even though they offered us food we decided to carry on our journey.  To be honest, meeting these Bedouin locals put us completely to shame - it would be ridiculous to expect a British family to offer drink, food, swimming and dancing to somebody who was asking for directions, but here we got the feeling that we would have got exactly the same treatment whichever farmhouse we had stopped at.  To top it all, they refused to take any Egyptian money and only begrudingly accepted a British five pound note - which they will probably keep as a momento rather than cash in.  We jumped on the bike and were waved off by the group of them, which had now swelled from three to about twenty.  Our plan was to head for the 'Black Mountain’, which is known locally as Djebl al-Ingleez, or English mountain, because there is an abandoned British WW1 fort built on the top.  It is the tallest mountain around and was therefore chosen by a British captain as the site for a fort from which he could monitor the movement of local tribesmen.  Unfortunately we didn’t quite know where we were going and ended up climbing the wrong mountain to eat our lunch - which wasn’t the end of the world really because from the top we could clearly see which one actually was Black Mountain.  After a lunch of crisps, water and 'Dorios’ - Egypt’s version of Oreos, we headed back down for the bike and drove on along what was now little more than a track through the desert towards our target.

The British fort at the top of Black Mountain (notice the bike in the background)
Once we had got there it seemed that climbing the Black Mountain would be quite challenging.  I was very up for it (British military fort in the desert - what’s not to love!?), but the other two weren’t so Danni and Tom had a go at a bit of off road biking whilst I did my best to jog up to the crest.  Luckily, I found what must have been the track used by military vehicles to get to the top, so it only took about 10 minutes at a jogging pace to climb and once at the top I decided to jog back down and fetch the other two along with the bike.  Some local kids with local instruments were also in the area and sat at the top with us playing their drums while we explored.  There wasn’t much left of it - only the walls really, but it is more the idea that once this outpost was a little bit of Britain.  I am annoyed I didn’t have my Union Flag with me.  The location was superb, with our first 360 degree views over the whole oasis and the desert beyond it.  Unfortunately the sun was beginning to set, so we stayed for a few snaps before making our way back along the desert track to the main road which took us back into Bawiti.  We dropped off the bike (it cost about 20GBP to rent for 5 hours - a bargain) and did a little bit more shopping, before heading back to the hostel on the back of a truck to write the blog and have dinner.  I don’t know quite when I will be able to update the blog again - the madness of Egypt is that an internet in the Sahara is probably just as reliable as in Cairo or Luxor.  Tomorrow we leave the oasis at 10am, for a 5 hour bus journey to Cairo, where we hope to see a few more sites before an epic 10 hour train journey to Luxor in the south, which departs Cairo at 10pm.  It will be a long day, but it is necessary as our flight departs from there! It is a shame to leave the desert as I have never been made to feel as welcome as I have here.  We are a little bit worried that Luxor will struggle to live up to Bahariya, but we will do our best to make the most of it.  It is, after all Thebes, the capital of Ancient Egypt - which can’t be bad.

You May Also Like