Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bahariya Oasis--Day Two

We awakened to a donkey braying. We both slept well—these are the best beds of our hotel experience over here yet. Our breakfast consisted of Egyptian pancakes, much like what we’re used to except thinner, which I spread with fig jam and bananas. Delicious. We also had beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and hibiscus juice along with coffee or tea.

Peter met with us and we talked about the plans for today and tomorrow. We’ll meet again tonight to discuss the desert camping in more detail. He introduced us to Hamouda, a Bedouin, who will be our driver for today and into the desert tomorrow.

Peter Wirth

This morning, he drove us to 5 different antiquities of varying interest. We first visited the golden mummies, discovered by the famous archeologist Zahi Hawass in 1996 when a donkey stumbled on a hole, (same old, same old), and the rider saw the face of a golden mummy peering through the sand. Radar has revealed more than 10,000 mummies in what has come to be called The Valley of the Golden Mummies. In 1999 digging began and revealed that this was the largest and most important cemetery of this period ever found in Egypt. We were able to see about 10 of the Golden Mummies in the Museum of Antiquities; the highlight of the day.

Visiting these sights comes with a price, and not just the ticket price. We practically have these places to ourselves so the “guard” takes us in, unlocks the doors and then wants to be our guide. They barely speak English and everything is right there in front of us and we have a book explaining everything. One guy insisted that I give him a pen. I thought he wanted to write something down as he was miming writing on his hand. I obligingly handed over my beloved shortie pen that fits perfectly in my purse and he kept it as his due. Another guy showed us some broken bits of pottery—endless broken pieces of water pitchers—and then demanded a tip. This part was not fun. I feel bad for them but am also annoyed that this kind of thing goes on. They hover over us so that we just want to leave.

Our other favorite was the richly decorated underground tombs with beautiful, full color paintings located two stories underground.

Hamouda drove us through the oasis and we really enjoyed seeing this village that could be set 100 years ago but for the few cars we see. Mostly it is donkey and cart. The majority of women we have seen are completely veiled, one with her eyes completely covered, I suppose with a gauzy-like material that she could see through. We couldn’t tell; the material was so dark it seemed as if she was blindfolded.

Veiled women—this is not a back shot

Back at the hotel we had lunch and read outside in the warm air, enjoying the hibiscus flowers on the tables, later taking a nap.

Egyptian spaghetti

Time for a nap

Desert cat--does he look like he's from outer space?

We hooked up with Hamouda again at 3:00, “when the light is good,” according to Peter. Hamouda drove us through Palm trees and into the desert. At times I felt as if I were in a movie.

Next thing we knew, we were roaring through the sand and into the desert. What a thrill! Hamouda was quite skilled but it was still a wild ride. He took us to Al-Muran Lake, quite beautiful in the middle of the desert.

Al-Muran Lake

We stopped to take photos of Pyramid Mountain then drove on over to it where he prepared mint tea for us in the back of his 4x4.

We asked him about the large animal bones we were seeing here and there and he told us they were cow and camel bones. I told him I hadn’t seen any camels so he drove us over to show them to us. We came upon several camels including a mother who had just given birth minutes before. We kept hoping the baby would stand up and walk but Hamouda said, “Maybe tomorrow.” Another thrill.

We ended at some hot springs where a man was bathing—Hamouda joined in with just his feet. The water was HOT.

And all around is the desert; a corner of the mournful kingdom of sand. ~ Pierre Loti


Elisabetta & Tartufo said...

Ahh ... a very profound day.. you started with mummies, and ended with a birth.
The in-between was poignant, too.
Thank you for going there!

Hugs & puppy kisses,
Elisabetta & Tartufo

Carol said...

Fascinating. The contrast between the lush greens of the EU and the desert are so stark. This really feels like being in another country!

Bummer about losing the pen as a "tip" I can imagine how frustrating it must be to have someone hovering around you when all you want is to be left alone.

Pretty brave regarding the massage. With women covered completely from head to toe, and I imagine, only their husbands seeing them naked, I wonder what this means that you, as a white woman, basically had to be naked for the massage. Interesting. I wonder, what do they think of us?

Thanks for all the interesting sights and (virtual) smells.