Saying we could use a weekend escape from Cairo is a gross understatement for many of us Cairenes– let’s face it, most of us are dying for a break from the utter chaos and exhaustion that Cairo often brings upon us.
If you're anything like this reviewer, being in the open terrain of nature's beauty is a daily daydream that unfortunately comes to fruition on a much less frequent scale. Although the beach is only a hop, jump and a skip away, every now and then it’s necessary to take a tad more adventurous trip than your standard treck to the North Coast or Sinai.
With its relative proximity to the Capital, the Bahareya Oasis provides endless options for an exciting and rugged venture into desert terrain. Located approximately 360km West of Cairo and consisting of numerous villages, the village of Bawati reigns as the closest and most convenient location.
The bus departs from Cairo's Gateway station at 8AM, dropping you in Bawati around 1PM. With coffee in hand and an updated iPod playlist or two, you'll be there in no time. Various hotels and tour companies offer pre-arranged packages for all of your desert desires and can easily be tracked down online.
This reviewer's experience trumped any previous expectations by taking a detour and opting for a guide that runs his safari business from home, providing a simple and hassle-free manner in getting the job done.
After packing up and leaving Bawati around 2PM, you reach the desert by means of a 4x4, leaving you jumpy and on the edge of your seat as the sand dunes provide more of a thrill than your typical paved road. Stop for photographs of the incredible rock formations and an oasis or two; it will give you time to breathe the fresh air around you and frolic freely in the wide open spaces where sand is, needless to say, in abundance. Whether you fancy sandboarding or taking a less accident-prone approach such as simply rolling down the dunes, a little playful fun is in store. Be warned, though; getting back up the dunes can be a feat, to say the least.
When sunset approaches and just when you think it couldn't get any better, setting up camp is next on the list with help from the guides. Everything is taken care of, from tents to a hearty home-cooked dinner prepared over the campfire. If you're spending the evening in the company of friends, your night is bound to be filled with fireside chats, endless opportunity for stargazing and desert fox sightings... they don't bite and are quite cute.
Pack a few games and an instrument or two to ensure that boredom stays far away and if you have the energy to stay awake, you won't want to miss the sunrise. If you happen to snooze right through, have no worries. The bright bolts of the sun's rays will have you up in no time, frantically looking for your shades to put your squinty eyes at ease.
After packing up and heading out, you still have a few hours in the desert for even more exploration. Once back in Bawati, buses are scheduled to leave periodically throughout the day so have some lunch, take a load off, and reminiscence on the night's memories before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Cairo .
From the surreal, breathtaking landscape of the White Desert and its natural rock formations to camping out under the stars, this 4x4 rocky road getaway is just enough adventure and splendour to leave you craving more.
This relatively inexpensive two-day journey makes the trip well worth it and you’ll be happy you’ve checked it off your destinations list, although it might make you feel like the work week comes a little too soon.