Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A Trip to the Desert
My mom came to visit me just a few weeks ago, and while she was here, we did tons of shopping and sightseeing. Most of the places we went, I'd already been. I may do some blogging about those trips later on, but today I want to tell you about an expedition to a place I hadn't seen before: Whale Valley.
A couple of friends had taken a tour into the desert with Desert Adventures. They really enjoyed it and decided to organize a group trip to Wadi al-Hitan, or Whale Valley. It ended up being a pretty big group of us who went, including 12 adults and 5 children, if I'm counting correctly. Oh, and don't forget the dog. Cute little thing, isn't he?
So it was a pretty large group, which I think just added to the fun. Most of us met up with our tour guide and drivers in Maadi shortly after 7a.m. Then we went to Zamalek to pick up the rest of our group. Then we were on our way into the Sahara Desert. We traveled for around 130 km, or around 80 miles. On the way, we passed a huge "city" that appeared very well-kept and totally empty. Our driver told us that it was the burial area for all of Giza. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture. It was amazing--it just stretched for miles, block after block of mausoleums in the desert.
After driving through the desert for quite a while, we made it to Fayoum Oasis. This area was beautiful. It contained lush green grass, picturesque canals, a huge lake--it even smelled like the sea. Again, though, I wasn't able to get pictures. Our driver was on a schedule, trying to get us to our destination with plenty of time there and back to Cairo by dusk. He was flying. I barely had time to point my camera before we were gone; there was no time to actually take the picture.
Not too far outside of Fayoum, we came to another area where there were two large lakes. The literature provided by our driver indicated that the lakes were artificially created by agricultural runoff from the nearby oasis. However the lakes were created, they were beautiful, and we stopped to get some pictures.
Shortly after our picture stop, we left the paved road behind. The last leg of the trip to Wadi el-Hitan was on a dirt road through barren desert. The road was flanked with signs cautioning everyone to "Stay On Track." For now, we obeyed the signs.
Once we arrived at Wadi el-Hitan, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were in fact real bathrooms. Granted, there was no toilet paper, but we had been warned to bring our own, so that was no big deal. They even came complete with signs by the sink: "Water drop equals life. Conserve it." Very appropriate in this desert land.
After stopped at the restrooms, we took off up the trail to see the whale bones. After all, that was the point of the whole trip, right? Whale Valley is a protected site because of the fossils of ancient whales, which must be truly fascinating to see.
Okay, maybe not so much fascinating, those whale bones. However, there was still plenty to see. The rock formations were much more spectacular and beautiful. Take a look at some of those.
After a nice long hike, we enjoyed lunch in the picnic area before heading back to Cairo. W still had one more adventure: sandboarding. But I think that may be a post all its own.