Cairo, Luxor, Western desert oases, White desert

Egypt Photo Gallery

This is a report of my trip to Egypt in January - February 2001. I'd classify it as a budget trip with some comfort, meaning that I stayed in inexpensive hotels/guesthouses with private bath and used a mix of buses, private taxis and internal flights to travel within Egypt.

Basically I flew to Cairo, continued by plane to Luxor and from there drove back overland to Cairo along the desert route, stopping in the oases (Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, Bahariya).

I travelled with a high end camera, a subnotebook and a mobile phone. I used GSM data services and a local Egyptian internet account to send and receive emails while travelling (I kept in touch with my fiancee by daily email).

Map of Egypt

26.01.01, Friday: Flight Düsseldorf - Milan - Cairo
I'm supposed to land in Cairo at 21:50pm local time.

27.01.01, Saturday, Cairo
Yesterday evening I arrived in Cairo and now I am staying in the Swiss Hotel. Today I booked a flight to Luxor (leaving Sunday evening 8:30pm) and I visited the Pyramids in Gizeh and Sakkarah. They are supposed to be the best, on of the seven world wonders, but actually they were quite disappointing. A mass of dirty stones, full of dust and ruins everywhere. Tomorrow I'll visit the National Egyptian museum. I'll try to get a local internet account as soon as possible.

29.01.01, Monday, Luxor
Finally I have an Egyptian Internet account. Yesterday (28 Jan) I arrived in the evening in Luxor (took the plane from Cairo). Today I visited the west side of the Nile, opposite Luxor with all the graves and temples. Was interesting but a bit tiring. Actually I'm staying in a noisy hotel and this morning I woke up at 6:50am.

I'm thinking what I should do in the following days. One option would be to fly to Abu Simbel in the extreme south of Egypt and visit the temple, but it would cost 230-250 US $ and it's just another temple and I have seen already so many. The other option is to go back to Cairo crossing the western desert. That would be approx. 1200 Km across the desert - from oasis to oasis. There are frequent buses connecting the oasis, so it shouldn't be a problem doing the trip. Other alternatives are a cruise on the Nile river (boring) or going to Hurghada on the Red Sea and swimming and snorkeling a bit.

30.01.01, Tuesday, Luxor

Today I visited the Karnak temple. Tomorrow I might go into the desert and then I won't be able to send/receive emails for a few days. Not sure if there are internet cafes in the oasis.The level of harassment in Luxor is very high. You can't walk 2 minutes on the street without having somebody trying to sell something to you.

31.01.01, Wednesday, Luxor - Kharga oasis
Today I'm leaving for the desert. There will be a communications black-out until probably February 5th (unless of course there are internet cafes in the oasis).

31.01.01, Wednesday - Kharga oasis
Right now I'm in the Kharga oasis. I arrived at 5:30pm and to my surprise the mobile phone works in the oasis, so I can send emails.

Basically this morning I negotiated with the taxi driver the fee for the trip. It's 300 Km and we agreed on a price of 300 Egyptian pounds (= 300 RM). The direct road between Luxor and Kharga officially is closed to tourists (or maybe not according to my guide book). Anyway the driver drove through secondary streets to avoid the first military check-point and insisted that I wear the Egyptian headscarf (a turban, like the one of the Indian people) and a jellaba, the Arab dress. He said that I had to look like an Egyptian, but even the children automatically recognised me as a foreign tourist. I looked like Mr. Stupid.

Anyway, after about one hour, when we finally had left the Nile valley and were in the middle of the desert I took off the Egyptian stuff. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We then passed three army check-points and the driver bribed the military personnel with some cigarettes so that the would let us through. Whatever.... In any case we made it to Kharga Oasis at 5:30pm, shortly before the sunset.

Kharga is a relatively big town (70,000 inhabitants). Hard to believe that in the middle of the desert there is such a big oasis. But the town has not much to offer, so tomorrow I'll go to Dakhla oasis which is supposed to be much nicer. Don't know if my mobile phone works in Dakhla. From Kharga and all the way to Cairo there are regular buses, so I don't have to take a taxi.

01.02.01, Thursday, Kharga - Dakhla - Farafra
To my surprise the mobile phone works in all oases. Apparently I'm not so far away from civilisation after all. Basically today I took the 11:30am bus from Kharga to Dakhla where I arrived at 2:30pm. I was planning to spend the night in Dakhla oasis, but since there is absolutely nothing to do in Dakhla (and nothing to see) I just had lunch in Dakhla and then took the shared taxi to Farafra oasis. We (the taxi) left shortly before 5pm and arrived in Farafra at 9pm.

Right now I'm staying in a "luxury" hotel for the equivalent of 17 US $. The room has a TV, a nice bathroom and three beds. The place where I stayed last night was only 5 US $, but there was no water in the bathroom, so I had to take a cold shower outside.

Since yesterday morning I've travelled a total of 800 Km across the desert. The worst of trip is over (today we passed just one military checkpoint, yesterday three) and now I'm back in a "tourist zone". Yesterday was more of a "no-man's-land". Basically there are virtually no foreign tourists in Kharga (and very few in Dakhla). I was surprised because these oases (Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra) are HUGE. It's not just a few palm trees around a little water spring - these oases are around 50 x 20 Km in size. I read that Bahariya - the last oasis before Cairo - is even 90 x 20 Km.

The next few days I'll try to do some desert trips. I might spend one or two nights in the desert, but the nights are FREEZING, so I'm hesitating a bit.

03.02.01, Saturday, Farafra oasis
Right now (and the past two days) I have been in the Farafra oasis. Yesterday afternoon I visited the white desert, a desert containing stunning white rock formations. Tomorrow I'll go to Bahariya oasis,  and then the day after I'll be back in Cairo.

05.02.01, Monday, Bahariya - Cairo
In the bus from Bahariya to Cairo. No GSM coverage in Bahariya.

05.02.01 - Cairo
Today I came back to Cairo by bus from Bahariya. And again all local Egyptians started talking to me on the street trying to sell something to me. This evening while I was walking in the historic old town a guy approached me and tried to be my guide (in order to get some money). I told him 'no thanks' and 'no backshish' (backshish = money tip). He got very upset and said ' think that I want to have your money...  asshole.... shitter.... gay...'. Some people in Cairo are very aggressive and impolite.

06.02.01 Cairo - Milan - Düsseldorf

In the morning I visited the Islamic quarter. Pretty interesting with the markets, mosques and old buildings. I'm flying back to Germany at 3.45pm .

Copyright (c) 2003 Alfred Molon