Barbara’s trip to Egypt

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					Barbara’s trip to Egypt

This March, Barbara Hunter – a Berneray resident – threw caution to the wind, rain and snow,
and swapped it for a 10 day camel trekking holiday in the Sinai desert. Here are extracts from her
daily journal…

Travelling there
For reasons only my travel agent understood, I had to fly to Sharm el Sheikh, South Sinai, via
Manchester, necessitating an overnight stop there. Brushing my teeth on the morning of my flight,
I heard a loud PING! and watched as a large filling disappeared down the plughole. This was not
the ideal start to a desert trek! However, there was no time to fuss: after eating breakfast carefully
I left for the airport. Now, I find airports incredibly confusing and so it was no surprise to find I’d
been standing in the wrong departure queue for 45 minutes. When I did find the correct departure
gate the passengers were just disappearing into the plane – but I made it.

After the serenity of a good flight Sharm el Sheikh airport was like bedlam underpinned by
organised chaos. A cool head in the tropical heat was called for to negotiate currency
transactions, Visas and Passport Control. The volume of luggage from dozens of flights soon
ground the conveyor belt to a halt, and I joined other wanderers searching acres of floor for their
cases. I was so glad I had stuck fluorescent stickers on mine, as it twinkled at me from a distant
corner. Outside, I found My Man With A Placard, and his people carrier deposited me at the
resort of Shark’s Bay Bedouin Home and Camel Dive Club.

Settling in
I am now in my twin-bedded wooden chalet, which is clean, basic and comfortable. Upon first
entering I was impressed to see the red blanket on each bed had been artistically formed into the
shape of a striking cobra sitting on the coverlet. Placed in front of the ‘snake’ was its ‘basket’
cleverly designed from a yellow bath towel. Earlier this evening I had explored the small pleasant
resort and browsed the many Bedouin shops. All the shopkeepers were most hospitable, and I
ended up having mint tea with Mohammed, who has adopted me as his ‘holiday Mum’.

Lastly, I found a Bedouin smoking tent where I bought water for the night. Located the Diving
Centre, the 2 restaurants, beach bar, and had a chat with Farat in Reception. Everyone is very
helpful. Nice quiet place – no discos or nightclubs, thank God, just pleasant Salsa music drifting
up from the beach bar. To bed now.

First full day at Shark’s Bay resort
Mosquitoes sang around me during the night, until I discovered how to use a remote control
operating the air-conditioner. Then, blissfully cool, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Found the
breakfast bar well displayed with fruit juices, cold meats, olives, tomatoes, cheeses, breads, tea
and coffee. It was air-conditioned, but I preferred to sit outside, al fresco, overlooking the balcony
flowers above the nearby beach, and guessing the nationalities of those meandering along the
sand. Tooth not giving any trouble, thankfully. Reception tell me the other trekking group
members – 4 Germans – arrive tomorrow.

Now sitting under a Bedouin tent on the beach. It’s wonderfully hot outside, but I’m cool here and
sipping a soft drink with a book at the ready. Beginning to relax into all this, with a bit of
sunbathing and paddling. Using the factor 30 suncream as a precaution. Later, I spent time
watching snorkellers and divers in the water exploring the coral reef and its colourful marine life.
Made friends with Hussein, a Bedouin who runs an oils and herb shop, who spent much time
explaining his wares. He made up a ‘mix’ of skin oils and gave me a facial massage. Very
soothing. Also bought some rose oil – heady stuff which I’ll use for burning.

Next day
Getting a bit restless now - want to get on with the trek. Found the 4 Germans who will be my
companions in the desert: Gisela, who speaks very good English (putting my 15 words of German
to shame!), Uli, another lady who, like me hasn’t ‘done’ camel-trekking before, and a couple who
are seasoned trekkers, Roland and Magda. Sat round a table at the beach bar and got
acquainted. At sundown – and the sun goes down very quickly here – Samer Makarois, our guide
and leader, arrived and during dinner he talked generally about the trip, asking if any of us had
any ailments. When I told him about my tooth mishap he insisted he take me to a dentist right
away as he did not want me to have any problems. Initially worried as to what standards of
dentistry were currently allowed in Egypt, and whether or not I was going to be more in danger in
the dentist’s chair than in the desert, I reluctantly agreed to go. Well, I need not have worried: the
premises were more like a 5 star hotel, the practise was a vision of marble, fresh flowers, discreet
spot lighting and a very swish reception area run by white coated, pleasant receptionists. Even
more comforting was to hear that Samer brought his 2 children here. The dentist was Sean
Connery’s double; the equipment was top of the range and I was highly impressed with his
workmanship. Please can I go there again!

Trek Day 1
What a day to start a streaming cold! First a tooth, now this – more challenges afoot, however
Samer has promised us a leisurely and peaceful trek – not arduous. He asks us to leave jewellery
and watches behind, for safety and to enable us to adapt to the rhythm of the desert. We all piled
into a jeep for 1 1/2 hours driving up the tarmac road on East Sinai, northwards, during which
Samer gave us a lesson in camel riding techniques. Three smiling Bedouins and the camels met
us and we were supplied and fitted with the correct headgear for desert life. Soon we were on the
move, seated on a well-padded chair with a pommel in front and behind for support, swaying
gently with the camel’s rhythm in a comfortable silence across flat sand and away from
civilisation…after a stop for lunch cooked over a campfire we climbed to a wonderful view. Joined
camels and our Bedouin hosts again for a final camel ride through a strange windy mist and a
hazy sunset to our night resting place. Good companionship around the fire, and the freshly
cooked dinner tasted marvellous. Very peaceful. Slept well.

Day 2
Awoke sometime after sunrise – no watches so we don’t know the time! Watched as the unleaven
bread was prepared with much pummelling then slowly cooked through in the hot ashes of the
campfire. We trekkers huddled round the warmth in the chilly air, sipping sweet tea or coffee until
we were offered the warm bread with soft cheese, and a selection of jams and marmalade. The
odd grain or two of sand provided necessary ‘roughage’. Feel better today – still a heavy cold but
the clear warm dry air is a real tonic. The scenery changes with every step, whether on camel or
foot. It was a windy start, so we wore fleeces, jackets and covered our faces somewhat, until the
weather changed and we shed some outer coverings.

Day 3
Very chilly night, we all noticed it. Breakfast warmed us up, then we were visited by a group of
Bedouin children selling pretty hand-made beaded jewellery. Later we walked, covering a lot of
ground today with Samer guiding a looking after us very professionally, As usual, after our lunch
break some of us disappeared behind a rock or out of sight for toilet purposes. We have been
well trained to deal ecologically with this daily routine. We always take away any general refuse
with us, and before leaving camp any burnable rubbish is set on fire. A lovely camel ride this
afternoon, past acacia trees and beautiful rock formations. My camel is quite a character – very
tranquil when walking, head sometimes moving to the left sensing for air, or to the right looking
for vegetation to chomp. When I dismount, however, he snarls and grumbles loudly at me, and
life in general. Tonight had a delicious dinner of goat - giblet sandwich, then a tasty broth followed
by stewed goat meat and vegetables, rice and salad. Much to talk about around the fire; we’re all
getting on famously. Warmer now. Slept well.

Day 4
This holiday is less about sightseeing and destinations of interest; more about a series of
experiences shared between strangers who quickly become friends…about becoming one with
the stillness and beauty…embracing a journey beyond time and space…linking one’s own
existence here with travellers of the past…pilgrims of the way…It’s easy enough to give you
details of happenings…harder, even impossible, to pass on an experience. Anyway, we are now
resting after trekking and a lunch of falfa beans, bread and salad. Explored an ancient settlement
as daylight was fading, which added to the mystery of the ground markings…camel ride through a
ravine to our night stop.

Day 5
Lovely sheltered sandy place, breakfasted, then we rode and walked with the camels who are
very sure-footed even on stony ground. My camel tried to bite the leg of the guide’s camel, so I’m
placing myself a bit further back in the camel-train. Spaghetti bol. tonight.

Day 6
Because I had left my bag unzipped overnight a grey spider took shelter. Samer killed it as it was
poisonous. Fully grown it could kill a scorpion. Will zip up my bags in future! After breakfast and
packing up our belongings ready for loading on the camels we soon heard the familiar call: ‘Yalla!’
(Come on!) as our guide rallied us ready for another morning departure and a wonderful trek, up
and down in a lovely peaceful silence…through canyons…lunch…and finally a very long camel
ride across open desert with quite a wind and the light fading until we arrived at a suitable resting
place. Dinner was something red with okra and rice (well, it was dark!). I have got very fond of the
Karkadee tea we drink. It’s red, and brewed from hibiscus leaves. Must take some home with me.

Day 7
After a camel ride through a settlement near Ghlim and a short walk we arrived at a well. Oh,
bliss - we each took turns with a mug having a wash with water steaming away in a tin bath over
an open fire. Felt totally reborn after washing my hair. My Yardley’s English Lavender soap was
very popular! I also washed my socks which then dried in about half an hour. Now we are resting,
clean, in the shade. Lunch tasted marvellous – alfalfa beans, vegetables and some creamy pink
stuff – have given up trying to work out the menu. Then a mixed fruit salad which included
pomegranate seeds. The day continued with riding camels through a rocky pass, also allowing
the animals to make their own way down a steep mountain pass where we joined them again. Off
again to our night rest and the campfire meal. Roland is taking masses of photos and movie
footage. He is to send us all copies, wonderful. I ran out of camera film today, so three cheers for
Roland! Apparently he is a whizz with camera technology, so we should be in for a treat.

Day 8
Had a bit of a dicky stomach through the night, so Samer gave me cinnamon tea with breakfast.
A camel ride took us across more desert to where we are now, a lunch spot which is a stopping
place from ancient times for pilgrims on their way to St Catherine’s Mount. There is a lot of writing
carved into these rocks and depictions of crosses from different faiths. Then followed a trek
across varying surfaces…my cold is nearly better now…the sun is a real tonic…by the time we
sat round the campfire my stomach was fine and we were treated to another feast of goat meat.
I’m with a jolly crowd and we’re getting on really well.

Day 9
Some amazing walks and exploration through canyons today – we were very adventurous.
Roland’s camera was red hot with activity. We were quieter around the campfire tonight – I think
we are all very aware this holiday is drawing to a close. Also, it was a bit windy, blowing the
smoke into our eyes, so we all retired quite early.

Day 10
The very last day, I’m going to miss this place…the space…the pace…rode a lot today across
vast sandy plains dotted with brittle, scrubby bushes which the camels insisted on tearing
at…later we ran down a sand dune – fantastic fun…I sang a song for the Bedouins…saying
goodbye to them was sad…we gave gifts. Samer was a wonderful guide – cannot speak too
highly of him – and he and the Bedouins looked after us as if we were family.
The jeep was waiting for us on the tarmac road, and after waving to our hosts we piled in with our
luggage. Whether it was tiredness or emotion I don’t know, but within minutes of driving off we
were all asleep.

Would I recommend this holiday? With no hesitation, yes! As long as your legs and hips are O.K.
you’ll have the time of your life. Would I go back? Like a shot. And until then I am leaving my
sleeping bag unwashed while it smells of woodsmoke.

                                                 *****
So, if you’d like to follow in my footsteps and want more information, contact:
         Rudiger Sauerland
         Blue Planet Erlebnisreisen
         Buro Hamburg
         Suckweg 83
         22419 HAMBURG
         Germany

Tel: 00494038612311 or visit www.blue-planet.reisen.de

IMPORTANT:
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Good quality sleeping bag and an insulation mat needed.
Strong walking shoes necessary.
Consult your doctor about inoculations. As at March ’06 you need jabs for Typhoid, Diphtheria,
Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Polio.

It’s also a good idea to take out health insurance.

Also to register with the British Embassy, Cairo: www.britishembassy.gov.uk/egypt

Bring Egyptian and U.K. currency (English banknotes) and Euros.

For flights try also www.redseaflights.com

After the trek the remaining time will be spent at the Red Sea resort of Shark’s Bay Bedouin
Camp and Camel Dive club, clean and well-kept and with good security. There is a beautiful reef
near the beach, with bathing, snorkelling, diving and various boat excursions available.
Everything is done to make your stay pleasant and our leader, Samer, the hotel staff and the
diving school can help with any organisation of activities.

The holiday can be paid for by bank transfer – 1,150 euros without flights (at March 2006).
(100 euros for single room supplement covering 5 nights.)

P.S. In the desert we slept outside – no tents – under a beautiful starry sky. Fantastic!

				
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