Black Desert and Bahariya Oasis
Last night I went to bed pretty late because I met two Egyptian guys I was chatting with until 3am at night. One was a computer engineer and the other one a saddle maker. We talked about their jobs and how large global companies affect their local businesses. The computer engineer stated that it’s very hard to gain buyers for his companies CRM software since most large Egyptian companies prefer to buy software from large multinational IT companies. He was showing me what he has programmed so far and I gave him a few tips what to improve from a functional perspective to make the software more valuable for his customers. Later on we entered a discussion on Arabic culture in which also the saddle maker got involved. Basically they stated that it’s really essential in their culture to have money in order to have friends. At first I couldn’t believe this since true friendship should not depend on money and I personally do not care how much money my friends make. However, they stated that in their culture it’s much more common to invite friends involving to spend a significant amount of money to serve them and to give or lend money to family members and friends. That’s why they consider it very hard to gain friendships with only little money.
In the morning we got up early and started driving at 8am since we wanted to avoid the heavy morning traffic. We decided not to travel on the direct route between Cairo and Luxor but to head towards the Western Desert which has five oases. Bahariya is the first oasis in which we stayed overnight. We arrived around 3pm and five of us joint a tour of a local operator which took us in the surrounding Black Desert. We visited the ruins of an old Greek house, enjoyed driving over sand dunes and tasted the water of the saltiest lake I have seen so far. The water was so salty that the beach more or less consisted of salt crystals (see picture below). At the end of the day we wanted to take a swim in one of the local hot springs which is not as fancy as you might imagine from a modern spa but just a little basic pool with a tube pushing hot water inside. Unfortunately the water was so hot that our bodies would have been boiled within seconds so we could only dip our hands and feet inside the water.
While being at the hot spring, one of the American women took off her money belt so that it doesn’t get wet. After a while she detected that her money belt including her passport and all her money was gone and guessed that it was fallen into the water. We tried to find it which was not so easy since it was already dark and the water was flowing in a little channel out of the pool into the fields of the local farmers. So I and another woman went back to our camp to get some more people and flashlights to search for the money belt. Luckily we found it since branches of a bush were hanging into the water and avoided the money belt from flowing into the fields.
Dinner was great. We cooked Spaghetti Bolognese with sheep meat since pork is not available in Arabic countries. The passport was drying out quickly and we were happy that everything turned out so well. We also took some time to put our money and passports into a safe which is hidden in the truck. Interesting to know is that we don’t call it safe but gave it another name so that local people do not get alerted when we talk about it. We also only put things into the safe or get them out while moving on the road. The safe is a quite important thing since each of us is carrying a significant amount of money in US dollar cash since in remote areas it’s impossible to draw money from your bank account or exchange traveler checks. Personally I only travel with US dollar cash and credit cards.