Highlights near Giza

Calling all Caravans

When you find yourself in the middle of a desert trying to flag down a camel caravan for help, you’re obviously in a bit of a predicament.

That’s the situation my wife and I found ourselves in when our guide’s Land Cruiser broke down in a rather remote part of Western Egypt’s White Desert. We were several miles west of the only road between Bahariya and Farafra oases. After futilely trying to jump start the loaded-down vehicle in the thick sand, we settled in for a wait until someone spotted the caravan. But even with help of two camel guides, our group of six could not push fast enough to get it started.

Fortunately, our situation was just a fiasco, not a matter of life and death. Our guide and driver had satellite phones that could get a signal from the top of nearby peaks. We also had enough food and water in case it took all day for them to swallow their pride and use the phones. Finally, they did so, and we were rescued within a few hours.

But not before teaching Ramadan and Hemada how to play gin rummy. The guys didn’t know how to play cards, but caught on quickly and wanted to play for money in no time. Being stuck was a bonding experience—and there was no better place to be stranded than in the fascinating alien landscape of the White Desert. The surreal rock outcroppings that look like outsized mushrooms, kneeling camels, ducks, and other fantastical figures provided great shade while we settled in, played cards, and drank Bedouin tea.

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Allison Murray
AFAR Editor

Thanks for sharing this experience Rob! Sometimes when I get stuck traveling it forces me to slow down to a locals pace (inconveniences and all) and experience it in a more meaningful way. While it was a fiasco, I'm glad you could appreciate the landscape, bond over cards and enjoy a cup of tea!


Thanks, Allison. Agreed. One of the best things about taking local transportation (not what was happening in this case) is not knowing what's going to happen or who you're going to meet. Even when things go wrong, you've at least got that "we're-all-in-this-together" feeling.


Great story! And it's true - so often we let our "Western ways" affect our patience, and we forget to make the most of an inconvenient situation. But I love the visual of you and your wife playing cards in the shadows of kneeling camel rocks -- something you never would have done had things gone as planned. ;)


Really beautiful image and a lovely story. Nothing like bonding with the locals : )


Congrats! Your story makes me want to go to Egypt all the more! I'm looking forward to some of that bedouin tea....although hopefully not broken down in the middle of the desert! :)


Thanks, everyone--it's an honor to be in such great company. And go to Egypt! The White Desert is one of the top landscapes you'll ever see.


Definitely a fiasco! Thanks for sharing your story and great photo.


What a great story and beautiful photo. Alien landscape is right! Congrats!


Bawiti, Giza

Giza, Egypt
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