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.