Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Exursion part 3: Day Two part 2: not-quite-roughing-it in the Desert

So we had been told we would be going on a camel trek into the desert where we would be spending the night. We had all anticipated that we would be getting on the camels in the midday heat and riding them for a couple of hours. Many of the students were not even sure they wanted to ride camels for various reasons ("they're mean, dirty scary" etc - how could anyone give up such an opportunity?!). So in preparation for such an arduous journey, most of the students went out during our earlier excursions and bought these hilarious straw hats (imagine 20+ students with these identical hats) and many bought traditional desert garb to fully cover themselves and protect from the midday heat.

Now if you read the previous blogs of earlier this same day, you will note that we in fact did a zillion things that day, and did not arrive to our camel-mounting location until 7pm, by which time the sun was of course setting, the air was cooling off and there was no need for the ridiculous hats and clothes everyone had purchased (having done a two-day scuba-diving camel trek in Egypt last year I had brought a hat with me...I win!) To add to the insult, the "great camel trek" that had been built up in many of the students' minds to be an epic desert adventure turned out to be a 25 minute ride to our desert camp, complete with toilet and shower facilities and AIR CONDITIONED TENTS. Did I mention that we had young men leading our camels on foot? Too funny. (I'm so glad i had the "authentic experience in Egypt.")

Nonetheless, I was not about to complain for having decent toilet facilities, a tent in which I would not be tossing and turning on a floor as I sweat profusely, and a "bar" providing hookas and beer. The scene at dusk was unreal - a desert camp surrounded by sand dunes.

We settled in in time for an incredible (well recreated yet touristy) performance of traditional dance and music which was fabulous, and a dinner that included lamb straight off the giant spit next to the mess hall/ outdoor seating. The stars were truly incredible and the sand the softest I have ever felt- like heavy dust - and I spent a therapeutic and self-reflective hour by myself that night sitting on the top of the dune letting the sand fall between my fingers.

The next morning we arose early for some picture-taking (by the end of which over half of our cameras broke from the blowing sands, including mine), dune-exploring and a light breakfast. We then piled onto a number of horse-drawn carts and were whisked away over the alternative desert trail used to haul supplies into the camp and back to our awaiting bus.

This was an amazing night - even if it was not "authentic." I have embrace being a tourist on these weekend excursions as I would not have been able to afford or put together such extensive trips.

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