WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT (31 March 2018) — A flat section of soft fine sand gave us a chance to speed up and experience that unique freedom of desert surfing, then a hill climb revealed a new surprise. Rock fins and spires populated a valley alive with the saturated colors of late afternoon light. We stopped at the top and looked out over it for a little bit. Smiling I just walked around trying to take it all in. My eyes were full and my heart was light and I couldn’t help smiling at the beauty of the desert in all its magnificence. Torn between rushing down into it and just appreciating it from the high point for a while I decided to make my way down on foot and wander around a little before continuing on.
We had reached the Agabat Valley, and it was one of those landscapes that just make you go “ahhhhhh.” The sand was golden. And the rock fins rose up out of it in places like monuments in a surreal garden. We decided to camp somewhere in the middle of it.
Driving between the fins, we looked for a good spot with shade and protection from the wind, though it wasn’t blowing badly today. Abdou suggested we break off from the main tracks, and as we were checking out a potential location, we got a bit bogged down in a deceptively soft patch of sand. We had old-fashioned metal sand ladders, but were able to get out of it without too much trouble, and moved to more solid ground to set up for the night.
We still had a bit of daylight so I went for a short walk to bask in the beauty of this place, so different than the other landscapes we have been driving through. I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that all these extraordinary locations were “masked” behind the facade of an “ordinary” desert. From any distance they would be invisible, hidden by the generic sand and rocky hills that are everywhere.
As I returned to camp, Ahmed motioned towards the rock ledge behind us, and said quietly, “a fox.” And indeed, there was a fennec looking warily at us. More desert magic as the sun began to set, and the warmth of our small fire kept the evening chill away. I could see the first few stars until the moon rose up over the rock formation across the way. It was almost full and its light spilled into the valley, reflecting off the sand and the rocks, completing the otherworldly effect…
ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
JoMarie Fecci, of USnomads, sets off on an independent scouting trip across Egypt and Sudan in preparation for an up-coming Sahara expedition. Driving locally-sourced Toyotas and working with small local teams in each region, she will traverse a winding route that jumps off from key points along the Nile as far south as Khartoum, where the Blue and White Niles meet. During the journey she will visit a series of UNESCO world heritage sites focused on the ancient civilizations that occupied the region and meet with local communities. The primary goal of this mission is to assess terrain, security, driving conditions, logistical concerns and approximate timeframes for future travel.
WHERE WE ARE
The Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. With the Mediterranean sea on its northern border, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, and the Red Sea to the east and south, it occupies a geo-strategic location connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. It has land borders with Gaza and Israel to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Islam is the official religion and Arabic the official language. Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, with over 95 million inhabitants. Most of the population lives near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of the country’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. Considered a cradle of civilization, Egypt emerged as one of the world’s first nation states in the tenth millennium BC and iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy.