It was 7 pm on the first day of Easter vacation when I started my road trip southwest, heading from Cairo to the Fayum Oasis located in the Egyptian Western Desert. The original plan was that one of my best friends and I would go to Fayum to attend a three-day music festival in the middle of the desert, nearby Lake Qaroun, but as usual, we only make plans to not follow them.
My friend called me a day before and told me he couldn’t make it for some personal reason, which is understandable…but not enough of a reason for me to cancel the trip. I quickly shared the event’s link on Facebook, asking who’s going, and it wasn’t long before comments were rolling in. I ended up agreeing to carpool with some of my friend’s friends, and I was driving. This brings me to my first tip for you: Never cancel your plans just because your friends canceled theirs. It’s their loss.
I met my road companions at 7 pm and we started the trip. They were two guys and a girl, and I discovered they are the founders of the carpooling application Raye7, which was a partner of the music festival. They were heading to the event for some marketing purposes. As we spoke in the car, it turned out they needed help videographing the event, so I offered to help out, using my GoPro camera and my very limited skills in videography. I ended up entering the EGP 1,500 event for free as part of the Raye7 team!
Tip #2: Plans don’t always work out as we intend. They often turn out better.
This trip initially got off to a bad start – my friend canceled last minute, I had just got back from another trip on the same day I was leaving for Fayum, my carpooling buddies were stressing out for the first half of the way due to problems with the event they were partnering in, and above all we were leaving at 7 pm rather than 4 pm as planned, and it was already getting dark.
However, things started to get better about halfway through the 200 km ride, as we started chatting and playing some music, and deciding to put our worries and stresses aside and enjoy the ride.
Tip #3: Bad moods happen whether we like it or not. The trick is to take note of your bad mood as quickly as you can and kill it. It’s a matter of choosing to surrender to the mood, or deciding to shake it off.
The Fayum desert road is a straight and smooth road stretching for 100 km. It’s a bit dark but it’s not bad in comparison to most Egyptian roads. The true challenge starts when you reach the Lake Qaroun road.
Lake Qaroun road starts from the eastern tip of the lake, stretching along the whole southern coast of the Lake, all the way to the western end, and curling up to the lake’s northern coasts. Our camp was located by the northern coast of Qaroun lake, which meant that we would have to go through the entire road.
The Lake Qaroun road has four main problems: 1) It’s narrow, and it’s a two-way road; 2) it’s anything but smooth and is full of road bumps and holes; 3) it’s pitch-black at night; 4) you’ll find cows, donkeys and dogs randomly crossing the road.
It’s generally a dangerous road to travel through at night, so Tip #4: Try to avoid night road trips, and if you must, try to research the roads you’re going through. And there’s always safety in numbers.
We reached camp around 10:30 pm. I parked the car and we got our stuff and headed to the registration booth. We got our wristbands – which marked our registration – and headed to the camping area, where we started looking for the perfect spot to set up our plastic tents.
The campsite was magical. It was in the heart of the desert, surrounded by hills, valleys and sand dunes. It was 2-3 km away from Lake Qaroun’s shores, which allowed us to watch the silver reflections of the sun on the calm lake every morning. Natural sand sculptures surrounded the area, standing tall on the desert hills.
The camp setup was simple, yet breathtaking. There was an area with toilets and showers, fed by water tanks coming in to the camps every morning by trucks. There was electricity in common areas. There was a big, open tent in the middle of camp, which served as a common social area where campers could hang around. There were food booths serving various types of food and drinks to campers. A medical booth and a souvenir shop were available as well, and of course, there was the stage!
Mornings in the desert are hot, and they’re even hotter inside the tent. My new friends and I woke up at about 8, when the sun started glazing through our tent.
The mornings and noontimes were usually spent sleeping and being lazy in the common area, reading a book perhaps, or just sitting there. Some activities were taking place in surrounding open tents, like singing, drums, kite making, and other crafts. But for me, it was just the activity of escaping the heat. The real fun would start around sunset.
When the sun starts falling, the desert people start rising. Starting around 4-5 pm, the cool desert breeze starts blowing, and the party begins. The stage starts playing music, warming up for the non-stop action ahead. Various bands and DJs start performing from sunset till dawn. Fans gather up in front of the stage, and it’s all twirling and dancing from there.
On the last sunset, I was lucky enough to join a group of youth who loved the Sufi life. On top of the highest hill in the area, we sat down and they started reciting Sufi songs; one of them had a soft drum and was controlling the relaxing rhythm. We stayed up there for about an hour till the sun set on the yellow sand dunes. It was calm and the songs were soft on the ear and relaxing to the body. And that was the highlight of my trip.
On the following morning, I decided to wake up early and pack my stuff and start the drive back to Cairo in order to avoid another hot day.
Another adventure was over and it was time to go back home. That’s how life is…moments pass, but memories, and pictures, stay for a long time.
Tip #5: In the future, you’ll only regret the journeys you decided to skip; you rarely regret the journeys you took. Always say yes to a new adventure.
You can check out more of Abdalla’s travel adventures on Instagram (@egyptianwhotravels) or on his Facebook page.