We decided to go on the Bedouin Night excursion during a recent holiday to Sharm el Sheikh. We’d travelled in December, and as it gets darker slightly earlier in winter, the coach set off from our hotel at a fairly early 4pm. We were off on our desert adventure! The rep that joined us on our coach was called Mido. He was brilliant, being born and bread in Egypt he knew so much of the land and spoke so passionate about it. He made everything so much more fascinating. As we drove through the desert he explained that on our journey we would pass some villages. I couldn’t have imagined beforehand what they’d look like, but when I saw them I could only describe their homes as ramshackle and derelict looking. I wondered how they kept themselves warm at this time of the year when the nights are quite cold… Many Bedouins have settled in permanent camps with stone houses, though some keep travelling but return to the same camps at the same time each year, knowing there is food and water available. Seeing the camels tethered outside by the goat pens I found myself imagining what life would be like living with just the bare necessities today’s world of highly complicated technology, mobile phones and internet. I found it quite hard to comprehend they still lived like this. That was until I glimpsed a television through an open door. Perhaps they weren’t so badly off after all…
I found it strange that we saw only men, but Mido explained that we’d be lucky to see any Bedouin women as they weren’t allowed to show themselves to men other than their husbands, so they kept themselves hidden as the coaches passed!
Our party was invited into their camp where we sampled the different fruits on the sisha pipes and were given hibiscus tea. The sisha pipes are completely harmless, though you are not obliged to try it if you don’t want to. Afterwards, they displayed their wares; handcrafted jewellery and spices, and I felt obliged to buy something just to thank them for their hospitality, and felt it would be a good deed as this is the only way they made their living, but as one of their mobile phones began ringing I again wondered if they were quite as poorly off as we were being led to believe…
Next the Bedouins showed us how they made one of their traditional foods called Aysh Shami, a type of flat bread. They kneaded it on stone and baked it over the leaping flames of a roaring campfire. We were told that dating back to ancient times, bread has long been a core element in the Egyptian diet. It was no surprise; this bread tasted absolutely delicious! Now my taste buds had been teased, it was time for the meal they had prepared especially for us. Meat is still considered a delicacy in Egypt because in ancient times it was quite difficult to store, especially with the heat. To this day their diet mainly constituted of rice, beans and vegetables and this is what we ate today. The meal was delicious, but the sun was quickly fading beyond the horizon and it was difficult to see what we were eating. It tasted great all the same!
The growing darkness was our cue to climb the rocks behind the village and watch the sunset. What a sight it was! The lunar-like landscape dotted with jagged rocks adds to the incredible atmosphere, and our excited chatter was soon transformed into stunned silence as we began to appreciate the spectacular scene unfolding before us. This is apparently one of the only places on earth where you can “hear” absolute silence – there isn’t even a breeze. The sun fades so quickly it was only a matter of moments before the mountainous rocks started to “glow” red, blending with the sand. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was gone and we headed back to camp in the darkness. We remained silent, trying to take in the amazing show of nature we had just witnessed, the only sound a howl of the inquisitive wild dogs.
Our evening was not over yet! The Bedouins wanted to entertain us, so as we all congregated round the camp fire, a feeling of anticipation in the air. The music started and dancing followed. It was very amusing and we were completely engaged. They even tried to teach us how to belly dance! Far too soon the music faded. We thanked our hosts and bade farewell to our new friends and the headlights of the distant coaches guided us back through the black of the night. These large, metal objects looked so out of place in this simple baron world, almost intrusive in fact.
I really would highly recommend doing a Bedouin Excursion to absolutely everyone on holiday in this part of Egypt. Just the atmosphere alone was worth it; the camel ride, stunning sunset and amazing meal just made it so, so much better. The Bedouins may be slowly catching up with the modern world TVs and mobile phones, but their way of life is still brimming with tradition and it really is fascinating to see how they live. The wonderful, warm hospitality is something they are more than welcome to bring with them into the modern world with them!