Written by HobWahid on 29 Oct, 2003
When in Bahariyya, it is good to try and get a feel for the local culture, because life out in Baharaiyya, and the other Western oases, is much different than that back in Cairo. Life in Bahariyya has been revolved around the desert for centuries,…Read More
When in Bahariyya, it is good to try and get a feel for the local culture, because life out in Baharaiyya, and the other Western oases, is much different than that back in Cairo. Life in Bahariyya has been revolved around the desert for centuries, and the people today, still hold a strong attachment with the desert that surrounds them. The people of Bahariyya are claim to descent from both the Arabs, as well as the Berbers that lived in the region for centuries long before the arrival of the Arabs, and for that region, the culture that exists today in Bahariyya is a curious mixture of Arab traditions, and those of the Berbers. One of the most important parts of the culture is music, and thus one of the best ways to get a glimpse into this culture is through music. Thus when on our first night in Bahariyya, our guide, Badri, suggested that after we finished up our dinner of grilled chicken, that we head of to go visit some of his friends and hear some traditional music, we naturally agreed.
According to Badri, a group of locals get together every night in a large just outside the oasis and play music together, and whoever wants to can come. When we arrived, night had fallen, and inside the tent there was no light but the light from the fire burning in the center. We took our place on some pillows. Across from us an older man sat, with a small string instrument in his had, surrounded by some younger boys holding drums. They welcomed us, and another man came up offering us some mint tea. Soon the tent started to fill up with more locals and by the time the music started to play, the tent was full, and we were the only foreigners in the place. The boys beat there drums, while the man strummed at his instrument, and squeezed the words out of his mouth, in a sort of rhythmic chant. As the music continued, Badri explained that these were traditional songs, many of them about the desert and about God. After a song finished, the locals would applaud, and often would often shout out praises or a request as the musicians before the next song started. While the music played, everyone just sat, in silence, sipping tea, feeling the warmth of the fire, and taking in every note and every word. Even if you couldn’t understand the words, you could tell that he was singing about something beautiful and the whole thing was extremely powerful.
After the music ended, we sat around and chatted with the musician and the other locals for a while, drinking more and more tea, and exchanging with them our impressions of Egypt and of Bahariyya. All of it was a great experience, and a side of Egypt that I hadn’t seen before. It was a great way to spend our first night in Bahariyya.
Our first afternoon in Bahariyya, we were far to exhausted by the four and a half hour bus ride from Cairo, to do anything that involved much physical activity. That is why when our guide, Badri, whom we had just met, asked if we wanted…Read More
Our first afternoon in Bahariyya, we were far to exhausted by the four and a half hour bus ride from Cairo, to do anything that involved much physical activity. That is why when our guide, Badri, whom we had just met, asked if we wanted to take a dip in one of the local hot springs, we agreed. Despite the oppressive heat of that April day, the hot springs sounded like just the thing we needed after the hot and dusty bus ride.
We hopped into our jeep and headed through the palm tree-lined streets of Bahariyya, and then into the date forests until we pulled up to a small concrete pool. Admittedly we all looked at the concrete pool, with a giant pipe pouring water into it, and then looked at each other wondering if this was the hot spring we had been promised. Sure, in all our ignorance, when we heard "hot spring," we had imagined a small lake bubbling out of the desert, clan, hot and inviting. We didn’t really imagine that it would be a concrete pool in the middle of a date forest. Nonetheless we decided to give it a shot. As we approached the pool, our guide ripped off his shirt and jumped in. His head peeking out of the water, he urged us to follow. Hesitantly we looked at the water flowing through the pool, and then looked at each other. It did look warm and inviting, so why not. We hoped in and soon the soothing warmth of the pool melted away the initial shock of feeling the layer of slime on the bottom of the pool. Floating around the hot spring, the layers of dirt gathered from our voyage seemed to wash away. It was the perfect welcome to Bahariyya, calming and soothing, after we were finished we felt ready to conquer the desert, but that was for the next day.
For the rest of that day we continued our drive around the oasis, admiring this bastion of green in the middle of the desert. Eventually we ended up just outside of town, on the edge of a vast lake. The sun was starting to set as we exited the jeep, painting the sky beautiful hues of red and purple. Despite the late hour, the heat was still overwhelming, so encouraged by our guide we waded into the refreshing cool of the lake and watched as the sun set behind the hills. It was just how we needed to start our first day in the oasis. Immediately all the pressures and worries of our lives back in Cairo were washed away, and we were ready to head into the desert with clear minds.