Monday, November 29, 2010

The White Desert

Jeff and Cameron racing up a rock formation in the White Dessert.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving camping under the stars in the White Desert.  Cameron's 6th birthday was the day after Thanksgiving so he woke up in the White Desert shortly after sunrise.  It was amazing.

Here's a map showing where the White Desert is in Egypt:
The White Desert is surrounded by Egypt's Western Desert:
Most maps I have seen have included Egypt's Western Desert as part of the Sahara Desert.  Here is an interesting world map that shows all deserts of the world and how dry they are.
The White Dessert is an amazing place.  Sometimes it felt like we were on the moon.  The guidebook describes it as being like Alice in Wonderland and it really is!  

The rocks in the White Desert are made from white chalk.  I read online that the White Desert was, at the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), a shallow sea that covered layers of sandstone.  During the next 30 million years, 300 meters of limestone and chalk collected at the bottom of the sea.  Then, an ice formation in the Atlantic caused the sea to recede.  The interesting shapes are caused by millions of years of erosion of the limestone and chalk by wind and sand.  For those of you wanting a more scientific explanation about the geology of this desert, here is a link that gives more details:

Interestingly, there are still signs of the ocean from long ago found in the White Desert.  Here are a couple photos I found online taken in the White Desert:

I wish I had thought to take photos of a really great collection of fossils we saw at the hotel we stayed at during our second night in this region.  

One of the things I loved about the White Desert was that in just the one night we spent there, the beauty of it changed dramatically every couple hours as the sunlight or moonlight changed.  Here are some of the photos that show this.
Cameron said, "Can I run?"  Yes!  And he did!

On the top of the world with the sun almost setting.
Jeff and Cameron named this one the "Kitty and the Bulldog"

The next morning, we awoke a little past sunrise.  It was beautiful and we were glad to have the sun back again after a very cold night (... thank goodness for sleeping bags and very heavy camel hair blankets!)

Our guide took us to other parts of the White Dessert to see the famous rock shapes:

"The Rabbit"
"The Sphinx"

"The Chicken and the Mushroom"

"The Tents"
"The Mushroom Area" (with the border of the road marked at the bottom in white rock.)

For those of you planning a trip to the White Desert, you may also want to read my other related blog postings about our visit to this area:

*  About the Black Desert (right next to the White Desert): 

*  About the International Hot Springs Hotel that organized the desert safari for us and where we stayed the following night:

*  About the Golden Mummies found near the White Desert and now in a museum nearby:

*  About Chrystal Mountain in the White Desert:   

Good luck planning your trip!  The White Desert is one of the most magical places I've ever visited, but dress warmly if you're camping out!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Elections Tomorrow

Egypt's Elections for Parliament are tomorrow.  Campaigning officially ended yesterday.

As with any election, there are last minute developments.  The high Court here just issued an order saying that texting on cell phones will be allowed.  As I understand it, the issue was whether text messages sent out en masse would be allowed.  The Court said yes.  Texting (called SMS) is very popular here.  I guess it's popular in the U.S. too, but here, everyone does it, even people who don't have email or computers.   Here's an article that tells more about this:

Here are several articles from various newspapers (two in the U.S. and two in Egypt) discussing the issue of the U.S.'s position regarding international election observers for Egypt's election tomorrow:

First, here is one Egyptian newpaper article from Al-Ahram, an official newspaper that was first established in 1875.

Here the same issue discussed by another Egyptian paper:

A NY Times article on the issue of the role of the U.S.:

Finally, a Washington Post article from an hour ago discussing updates:

This next article notes that "The government insists the election will be fair and the electoral committee says it granted more than 6,000 permits to local civil society groups to monitor the vote and the ballot counting."

In my daily activities, here, I haven't seen any election violence.  I've just seen countless banners and larger than life headshots of candidates. Maadi, the neighborhood where I live, is a pretty peaceful place. 

Here are a few more photos of campaign signs.  I saw a couple signs with women candidates on them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Journey to the Camel Market

(This entry is a little background information to the Camel Market posting I did last week.)

We had quite an adventure visiting the Camel Market.  I read in one of the guide books that the journey to get places is as interesting as the place you visit.  That was certainly true with the Camel Market.  I thought we would be all set with transportation because I'd found a taxi driver who was willing to have us rent his cab for the day, we had negotiated a price in advance, and I called the day before to confirm.  But he didn't show in the morning.  So we went to a big intersection and started asking taxis if they knew how to get to the Camel Market in Birkesh (about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Cairo).  Several drivers said, "Super market?"  Others said, "Kimo Market?"  (An upscale grocery store in Maadi).    

Finally, we found one driver who knew what I meant by camel market (... I started showing the picture of the camel on the front of the guide book).  I could tell by the price he was quoting us that he knew it was about an hour away.  He said 150 pounds; I asked if he would do 100 (arabic: meya), he agreed, and off we went.  (By the way, if something is really terrific, you can say it's "Meya! Meya!"-- meaning 100 percent!... Egyptians always smile when I say that.)  

We really liked this cab driver.  His name is Jimmy and he showed us his tattoo showing he was Christian.  He said he was named after Jimmy Carter and commented that he really liked Jimmy Carter.  (The is the second taxi driver who has volunteered that Jimmy Carter was his favorite president... they admire him for helping broker peace between Israel and Egypt at Camp David with then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979.)

We all enjoyed the trip to the camel market.  Rural Egypt is quite beautiful in parts with fields of green crops growing and a lot of local color as we passed through small villages.

This is a landfill near the camel market.
We saw quite a few animal carcases when driving by.
 'Stores' in rural areas are always interesting.  Here are photos of the fruit stand, the refrigerator and appliance 'store', the lumber stand, and plant store.

Here are a couple picture of the three wheeled cars you see around Cairo.  In Arabic they are called Toc-Tocs.

We drove past the Giza pyramids on the way home.  They're visible from the road.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The campaign season

With the Egypt's parliamentary elections in a little more than a week (Nov. 28), there are campaign posters and banners around many parts of Egypt.  The spending limit set by the Higher Election Commission (the body that determines election rules) is 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($35,149).

I read an article discussing how some candidates are giving out meat and clothing to voters to try to gain their support.  See article at the following link:
There are 508 seats up for election in Egypt's parliament.  The National Party is running 800 candidates (sometimes several candidates for the same seat); a party described as the 'liberal Waft opposition party' is running 250 candidates; and a banned Islamic party is running 135 candidates as independents.  Here is an article that tells more about this:

Here are some more photos showing campaign materials for particular candidates:

If you would like to read election coverage from the local paper, here's the link to their election page: