Friday, December 3, 2010

The International Hot Springs Hotel in The Bahariya Oasis

The Bahariya Oasis is 360 kilometers from Cairo.  There are quite a few oasis in Egypt.  Siwah and Fayyum are a couple I would like to visit before we leave.  Here's a map showing Egypt's oasis.


We took a bus to the Bahariya Oasis.  It was a long ride and an even longer day.  I had taken the metro to the bus station the day before to buy our bus tickets (30 pounds each, a little more than $5).  We were on the 8am bus but we ended up getting there by 7am because we decided to take a cab rather than ride the metro with luggage.  Then it turned out that the 8am bus was called the 8am bus because it left its first stop at 8am, then got to our location at 8:30am.  The bus was ok, on a par with buses in the U.S., but the ride through the desert, with only one stop in the middle, made for a very long day.  Coming back, we took a 6:30am bus and that trip went by pretty quickly with everyone sleeping for the first part.

Here's a photo of Jeff with a friend he met on the bus, a British man who is teaching in Ethiopia and was traveling to the Oasis for a desert safari like we were.
Here's a photo of a bus that looked just like ours and a few shots I took while waiting for our bus to come.

We organized this trip to the desert by way of a German man named Peter who runs a hotel called the International Hot Springs Hotel.  He was recommended to us by someone from the church we attend.  Peter arranged for us to be picked up at the bus station and our guide, Esam, took us out for our desert safari after about an hour or so at the hotel where we had a delicious lunch.
Entrance to the International Hot Springs Hotel

The outside of the hotel.
The grounds of the hotel.
We ended up staying a second night at this hotel after we finished camping in the White Desert.   The hotel really is an international place.  Peter is married to a Japanese woman and there was a busload of Japanese tourists arriving while we were there.  There was also a group of Mexicans there and another tour group of Americans from Cairo.

We liked this hotel quite a bit.  It was clean, had interesting art and the food was delicious with all-you-can-eat buffets.  Cameron loved the playground.  There was a slide that had such deep plunge to it that we called it the rocket slide:  when people went down it, they would come rocketing off it into the sand.  I'm sure it would never pass safety codes in the U.S. but Cameron had a great time with it and the teeter totters and bench swing.

I really liked the hot springs part of the hotel.  There is a tub that they fill up every night from the hot springs, then they drain it at the end of the night.  When the water first comes in from the spring, it's too hot to get into, but after an hour or two, it's really wonderful.  You just have to ignore the fact that it's a rusty color (... which is because the hot springs have a high iron content to them.)  Hot springs are supposedly good for various physical ailments like arthritis.

The hotel eating facility is run more like a family style serving.  There is a large buffet in the middle of the room and people help themselves.  We paid 400 pounds (about $69) for the night and that included dinner and breakfast.  The dinner was quite lovely with candles on the tables.

We had a little birthday cake for Cameron for dinner since it was his birthday that day.  I told another table of Americans that it was his birthday and asked them to help me sing Happy Birthday and they gladly did.  Cameron was pretty overwhelmed having a room of 50 or so people sing to him (... even the Japanese tour group managed to join in...).   He was so overwhelmed that he didn't blow out the candle while everyone was waiting for him to.  A couple of Egyptians working with the hotel came up and sang him an Egyptian birthday song (-- not sure what it said since it was all in Arabic--), and he still didn't blow out the candle, so the Egyptians helped him blow it out.
I had packed one present to give him on his birthday, a book that he likes called Fire Cat.  We've read it in the bookstores so he knew it, and it's at a level that he can start reading for himself.  

We had balloons back at the room to celebrate.

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