Desert Safari in Egypt

Although I’ve spent months of my life in the sunny seaside town of Dahab in the Sinai, there are still a lot of sights I haven’t seen. During my last stint in Dahab, I decided to work on rectifying this situation by going with King Safari Dahab the tour company I always use, on one of its most popular tours – the Coloured Canyon.

Unfortunately, due to recent winter floods, the Coloured Canyon was temporarily closed to visitors. This turned out to be a good thing. There are actually two coloured canyons in the Sinai – the big coloured canyon and the small coloured canyon, also called Salama Canyon. With the big one closed, we simply went to see the little one, a tour which also includes a trip to the White Canyon and Ain Khundra Oasis.

This trip turned out to be way better than I’d expected. New sights and new experiences, plus – due to my fear of heights – a private safari through the desert!

First, new sights. Moments after the tour began, I spotted the first thing I’d never seen before – a picturesque little village just a few kilometers outside of Dahab.

Village just outside of Dahab, Egypt

Next, fear of heights. When we arrived at the White Canyon, I was dismayed to see that the only way down into the thing is by holding onto a rope and precariously lowering yourself, backwards, rock by rock, into the depths of the canyon. I couldn’t do it. What a bummer, I thought. I’m going to miss one of the best parts of the tour.

Happily, I was totally wrong.

While our guide Mansour took the rest of the group through the Canyon, I set off with our driver Faraj at full speed in our Land Rover, Faraj expertly driving it through the deep desert sand. Shortly, he pulled up to a mountain, stopped and motioned for me to follow him. Straight into a cave is where he led me. Large or small, I love caves. This one was small, like a cave where I was invited to tea with a Bedouin man and his mother in Petra, Jordan. Unlike the Jordan cave, though, which was actually inhabited, this was empty yet interesting in that there were oblong doorways – naturally or manmade, I don’t know, leading from one bare room to the next.

Interior holes inside a desert cave in the Sinai, Egypt

Back in the van we drove, Faraj weaving around mountains until we came upon a mysterious green bus. This is from Israel, he stated. How? I asked. Vehicles are allowed from Israel into Egypt, but not many cross through these days, and I didn’t understand why a bus would ever have come over the border, especially permanently. Perhaps years ago, Israeli tour buses did come into the Sinai, and this one broke down and was abandoned? Israel helicoptered it, Faraj told me. What? Why? And how? I didn’t believe it.

Bus at a Bedouin camp in the Sinai, Egypt

So I posted a photo of it on the Solo Female Traveler Facebook page and received several comments from interested Egyptians, who doubted very much that the bus was from Israel. After some discussion we arrived at a concensus was that there is no way this is an Israel bus. One man suggested Faraj had probably mixed up this bus with an abandoned Israeli army truck nearby (although the army truck was no doubt not helicoptered in) while another man suggested that this was a tale the Bedouins invented. The bus is not from Israel after all, I was told, and rather is from nearby Sharm el-Sheikh. A case of mistaken identity or a bit of Bedouin lore? I may never know.

With the bus sitting just several meters from us, Faraj and I sat down to tea with another Bedouin man who was preparing it when we arrived. Tea with Bedouins – this is a classic Sinai experience.

Two Bedouin men sitting down to tea in the desert in Egypt

Following deep tire tracks in the sand, Faraj led us back through the desert. After a while, perhaps tired of driving or perhaps wanting to give me a bit more fun, Faraj stopped the Land Rover, got out and told me to get in the driver’s seat. Now I was in charge of my own desert safari!

Car tracks in the desert

My route

It’s good that I know how to drive a manual transmission, or I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience.

Me driving through the Sinai Desert

Matching our tires to the preexisting tracks, I followed Faraj’s directions, expecting to end up at the other side of the White Canyon, where we would pick up those we’d left behind. Instead, Faraj drove me straight to this:

Mountain with palm trees in front - Ain Khundra Oasis

An oasis!

This was my first desert oasis, known as Ain Khundra, and I relinquished control of the vehicle to Faraj so I could get out and explore.

Building standing in the oasis

Building made of palm fronds

Interesting structure made from branches in the oasis

What appears to be salt in the sand in the desert

The rest of the group appeared at this point, led by Mansour on foot through the oasis, while Faraj busied himself cooking lunch for us.

Faraj cooking lunch

Lunch of rice and vegetables

Now it was time for what I thought would be the pièce de résistance of the tour, but was actually anticlimatic compared to my day thus far. Salama Canyon was next on the agenda, with a brief stop at the Mushroom Rock. I wasn’t too impressed with this rock, but here it is:

Unusual rock formation in the Sinai

And then, of course, Salama Canyon, aka the Small Colored Canyon. Here, I found that the term Coloured Canyon is not a misnomer. It really was quite beautiful.

Coloured rock at Coloured Canyon

Wall of the Small Colored Canyon

Wall of the Salama Canyon

Now it was time to get out of the desert. How? Up and down sand dune after sand dune, many so steep we were fearful the Land Rover might roll over and we’d be crushed to death. Nevertheless, it was a fun fear and the perfect ending to my Sinai desert safari.

Sand dune in the Sinai

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. wow, super cool rock formations!
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Another Snowboarding Season Comes to a Close…My Profile

  2. Sabina says:

    Thanks, Annie! I hope you get to see them for yourself someday.

  3. I remember reading that discussion on your Facebook page – quite intriguing. And I love it that they gave you an alternative experience, that you could enjoy. Gotta love a colorful desert!
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Water, Water Everywhere – A Walk Through the Argentine Iguazu Falls National ParkMy Profile

  4. Sabina says:

    Yes, the alternative to going down into the White Canyon was such a blast, it kind of made me glad I’m afraid of heights :)

  5. Nancie says:

    What a great day! I know that I would not have gotten down into that canyon with a rope! Your meal looks delish!

  6. Sabina says:

    Nancie, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way. The day was all the more amazing for not having gone down into the canyon. Sometimes a fear of heights can be a good thing, I learned.

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