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Where the Nile disappeared

Bahariya Oasis is nothing compared to Siwa, but if you come here first, it has charm. The oasis is consisting of erratic colonies of palms. And you really never get an impression of this being an oasis, until you find an elevations, where the landscape of thousands of palm trees stretch out in front of you.
What I found most charming were the children of Bawiti, the capital of the Bahariya oasis. This place is something between a picturesque village and a dump. But the people around you, are beautiful. Me and some other tourists were adopted by a bunch of kids, running to and fro, pointing, explaining, looking interested at everything we did. Small girls with a finger in their mouths, small boys with a new jogging suit. Proud mothers came out, patting their children's heads, smiling to us, saying something in local Arabic dialect, probably "Welcome" or a blessing.
Why is there an oasis here, and why do you find a couple more of them running in a bow stretched out from the western bank of the Nile? Well, this is the way the Nile was running several thousand years ago, long before the eve of the first Nile civilizations. The water popping up now from deep underground, in wells all over Bahariya, are leftovers from those days. These reservoirs were long considered a long time resource, and large funds were pumped into the region. When newer research proved the reserves more limited, and sufficient for only 100 years of today's exploitation, the large schemes for development were left dead. Places like Bahariyya still suffers from this, and Bawiti is in many ways a sad place.

Eat and Sleep
The hotel situation has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in Bahariya. Today you can choose from more than 10 hotels, covering the range from basic to nice. There is little of luxury. Prices are good value.
The best place to look for a room is with the 3 hotels next to the palm grove, the New Oasis, Old Oasis and El-Beshmo Lodge. The two latter have swimming pools, but the first is far cheaper with the same charm and comfort. If you plan to go on excursions into the desert, you should avoid the New Oasis: Their prices are much higher (eating up more than what you save on your room) and if you go for other companies, the manager will try to kick you out of his hotel. The best to do in such a situation is the overhear him and walk your way.
There is only a couple of restaurants outside the hotels, moderately priced, quite charming but the food is totally boring. Food in the hotels is just slightly better, and overpriced considering the small portion.

Buses run up and down along the old Nile, either in direction of Cairo or Farafra. Getting on a bus for Cairo is straightforward, these start in Bawiti. Going south is a bit more difficult, buses pass through, and there can be limited space. Tours can be arranged to Siwathrough the desert, in 4WDs with enough place for 8 passengers, and prices should be below US$10 per seat. These trips are arranged from the camping ground, you just hang around for enough people to gather. Out here, this price will seem steep, but the journey is great, and discussing the price will only reduce the initial price fractionally.

Going Next
350 km northeast: Cairo
50 km south: Black Desert
100 km southwest: Agabat
110 km southwest: Crystal Mountain
160 km south: White Desert
200 km south: Farafra
450 km west: Siwa

By Tore Kjeilen