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[RC] Egypt: Ali's - A Stop on the Multi Day Ride? - Merri Melde

...So now we are in the car, but Ali wants to take us driving out to
see his place in the desert. He's arguing in Arabic with Nabeel - N
wants to leave now (it's ~4 PM) because it's a 6 hr drive back to
Cairo. Ali's saying if you stopped like I told you, we wouldn't be in
this situation. I am taking them with me! 

We climbed into Ali's truck, with him still arguing with Nabeel, and
in parting, Ali said under his breath, "Why do you have to be so

I just went with the flow - if we get back at 10, 11, 12, what does it
matter. Another chance to see the desert - and this the Real Desert
with someone who lives in it?  Hell yea. 

Ali isn't actually a Bedouin - he's an Egyptian from Dashur & has a
farm there, that's how he knows Hortense. But he's lived out here off
and on for 23 years, knows everybody, and is an 'honorary' Bedouin -
he's part of their local council. The Bedouin like to have an outsider
on their counsel to have and see the outsider's viewpoints - but you
have to be an inside outsider, and it took him 23 years to be

Unlike with Shoki, the armed police at the checkpoint just smiled and
waved us through. He drove us ~20 minutes back out the road we came in
- to where he'd been waiting for us - I remembered the hill - and
turned onto one of those anonymous Bedouin sand tracks that have been
fascinating me since Hortense first pointed them out to me. I've been
consumed with the questions, where do these tracks go, who made them
and what they were doing - well now I know! 

We drove down a sand wadi, past little canyons and around a hill - and
this was Ali's place. Just about as far as you could see was his land
- here as a Bedouin you pick a place, squat on it, dig a well, which
unofficially makes the land yours, and when the government gets around
to deciding to supplying you with electricity it officially becomes

He's having workers build a stone hut, then will come sleeping huts
and bathrooms - he's starting a horse riding/trekking business - and
guess who will do the horse end of it:... Morad. 

Then he drove us back across the road into more beautiful desert -
sand, orange sandstone, pillars and cliffs, white mountains, hidden
oases (if you know where to go) - you could ride forever here and not
see it all.The altitude is ~3000' (like Ridgecrest) & it doesn't get
as hot here as lower by the gulfs and sea. 

Ali knew the movement of the moon and stars, the rhythm of the desert,
how to track and catch rabbits, how to tell who drove on this track,
and when. Here, if you need, say some gasoline, you put your can on
the side of the road, and you come back later or tomorrow and some
Bedouin has picked up your can, taken it to town and filled it for

I asked Ali about the camels - do they know to go home?  "Yes, they
know, or they will come when their owner calls. If you call, they will
run away." In fact on the way back, he stopped by a camel of his
friend who was grazing below the road, and he clapped his hands and
said Ho home! and threw rocks near it till the camel started moving
homeward. Ali gave me a round wind-polished agate-like stone he's
found in the desert. 

We reluctantly headed back - give me a horse and I could've just
stayed here - to our waiting donkeys. I asked Ali if the little mosque
was where Moses' brother wasburied. He said, "Moses had a brother?"
Moses is, however, in the Koran also and he led the Esraelites across
the Red Sea. So - how does Islam come out of this Jewish tale? I really
want to learn how these 3 religions developed. And why can't we all
just get along? 

Nabeel was wanting to get us loaded in the car; it was 5:30. With 6
hours of driving ahead, Tracy and Hortense wanted to go back to Sharm
to stay. Jackie & I wanted to go on to Cairo.After all my dream of
galloping in the desert happens tomorrow morning.


The very essence of our sport is doing the trail as quickly as practicable,
while keeping one's horse fit to continue.  Taking the clock out of the
equation makes it another sport altogether.  The challenge is how to keep
the sport what it is while honing our skills (both as riders and as those
in control roles) in detecting where "the edge" is for each horse so that
we don't cross it. 
~  Heidi Smith
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