Having done a cultural trip to soak up some of the history of Egypt, we also opted for the ‘Badawya excursion’. This was an action packed itinerary that promised to excite and thrill, including a Desert Jeep Safari, a trip to a Bedouin camp, Dune Buggying in off-road spider cars, quad-biking, camel riding and horse riding by day, followed by a barbecue and belly-dancing and whirling dervishes to entertain us by night. I will cover the first two parts in this post.
We were collected from our hotel by jeep in the late morning and taken to Badawya camp just outside Hurghada. We were told to cover our legs and buy scarves for this trip which I did in advance, but in truth, they sold the scarves there, and it wasn’t necessary to cover my legs-as long as I didn’t mind getting sandy. To be honest, if you do mind getting sandy-this is the wrong bloody trip for you any way!
Once scarfed up, we were herded back into the Jeeps, and bounced across the Egyptian Eastern desert for about 45 minutes to the Bedouin Camp. Bedouins are nomadic desert-dwelling arabs, rather like gypsy people. They tend flocks of goats, sheep and camels and tend to live in places in which the land is too dry to farm crops and travel to find forage for their animals.. They have few land rights, and although the Egyptian government allow them to travel and reside in Egypt, they must set up camp at least 50km from large towns, which made the Jeep safari a necessity as well as a fun component of the day.
The jeep safari was absolutely brilliant from the word go, well, actually from the word ‘yalla’… The children and I all spent our time laughing like hyenas as we were encouraged to shout
which we were told meant ‘Faster! Faster!’ This was the source of much amusement. It was brilliant to race the other Jeeps across the desert to the mountains ahead of us.
Once there, we were told about the Bedouin people, who live very traditionally, without modern technology. They are only allowed to marry within the Beduin tribes unless they are prepared to cut ties with their Bedouin lives and identity. Any children born in marriages that are with non-Bedouins are not considered to be Bedouins. Girls are generally married off at the age of 14 or 15!
Traditionally, marriages are been between the closest relatives permitted by Muslim law. Cousin marriages are common, ideally between a man and his father’s brother’s daughter. Traditionally, a father’s brother’s son has first dibs on his female cousin, who has the right of refusal but needs permission of that son to marry anyone else. Although marriages to first cousins are desired, most marriages are between second and third cousins.
Marriages outside the extended family have traditionally been rare, unless a tribal alliances was established; and women (girls if we’re honest) are expected to be virgins when they were married. In a marriage it is important for the families to be of the same status. Having lots of children is considered a duty for Bedouins because the more members a tribe has the stronger it is. As such, if a woman is unable to bear children, the husband will likely take another wife, and can have upto three wives. This is acceptable since in Bedouin culture it strengthens you family’s tribe and increases your status.
I was fascinated by the marriage traditions, girls start to cover their faces from a young age, and a man will not want to marry a girl who is unattractive… In order to find a suitable wife, he will either need to catch a glimpse of her face at a Bedouin wedding, when the single girls are permitted to leave their faces uncovered… Or, when the girl reaches 14, her parents will hang a flag outside the tent that indicates there is a girl ready to be married. His mother will first go and approve the girl by having a look at her, and if she is deemed suitable, her son will go for tea at the family’s house… If the girl likes the man, she will add lots of sugar to his tea. She will briefly unveil to let him glimpse her face, and if he likes what he sees he will drink the tea and the couple will get married if he was able to drink sugared tea… If he doesn’t fancy the look of her-he will make his excuses not to drink the tea! YIKES!
In order to find water wells in the desert, the Bedouins will deprive a camel of water for several weeks, and once they are extremely thirsty, the camels will be released into the desert with a Bedouin man. When the camel starts pawing its hoof at the ground-this is an indication that there is water beneath. We were then introduced to Oscar, a baby camel who’s party trick was to chug on bottles of water that any tourists in the group were prepared to part with.
After our talk, we were offered Bedouin tea, which was fairly grim (in my opinion), and then allowed to look around at the camp, try freshly made flat bread prepared by some of the Bedouin woman and purchase Bedouin jewellery or natural home-made remedies that ranged from headache cures to aphrodisiacs.
Finally, we were bounced back across the desert to Hurghada, stopping briefly to repair a tyre that we burst on the way
Apparently this doesn’t happen as often as I would have thought during the tourist Jeep safaris. That said-they changed the tyre with lightening speed-so I have my suspicions they get through a lot of tyres.
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