(My trip to the incredibly beautiful White Desert continued, with more details and complaints.)
Civilization either exiles you to the desert or it wastes your sanity until you seek the desert as a refuge. For me, the desert was the latter: an escape from the mouth breathers and the metro pushers, the exhaust sniffing and the car evasion that scents my daily Cairo existence.
In the White Desert, rolling over the dunes and scrabbly rockscapes in the Jeep, I felt like not only had I escaped from it all, but “it all” was actually fake. Cairo, along with the entire world and its issues, was only a dream that paled in comparison to the stark reality of desert life and the landscapes formed by nothing but geological upheavals over the past couple of millennia.
Occasionally I would sink into reveries and imagine myself as the first person to have ever walked on this rock, or touched this grain of sand, or fallen down on this boulder. These thoughts, however, were likely folly. We were not alone. Other “people” had somehow found out about the White Desert. Was it the fact it’s a national park? That it’s discussed in detail in the Lonely Planet guidebook? That there’s a separate guidebook for the Western Desert of Egypt that outlines the nooks and crannies of the White Desert? The real reason will probably never be known, but the fact remains that though we spent much of the time by ourselves during our desert escapade, we did come across an unfortunate amount of intruders.
In theory, these humans were normal, fine people. Yet I despised them nevertheless. First of all, upon spotting another group in the desert, the air becomes electrified with tourist tension. I resent the other with a passion approaching my love for mushy, hot cereal. The other group is a reminder that my experience is not singular, that others have seen these things and taken better pictures than me. It’s kindergarten all over again: “Kids, you need to know one thing. You’re not special. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Your main purpose in life will be to serve as a statistic for marketing purposes. Half of you will divorce.”
Second of all, eco-tourists are filthy creatures that create waste, both natural and artificial. Despite encouragement from many reputable sources, including Lonely Planet, many tourists do not even attempt to burn their toilet paper after doing their despicable duty. Friends, let me tell you this: toilet paper does not stay buried in the desert for long. Like your shameful secret of eating 3 bags of peanut butter M&Ms before bed every night, it will be blubber to the surface. There’s nothing more unpleasant than realizing what you thought was a pristine campsite is littered with the unspeakable trash of inconsiderate patrons.
So, if you must disturb my desert, please remain quite shameful about your bodily functions and do everything in your power to prevent others from knowing that you have ever done anything so embarrassing.