Egypt's Bedouin Valley
by Heba Fatteen Bizzari
Long ago, many Egyptologists believed that Egyptians were all nomadic, staying in one location just long enough to feed their livestock and move on. It was probably a somewhat harsh lifestyle, though the Nile Valley soon encouraged Egypt's ancient residents to settle into cities and establish one of the world's first civilizations. Yet, there remained nomads who even today wander Egypt's deserts. They have done so now for millennium upon millennium, and one can only wonder what sorts of magic the desert has taught them over these thousands of years.
These are the Bedouins, who can be easily recognized by their nomadic lifestyles, specific dialects, social structures and culture. Many of them continue to live a pastoral life. Frequently they live in tents, or houses made up from trunks of palm trees. They herd camels, but often also sheep, goats and cattle and some of them also make a living by selling the handicrafts they produce.
Their numbers are constantly decreasing, as more and more are changing from the nomadic lifestyles to sedentary. This was the reason we thought of preserving this lifestyle, and making the Bedouin Valley. Its an attractive and adventurous life that is worth experiencing, said Ahmed Wael, managing director of South Red Sea Enterprise.
The Bedouin Valley is located 14 km south of Marsa Alam between the desert and the Red Sea, and is 70 km from Marsa Alam Airport, and 480 km from Hurghada Airport. The resort is an ideal location to discover the mysterious, untouched desert and its inhabitants, said Wael. This is one of those places in Egypt where time seems to recede. It is a vanishing portal to Egypt's past, somewhat primitive, and at the same time alluring.
Although the Bedouin Valley was made in a way that depicts the lifestyle of the nomads, the arrangements are a bit more comfortable. We have bungalows made from trunks of palm trees, surrounded by greenery and they are fully equipped with beds, toilets, 24 hour running water and air conditioners that work by cold water and electricity, so the tourists can enjoy the Bedouin life while being a little more comfortable, added Wael. However, guests should expect a primitive experiences. This is not a five star facility, nor is it meant to be one.
There is also a big tent in the middle of the village that portrays the Bedouin culture and is where the celebrations take place. The tourists gather to watch the Bedouin dances, the folkloric dances, and even learn how to dance themselves.
Also the BBQ parties take place there and its usually the Bedouin menu that is served. The village has three restaurants, one indoor and two outdoor, besides the oriental corner where the tourists can enjoy a water pipe (Shisha) with its different flavors and the Bedouin tea that is made right in front to of them on charcoal.
The Bedouin valley has a diving center of its own. The center offers a complete course for beginning divers, and all necessary equipment needed. So its the ideal spot for snorkeling, shore diving, and other water sports. While the Bedouin Valley resort attempts to create a native atmosphere, the diving equipment and boats are modern, comfortable and up-to-date.
We also organize safari trips by camel, which is the actual way Bedouins once traveled. The village also offers safari trips in 4x4 cars, to those who enjoy a much gentler safari, added Wael. This enables the tourists to explore the desert.
The village also has a telescope for tourists to enjoy the night sky of the desert where the stars filled the lives of ancient Bedouins. The Bedouins used the stars in their daily lives to move from one spot to another. The stars were like a compass to us. They used to locate the North Star, and then decide the route they were going to take, said Wael.
The village is now in the process of building a pool. It usually takes between three to four weeks, so were expecting to have it ready by the new season, added Wael. We have also recently opened a new book store in the reception area, which contains books about diving, and everything else related to Egypt, added Wael.
The Bedouin Valley is a project under South Red Sea Enterprise. The company started in 1989, with only boats for divers. Then in 1999, the construction of the valley started, and it was ready by the year 2001, said Wael. That spot was chosen for a very specific reason. This is one of the southernmost parts of the Red Sea, so the dolphins usually gather here. We are also very close to the desert and the nomads. For many people, a visit to the Bedouin Valley, added Wael.
The main office is located 14, El Gehad St., Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt, Tel: +20 2 6352406 Fax: +20 2 6326665 GSM: +20 12 2181427, website: www.southredsea.net