We took the minibus out of Bahariya. The first stop was at the tourist police - the driver needs permission to take us out of the town. It was into the desert. It was just miles and miles of sand and rock - boring. We then arrived at a large expanse of new flats., all built in the desert but seemed empty. We saw a turning to the right and realised we should have taken this road. We told the driver but despite our protests he carried on. It was obvious to us this was the wrong way and we were headed into Cairo.
We were on a large dual carriageway and all of a sudden cars started to come down it the wrong way. We all became a bit agitated and told him to turn round as it was obvious things were not right ahead. He carried on and we were quickly in a large traffic jam. We could not see properly but it looked like there was some kind of demonstration taking place. After being stationary for about 10 minutes, the traffic started moving slowly and our driver turned round. He then took the road we wanted to take and we quickly got to Fayoum although the incident unnerved us.
Despite some bad write up in the guide book, Fayoum proved to be a quiet town with ATMs - which we were desperate for as there were no working banks in the desert. We had a walk round the place and Judi received lots of stares but it all was friendly enough. Fran had stayed at the hotel as she had a cold and a headache.
We spend the rest of the day organising our trip to the pyramids of Saqqara - about 40km short of Cairo. We booked a car to go there through the hotel. He then came back to tell us that we would be escorted there by the tourist police (armed of course). This we are assured is normal. We also tried to work out how to leave this place to move on. This proved a little difficult as the bus drivers were on strike - come back tomorrow. After dinner, we were watching BBC world news when we saw a report from John Simpson that showed him going to Saqqara and getting a lot of hostility. This, combined with or despite of the proposed armed escort, made us decide to give the pyramids of Saqqra away.
We had a leisurely start to the next day. We started by looking at options for getting to Sharm. Flying from Cairo was favourite until we found there were no flights for 2 days. The option to go round Cairo was horrific - involved a long bus journey, plus an overnight stay and the a ferry ride which we had heard was not running.
Matt contacted FCO on our behalf. This was useless - his comment was 'from what I have seen on the television news, it seems to be mostly Cairo'. As Matt put it, it is nice to get an experts view! We decided to look at the option of going into Cairo and changing buses there as things seemed to be settling down
First we had to check out the bus strike. We started to go out and found out that we were going to get an escort from tourist police around town. All 4 of us went out and we dropped Judi & Fran at a garden café by the water wheels whilst we went to the bus station. This confused our escort - he had to call up his mate to keep an eye on Judi & Fran. We decided to walk to the bus station - much to the disgust of our escort. It was a bit like a bad spy novel - if we had decided to split up we would really confuse him. We made the bus station - and great joy the strike was over. We came back through the shopping area which was very colourful. Everybody was very friendly, wanted to speak to us and tell us how pleased they were that Mubarak had gone. We even got invited in for tea at one place we stopped.
We rejoined Fran & Judi who were playing spot the policeman. Our escort disappeared (or so we thought). When we came out of the café, he was there - he was watching the entrance. We decided to use him as a guide and got him to take us through the market - at first a bit tame but then we got to the live fish and the goats head section. Again, every body was very friendly - Judi managed to attract a group of children who followed her round. At one point, a young girl came out to shake her hand - then rushed inside to her Mum thinking she had done something dangerous!
After a quick rest at the hotel, we went out to lake Qarun - about 25 km outside of Fayoum. The lake was formed when the Nile burst its banks as the area is low lying - about 40m below sea level. it's now fed by canals from the Nile that irrigate this area. The lake is quite surreal - it has the Oasis on one side and the desert on the other. We stopped at an expensive hotel - formerly the Kings hunting lodge - and managed to hire a boat to go out on the lake. Judi was in her element as the bird life on the lake is the best in Egypt. We then adjourned to the hotel for a beer. The place was very pleasant but totally empty as this is the off-season for the lake - it is a weekend retreat for rich Cairenes. We decided not to eat in the hotel, we did not want to be the only people in a cavernous restaurant. We then played hunt the restaurant as everywhere else was closed. We eventually found one - it had fresh fish from the lake that was delicious.