Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's a Wadi?

"What's a wadi?" And, on finding out, "Why are you in one?"

The Husband, Lads and I wandered in the wadi this past weekend, prompting these questions from my mother. Fair enough, since everyone knows I am more of a drink-a-hot-toddy than walk-in-the-wadi kind of girl.

First, some geography: wadi is Arabic for “valley.” Wadis are cut by water through the desert but are largely dry year round. Wadi Degla is in Egypt's Eastern Desert and drains into the Nile Valley at Maadi, Cairo. In the late 90s it was protected as a nature preserve. Today, its network of trails attracts hikers and cyclists.

The wadi floor is mostly coarse sand and gravel, with scattered piles of rocks - not to be confused with the pervasive, man-made rubble throughout Cairo. There are also several very high plateaus.

The Lads’ pre-wadi hiking experiences were generally tame and more on the green, or urban side – being carried in baby back packs through the Blue Ridge Mountains or walking through Rock Creek Park- with the scarring (figuratively and literally) exception of one very traumatic trek through the Billy Goat Trail with Grandpa the last time (and the last time) he babysat for the weekend. Said A, with a shiver as we tried to convince him the wadi trails were kinder and gentler, “I still haven’t forgiven Grandpa for that one.” Neither have, I, A, neither have I.

In the end, O and A were excited that they climbed a mountain of sand. I, remaining securely on the wadi floor, was slightly less excited about the mountain of sand in my shoes.

In leaving behind my telephoto lens, I inadvertently pleased O with pictures that made him, his brother and father look like ants "1 or 2 miles” above me (in reality, more like a few hundred feet).

Then, just as I was thinking how standing in this very alien landscape was like being on the moon – the actual moon peaked out above the plateau behind which the boys had disappeared .

Still wondering, what’s a wadi? See for yourself at my Flickr set Wadi Degla.

/lkm in Cairo