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A hunt for adventure, fun and facts in the southern mountains

When we looked at a map of Egypt, the town of Shalateen and the Halayeb triangle by the Red Sea along the border with Sudan stood out as the most remote spots in Egypt. Knowing nothing about them nor anyone who has been there, we decided that was exactly where we wanted to go. And so we went. Along the way, we went from only knowing the name and location on a map to discovering a whole new world.

After two days of haggling with security officials to obtain permits to enter Halayeb, (we never figured out why the government finds it so important to keep the triangle closed) we departed on a punishing, albeit rewarding, off-road drive into the mountains to attend a wedding. There, 150km from the nearest town, we learned about making henna and dancing with swords. Two days later we were walking through Roman temples and past ancient water wells tucked away in the mountains of Wadi el-Gemal, home to the largest population of gazelles in Egypt.

In Shalateen’s market, we marveled at the diversity of the goods while being followed by suspicious plain-clothed policemen. The daily camel market was no less remarkable, with the massive camel traffic coming all the way from southern Sudan on foot and further north into Egypt on trucks.

Perhaps the most worthwhile part of the trip was speaking with the locals, whose lives are caught in the middle of a border dispute between Egypt and Sudan. They told us how smooth life is and, sometimes, how limited. In one of the more memorable moments of the trip we had an unexpected conversation with young locals about marriage and relationships on an deserted strip of beach in Shalateen.

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