The War in the Desert: Egypt
A Saharan Odyssey
The North African campaign raged for three years along the narrow strip between the Mediterranean and the impenetrable desert to the south. For two years it was the only theatre where the Axis forces could be challenged on land and was of crucial importance in the fight against them. The struggle swung back and forth with first one side then the other advancing hundreds of miles in searing temperatures before the issue was settled by Montgomery and the Eighth Army at El Alamein in October 1942. By November the enemy was in full retreat never to return. In the three years of fighting 35,000 British and Empire troops lost their lives.
This eight day tour focuses mainly on the 1942 battle, but also the roles of the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS, both of which were formed and found fame during this period. We find time to venture in to the heart of the Western Desert and experience its fantastic geology and the remote oasis at Siwa where Alexander the Great foresaw his future. And we even manage to fit in the best part of a day at the Pyramids. We stay at General Alexander’s WW2 headquarters which boasts magnificent views over the pyramids at Giza as well as Hotel Cecil, headquarters of the British intelligence service during the desert campaign and where we indulge in an ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ moment to celebrate our own desert adventures. This is a relatively fast moving tour covering some 2000 kilometres and requiring frequent changes of hotel, thus requiring a reasonable level of stamina. Whilst we will try to visit as many of the locations listed in the itinerary as possible (often utilising 4x4 vehicles to go deep in to the desert) our level of access is subject to the Egyptian military authorities.
"It may almost be said: 'Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat".
Fly London to Cairo. Check in to our hotel, the Mena House Oberoi, General Alexander’s headquarters during WW2 and with magnificent views over the pyramids at Giza.
Spend most of the day exploring the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza before we drive to Borg el Arab on the Mediterranean coast and check in to our hotel for three nights.
Days 3 & 4.
Over these two days we travel over the El Alamein battlefield by 4 x 4s visiting Alam Halfa, Ruweisat, Mitirieya and Alam Nayil Ridges, Himeimat, the Qattara Depression, the Blockhouse and Tel el Aqqaqir as a well as selected gun emplacements, sangers, museum, station and cemeteries.
We drive to Siwa and check in to our hotel for one night. In the evening we will enjoy a Bedouin supper in the Great Sand Sea and discuss the role of LDRG.
Visit the Temple of the Oracle where Alexander the Great saw his future, marvel at the palm tree lined great salt-lake and fresh water springs. Those daring enough will have the opportunity to take a dip before we drive northwards to the coastal town of Mersa Matruh where we check in to our hotel for one night.
We explore the Mersa Matruh battlefield and visit Rommel’s museum and headquarters. Continue along the coast road and check in to the Hotel Cecil,
This morning we visit Fort Qait Bay with its naval museum and magnificent views over Alexandria and, depending upon demand, Chatby and Hadra Cemeteries. We then head for Cairo airport for our late afternoon flight back to London.
"I did not hope for such a complete victory; or rather I hoped for it, but I did not expect it".