Hello, One of the first things we did (Jan 12-14/2010) was a trip to Bahariya oasis and to the White Desert. After e-mail back-and-forths with about 5 agencies, we settled on Egypt Fun Tours -- mostly because they were pretty responsive and adaptable, and because they were recommended to me in from a friend. Conclusion first (so you don't have to read any further): We had a good time, and overall things went pretty well. Our guide, Hani Ahmed, was a pleasant guy whose English is fine (although he has the habit of repeating everything to make sure you understand -- something I sometimes do myself). Besides his guiding services on this trip, he gave us a large number of useful tips for the DIY remainder of our Egypt trip -- what to see in Luxor, what the price of silver jewelry should be, etc. I certainly give them a solid recommendation.
In retrospect, there are things I would have done differently. This paragraph doesn't reflect on Hani or Egypt Fun Tours, but should be taken as ideas for anyone planning a similar trip. Some of the stuff in Bahariya isn't worth seeing (IMHO) -- in particular, I'm thinking of the Temple of Alexander and Gebel Dist (Pyramid Mountain). The Golden Mummies are very worth seeing. The oasis itself is also interesting, being so different from anything here (in the USA). On the way to and from the White Desert, the Crystal "mountain" is barely worth looking at, and the Black Desert isn't much better. Instead, I would spend more time at the White Desert itself -- it would have been great to have time to spend several hours hiking around among the weird stone monoliths. It being in the cool part of the year, daytime heat wasn't an issue.
Back to the trip report: The 4x4 that was used, owned and driven by a Bawiti resident named Sameer, was not exactly in the best shape. The starter motor was pretty cranky -- the truck had to be push started at least twice. And we had 2 tire blowouts on the paved road on the way to the White Desert. These flats cost us at least an hour, since we had to wait for the second spare tire to arrive on another 4x4 that was coming along later than we were (cell phones are handy!). As a result, we only arrived at the White Desert right at sunset -- which was a significant disappointment -- as I said, the more time at the stone toadstools, the better.
The next day, to make it up to us (and more importantly, to try to repair his business relation with Hani), Sameer invited us to lunch at his house in Bahariya. This was interesting, as we got to see a little of how people live there -- the date palm grove and other farming stuff, the houses themselves, and so on. The most amusing thing was that we found out why the truck hadn't been fixed up -- Sameer had left it to his cousin to do, since his second wife in Giza wanted something the day before, so he had gone into Cairo, and the cousin hadn't actually done anything -- which also explained why Sameer was yelling at him when we picked up the truck. The situation also goes to show that in Egypt, when you ask if a man is married, the answer "yes" isn't the end of it -- you have to follow up with "how many wives?" -- for me, I'm used to "are you married?" being a True/False question, not a multiple choice question.
In my opinion, the loss of time in the White Desert was partly compensated for by this view of life in Bawiti that we wouldn't have had otherwise. My wife was angrier at the situation, but she eventually calmed down. And the 2 wives story we'll be telling for a while to come.
I liked Hani, and don't hesitate to recommend him and his organization. As I said, I'd do some things differently, but it's not likely we'll ever go back to the White Desert. I think that they should cut a few things out of the standard oasis tour, and instead organize some kind of home visit to see how people live there -- that was far more interesting than the Temple of Alexander -- it's a different way of life. And include more time at the White Desert itself!