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Published: September 1st 2008
Saturday 30th August
What a day. We travelled from Alexandria to Siwa. Our first stop was Al Alamein battle field cemetery and Military museum, the cemetery was very beautiful, peaceful and well maintained. Reading some inscriptions on the headstones and being in the hot dry desert where the young Australian men had fought and lost there lives was a very moving experience.
The drive followed the coast passing a continuous stream of condo style apartments built on the beach. After watching the apartments go by for the first 20kms we were impressed, after 100km we were even more impressed, after 300kms we got bored and just ignored them. The apartments had all been built in the last 20 years. Ron commented give them another twenty years and no one could invade by sea as the whole coastline of Egypt will be wall to wall condos.
We had a short stop for lunch at Mutrah, a beautiful beach side town before turning inland across the desert to Siwa. The three hour drive across the desert was surreal as we sat in air conditioned comfort travelling through a very barren landscape listening to a Michael Palin talking book, while Egyptian
music blasted out on the radio and the speedo sat on around 140 at times.
Arriving in Siwa, 8 hours after leaving Alexandria, was like going back in time 2000 years. The buildings are all made of mud brick and donkey and carts are one of the main forms of transport. Not many women are seen on the street and if they are they wear the traditional black dress and head wear, covering them completely. Our back drop to the hotel is stunning the ruins of the old city. Our hotel has been built around these ruins and some of the walls are from the original houses dating back over 2000 years.
Everyone was very welcoming, from the shopkeeper that gave us mint tea to the hotel manager who asked to sit and chat with him and gave us a guava juice to welcome us. Dinner was served on the rooftop, over looking the town with the ruins behind us. As Siwa is completely muslim at the traditional call to prayer the town quietened as all the men left for the mosques.
Sunday 31st August
After a delicious breakfast of pita breads, local olive oil, feta,
olives and homemade jams washed down with lemon juice and strong coffee we set off for a mountain with hundreds of tombs called the Mountain of the Dead.
Our tour guide arranged for us to view a nearby luxurious hotel, named as one of the top hotels in the world, which we were told Princes Charles enjoys staying at when he visits Egypt. It was an eco lodge made of rock salt with no power but very luxurious, one room was quoted as being 8,000 Egyptian per night which is around $2000 Australian.
We then visited the temple of Amon where Alexander the Great was coronated before becoming king of Egypt and also viewed Cleopatra baths which Ron was keen to come back to for a swim. The trip was punctuated with stops to pick fresh dates off the trees for morning snacks. We had pancakes and kerkadeh, a refreshing Egyptian drink made with hibiscus for lunch followed by the usual strong black coffee while we watched the street scene.
After lunch Anwar and Randa took us back to Cleopatra's pool where Ron and Anwar swam, this freshwater spring is only used by the men of the
town as women do not swim in public. We then came back to explore the old city which is in total ruins and is in fact part of our hotel. A local guide Mohammed offered to take us to what he explained was a romantic spot to watch the sunset, so we all set off, Anwar, Randa, Mohammed, Ron and I to watch the sunset. It really was a beautiful spot on the lake and we sat and ate pomegranates and dates thanks to Mohammed dashing from the car into the local gardens and sharing the booty with us all.
Monday 1st September
This morning we had breakfast at 5.30am on the roof top of the hotel watching a beautiful sunrise. Today is the start of Ramadan so Muslims do not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. The journey back to Alexandria was 6 hours, we are not sure if it was the lack of food, fluid or cigarettes but Anwar who had been driving fast earlier now went into overdrive and became a Grand Prix racer for the day. He would have given Schumacher a run for his money. Ron and I just kept giving each
other nervous looks as we sped past everything on the road, we were both happy to arrive back at the hotel in Alexandria.
Tot: 0.258s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 15; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0135s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb