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Published: October 21st 2008
A talent at this point.
It was Eid a few weeks back, which is the end of Ramadan. For those of you who don't know, Ramadan is a month of fasting for Islam and Eid is a holiday to break the fasting. From what I hear it's pretty much the biggest holiday for muslims and it's one essentially one big party (I apologize for the extremely simplistic description of Ramadan and Eid. It's actually a really interesting time to be in a muslim country). For those of us who are not muslim, all this means is that we had a week break from school.
I've read about Siwa on my guidebook and it really sounded like my kind of place. Desert, oasis, hot springs, cold springs, trees, lakes, salt lakes, ruins. What more do you need? So there was my destination for Eid. Unlike Aswan, this time I had companion in Jesse, who amongst many other attributes, manages to take some of the most awkward pictures I have ever seen. I'm generally not a big fan of traveling with other people, but the prospect of unbelievable awkwardness made me pretty excited about traveling with her.
It took us a good amount of time to
get there. We took an overnight bus from Cairo to Marsa Matruh which took about 6 hours, and then another bus from Matruh to Siwa, which was probably about another 6 hours. The bus was decently comfortable and the ride was generally uneventful. However, in the 12 hours it took us to get there, I reached a personal milestone of only peeing once during the whole trip. I consider this one of the better achievements of my life.
Upon arrival, I had a moment of doubt about my decision to come to Siwa. The area around the bus stop looked desolate, with occasional donkey carts trotting around. The heat was burning what had to be a good amount of donkey dung so the town was covered in an interesting aroma. Then we found out that my hotel reservation wasn't written down and consequently I had no room to stay in. After getting to know Ahmed, the unreliable, but kind-hearted manager of the hotel, whom I believe I developed a personal bond with, I realized I shouldn't have been so surprised by this. He's a pretty incompetent guy to put it bluntly. Nevertheless the situation was resolved and it was
time to find out what Siwa had to offer.
And it had plenty to offer. The donkeys really grew on me during my stay in Siwa. They're just generally cool animals. No nonsense, hard workers and a bit cynical. Also, the town actually has a few historical monuments such as the Temple of Amun, where Alexander the Great stopped by for a small ego boost before conquering whatever he ended up conquering, and the Hill of the Dead, which is a big mound of dirt with holes like an ant colony which are actually all graves.
But my favorite part of the Oasis were the sunsets. I say sunsets instead of the sunset because every day I got to see a completely different sunset with its own character. Each of them just as great as the other. Every evening the sun dyed the sky in different colors and that in itself made the trip worthwhile. It felt like I was saying goodbye to a good friend (a different one each time) every time the sun slowly disappeared into the horizon. Epic stuff. And because Siwa is such an idle place, and there is always time to spare, it
was as if the entire oasis stopped to make sure the sun went down. Even though everyone knew the sun will set just like every other day of their lives, they were still a little worried that things won't go as usual, or a little hopeful that the sun will move slower that day and let them enjoy the sunset for a few minutes longer.
Of course, idly watching the sunset isn't the only amazing thing to do in Siwa. We went to a desert camp for a night in which Ahmed's incompetence was fully exposed. Despite the fact that one of our cars broke down every 30 seconds, despite the fact that Ahmed kept trying to drive with the emergency breaks on, and despite the fact that in the darkness of the desert night Ahmed weakly said to me in resignation "Ung-Sang, am I lost? I am lost... Which way do I go?" (Ahmed took big offense to my consequent "How the Fuck would I know?"..."Ung-Sang you said Fuck!"), it was still an incredible experience. Once we were at the camp we were greeted by a delicious meal and a camp manager that challenged everyone to arm-wrestle him.
He was very big. I imagine he goes through a spartan routine of doggy-paddling in the natural spring by the camp all day before the tourists arrive. Then the musicians came by, and a large drum circle with a lot of dancing followed. Later that night, fairly intoxicated, I stumbled into the open desert away from the camp until the lights from the camp were weaker than a dying candle. Once again the sky was something special, this time from the countless number of stars. Every inch of the sky was packed, a full package with the milky way and shooting stars. That's the last thing I remember until I somehow found myself awake in the tent. Weird.
So that was Siwa. I'm convinced that time doesn't progress at the same rate around the world. I doubt that 3 weeks has passed in Siwa since that night in the desert.
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