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Published: November 19th 2010
Day two in Siwa, and I join Mike and two others (Neil, yet another person doing Cairo to Cape Town, and Selina, a German living in Dublin) for an overnight tour into the Western Desert - which will include sandboarding, visits to hot and cold springs, and then sunset and a night under the stars. I get lucky and ride shotgun in the Land Cruiser, and we bounce out of the town, down a dusty track, past swaying palm trees, towards the Great Sand Sea.
I thought I'd lost my heart to Siwa the night before, but it was during that first trip into the desert that I became truly besotted - with travelling, with Siwa, and most importantly, with the desert. There really is nothing like it. As we sped through the dunes, up and over great waves of sand, and down almost suicidal drops, with the sun beating down on my face, and the wind blasting my face, I realize this is where I want to be forever. The rest of the tour is great, but it's the simple beauty, immense size, and intense colours of the desert itself that are so unforgetable. I'm minuscule compared to the
vast mass of sand stretching in all directions. So powerless were anything to happen. The colours - azure blue of the sky, the golden yellow, and shades of red and orange in the sand - are perfect. The beautiful forms of the dunes, gracefully arching into the distance just take your breathe away.
We spend the night at a camp on the edge of the desert, with Mohammed's drums and singing the perfect accompaniment to the campfire and the dunes. We're asked to join in, but I only make a musical mess, so I leave him to serenade the desert, his Arabic words floating through the night, his face lit up by the flicker of the flames. And another almost perfect day is complete when I settle down in my sleeping bag in the dunes of the Great Sand Sea, with the clear skies and thousands of stars above, and drift into another very contented sleep.
I know I'll have to come back, that's for sure. I've caught the bug. Been utterly captivated by the desert.
And it makes me feel more alive than I could ever explain.
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