Trip to the Siwa Oasis

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September 21st 2007
Published: September 21st 2007
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So last Thursday we left for the Siwa Oasis, out in the Sahara Desert (sorry, but do you know how cool that sounds to be able to say that I've been out in the Sahara!), near the Libyan Border. It was a 9 hour bus ride so we took it at night so that it wouldn't be so hot compared to if we traveled during the day. We had no plans except that we knew we wanted to do a desert safari. We arrived at 5am, found a hotel and slept. When we got up we went to have breakfast - crepes with bananas soo freakin good I had em every day! We spent Friday riding around on donkey carts to see the sites in Siwa - Siwa is just an amazing little town. They're Egyptians but they don't consider themselves Egyptians because they're Berber so they have their own language. The people are really friendly and what I liked most is that they left us alone, they didn't hassle us at all being a group of 6 western females so that was just a huge plus for us! However, the women stay indoors - the Berber women are FULLY covered, even more so that a Burka because they don't get the little area to see through at all so their children drive them around on donkey carts. However, their coverings are very ornate and beautiful looking. So Friday we went to two Pharonic temples, one of which was the site where Alexander the Great would often visit and hold meetings as well as Cleopatra's Spring - a natural fresh water spring that was soo refreshing in the desert sun. We then spent the afternoon riding bikes to the salt flats - this was an experience in itself because it was ridiculously hot and we were riding bikes on SAND which made it even more difficult! We then went up to Shali Fortress and climbed up to get a view of Siwa, the salt flats and the desert. The Fortress is really old and is made out of clay and mud - people used to live there hundreds of years ago but then it rained for three days straight which washed away a lot of the fortress (it later became a fortress). Then we ate Siwan food (really yummy!) and spent the rest of the night at a sheesha cafe.

The rest of our time was spent in the desert. I never realized how beautiful the desert was - if I wasn't so motivated about what I want to do with my life I would just settle down there and own a desert safari company! It was soo impressive, sand dune after sand dune - the bright caramel color of the sand even more emphasized with the blazing sun above. We started off visiting some ancient Roman tombs and then really headed deep into the desert (when we settled for camp we were about 5km away from the Libyan border). They actually have a few fresh springs out in the desert so we definitely spent some time visiting those as well as visiting the "fossilized sea" - the sea used to be at this part of the desert that we visited and the ground is covered with fossilized pieces of coral, seashells, and SAND DOLLARS (I took pics for you Aunt Jo!). They are completely fossilized of course and having been buried underneath layers of sand for thousands of years it is nearly impossible to get any out of the ground. Since many people have visited this area they have chistled away at some of the pieces and I managed to walk away with a few pieces of fossilized sand dollars. Then of course then we went SAND BOARDING - so fabulous - so much softer than snow but snow tastes a lot better - I definitely took a few good wipeouts (completely covering myself in sand!).

At night our two guides cooked for us and we smoked sheesha and talked. We also played hide and go seek - actually extremely scary in the desert because everything looks soo much farther away than it actually is that it would have been easy to walk off and get lost if you didn't keep the the flame of the campfire in view. But never in my life have I seen sooooooooooooo many stars - from horizon to horizon it was absolutely incredible. However, it is true that it gets quite cold during the night so we had thick wool blankets to keep us warm (it was nice though to actually be cold for once in Egypt) but then sure enough around 7/8am the blazing sun was back out and it was too hot to sleep! On Monday we took a trip to a Bedowin village (like our Native Americans). The children here are absolutely beautiful with the most amazing eyes. They took speak Berber and usually sleep in tents that they make and set up as they used to travel around (like gypsies do) but this was an actual village. The women are fully covered (but they show their faces) in brightly colored garments and have tattoos around lips and nose. We stayed in Siwa til about 10 pm on Monday night when we took the 9 hour bus ride back to Alexandria. However, before we left we went to this restaurant at Shali Fortress for dinner and we ate camel - actually very yummy (no it doesn't taste like chicken but it tastes pretty much just like beef).

Also, Ramadan started last Thursday so I fasted that day but during my time in Siwa I didn't fast because I had to drink water being out in the desert and also not all of my friends were fasting so it was just easier to eat with them but since I've been back I've been fasting. Iftar (breakfast) is at around 6:30 pm and dinner (which I don't eat because I'm usually fast asleep by then) is between 3-5:30 AM! It's much easier to do now that I've done it for a couple of days but it was difficult at first with no water. Now I'm fine until around 5 or so when I really start to feel hungry!

So this is my last weekend in Alexandria and I am at a loss for words to explain how sad I am to leave. This place has become my home for the past two and a half months and I have experienced so much, have made so many wonderful friends, and great memories that it is going to be very difficult to leave. The program ends next Friday and so next Thursday I have my Arabic exam (wish me luck!). Then I'm off to the Red Sea for a few days with friends for some fun, sun and scuba diving. Then off to Jordan and Israel for two weeks before coming back to Cairo to fly to Kenya. I am currently uploading all of my pics from when I went to Upper Egypt (Egypt is divided in two Upper and Lower - Upper Egypt is actually the lower half of the country and Lower Egypt is actually the top half of the country) so expect another blog soon about my time in Luxor and Aswan and all of th truly amazing photos that I took.

Love to all! ~D
Click or cut and paste these links to view my photos of Siwa! Enjoy!


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