Czarina's Travel Diaries:
EGYPT, Siwa Oasis
Siwa is situated in the northern part of Egypt close to the Libya border. Roads were built in the early eighties connecting this community to the rest of Egypt. A result of this isolation is the interbreeding of the people. There are many albinos in the population.
The oasis was made popular by the visitation of Alexander The Great. His Temple of the Oracle still stands today.
The bus ride to Siwa from Alexandria takes ten hours. The WWF wrestling is playing on the TV. I certainly do not expect to be watching this show in a bus going to a remote place in Egypt.
For hours we can only see the desert. All of a sudden we see the trees of the Oasis. Siwa is the largest oasis in Egypt.
The people are very welcoming. I feel transported back in time. The life is very simple. The markets, the restaurants, the hotels, the post office and the mosque are all within a short walking distance from each other.
There are a few main attractions in Siwa. Most of them are temples associated with Alexander the Great. There is also a cold spring called Cleopatra's Bath, some tombs, and Fatnas Island (also called Fantasy Island) where you see the most amazing sunset.
To get to these attractions we rent bicycles for $2 for the whole day. Sylvain my travel companion and I met three other women ( Kelly, Tracy and Lisa) in the bus. They are joining us in this bike trip. It takes us about an hour to pick our bikes. I have the most difficult time finding a bike my size. I realize it is impossible. So I take the smallest one and hope that I don't fall off.
We stop by the tourist office to get a map of Siwa. The man working there is still at home so someone at the office goes to his house to get him. I guess he is on call.
Most of the day is gone so we are only going to one attraction which is Fatnas island to watch the sunset. It is very windy making the ride more difficult. Fatnas Island is 5 km from the town.
Along the way we encounter a donkey with a cart full of women. The women in Siwa wear light blue veils with a black face cover. They are not allowed to show their faces except in the privacy of their own home. It is also sad that girls are not allowed to speak to any males even members of their family until they are married.
Fatnas Island is like a secluded beach resort. Sylvain and Kelly smoke an apple sheesha. I rest on a hammock waiting for the sunset. We pass our time talking and taking pictures of each other.
Finally the sun sets. It is a little cloudy. The sunset is not that great today. Since the people in the town say that it is the best sunset, everyone takes pictures.
Back in the town we all meet for dinner at Alexander's Restaurant. The food in Siwa is different from the rest of Egypt. There is an influence of Berber and East Indian in their meals.
As usual we are having dinner with a bunch of stray cats. I feel so sorry for them so I feed them. No one likes the fact that I do this because they think it is dirty to eat with cats.
The donkeys are making really loud noises tonight. Apparently all the donkeys in Siwa are males. If anyone wants to breed their donkey, they must go to a town further in the desert where they keep the female donkeys. They make really loud noises when they are hot and bothered.
The man in the tourist office told us to go to a place in the night to see the stars. Everyone is exhausted from the day trip except Sylvain and I. We are off to see the stars.
This bike ride is rather interesting. We pass by all the residential areas in Siwa. The further we go the more the light disappears until we are riding in the darkness. We miss the turn off for our destination. We continue riding. I feel like I am in a vampire movie. It is so dark. The homes look deserted. There is a bare mountain on the right hand side. It seems like a bunch of bats will come at us from the cracks. Normally I do not get scared of the dark. This is an exception. Sylvain wants to keep going but I say we have to go back.
On the way back we hear all sorts of noises from the bushes. There is thick vegetation on both sides of the narrow road. It is pitch black. The sounds are really scary. I feel like I'm in that haunted scary ride in the amusement park except this is real. I absolutely see nothing. Sylvain is riding in front of me. All of a sudden he swerves to the right. I press on the breaks as hard as I can. I see in front of me the face of a donkey. I screamed so loud. The donkey owner apologizes for not seeing us. There is no one to blame for the darkness.
The lights are coming up ahead. I'm so glad I'm in one piece.
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