Trip Start Oct 07, 2007
45Trip End Oct 31, 2007
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When we arrived in Siwa, it was evening, so we grabbed some dinner and accepted an invite to walk around the town with Wael, Farouk and Rado. We got a chance to see Shali all lite up-- it is the old town that is built completely of mud bricks. It is pretty impressive. Unfortunately every time it rains more of it is destroyed, and it seems like the rains are coming more often- it is unknown how long it will last.
We stopped by a little cafe and had our first chance to try geunine Egyptian tea. The first was a green tea prepared with fresh mint. It was so good that I bought some to bring home. The second, and more common, was a red tea, good, but a tough follow up to the green one.
After sitting in the cafe for a long time, we decided to move the very interesting discussion back to the hotel, where we continued all sorts of topics late into the night.
We learned about the two predominant "tribes" in Siwa, the Berbers who are traditionally dark haired and dark skinned, and the Senussis who have lighter hair and very light coloured eyes. The distinct division hardly exisits anymore though since they live side by side and there has been lots of crossing.
We discussed local construction techiques, politics, tourism, religion, gender issues, stereotypes, food... and also how Willy Pickton has put Vancouver on the map. No topic was left uncovered and the jovial flow of converstation hinted at the days to come in the desert.
We got an early start the next day in order to get in the best of Siwa's sites. We broke them into morning and afternoon visits.
First up was the Oracle. Alexander the Great travelled here before he conquered Egypt to seek advice and ascertain if he was in fact the son of Zeus or Re and entitled to rule. It was crazy to think we were standing were such a famous historical figure stood.
Our luck countinued as we enjoyed the whole place to ourself, and yet were inundated by the Italian invasion on our way out-- no less than 20 jeeps and 50 people spilled into the Temple.
We stopped by the Temple of Amun, which has little else that one existing wall, and other than picking up some really cool rocks, I won't bore you with all the Temple talk.
To round out the morning, we stopped by Cleopatra's pool for a swim. This fresh water spring was amazing to wash off the dust. All the tour books said that women would be uncomfortable, but that isn't true at all. Yes, I modestly wore a one piece sporty bathing suit, but the experience was nothing if not 100% enjoyable and comfortable. The change room was more of a challenge than anything else...
After lunch, we visited the Hill of the Dead, these tombs were discovered when the locals had to flee WWII bombs and had no other shelter. The lived in the tombs, which led to unfortunate damage, but was also the only thing that helped them to survive-- so completely acceptable under the circumstances. The hill is littered with mounds of Roman and Egyptian burial sites. Able to enter 3 of the 4 best, we got a chance to see some beautiful paintings and wall art. The fourth was locked, but we managed to sneak a photo and I am pretty sure I saw bones... ug.
We got a closer look at Shali, and a few more pictures. We wandered through a "ghost" town that is actually free housing for Egyptians who travel to the Oasis for their many festivals. Finally, we explored one of the two lakes (huge!) that makes Siwa so inhabitable.
In the evening, we headed back to the coffee shop for more tea and great conversation. I also tried a drink called Sahleb, which is a little like a hot milkshake. Made of rice milk, chocolate sirup, coconut flakes, banana slices and peanuts... hmmm, mmm good.