Cleopatra's Bath, Siwa, and the French film star
Trip Start Apr 16, 2006
39Trip End Jun 07, 2006
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A woman traveling alone is always in for an adventure when it comes to the local men, and Egypt is no exception. To leave Alexandria I was supposed to be in the lobby by 5am and I was determined to be on time. I was up and ready to go by 4:45 when I suddenly realized I'd gotten some sunblock in my eye. It hurt and my eye was watering so I was trying to rinse it out when there was a knock on my door. A young hotel porter said, "I am here to check your minibar" and I let him in. He walked over to the minibar, which was still sealed. I said, "I didn't use it." as I turned around and continued to try to get my eye to stop watering.
I didn't want to be late, so I started making my way to the door when I noticed the porter had ripped the seal from the minibar and started asking me "So you did not use the drinks?" I was sleepy, so it didn't really register
At this, he leapt to his feet, very dramatically & exclaimed "WHYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!?????? I do not understand! Why are you not married!? You are beautiful woman!!!!" I really needed to get to the lobby and didn't quite know how to answer Muhammed so I just said, "Sometimes American women are married and sometimes they are not. Maybe someday." He then moved to stand in front of the door and a look of great pain took over his entire face. "WWWHHHHHHHHYYYYYYY!!!!???? Tell me! I do not understand! You are beautiful. How can you not be married!?" and he put his fingers under my chin.
I was trying to get sunscreen out of my eye at 5:00 in the morning, so I wasn't feeling particularly beautiful. I was just feeling really late at this point. Muhammed finally calmed down enough to let me pass to the elevator and I met Bassel downstairs. He asked why I was late & I told him. Later he said, "It was my fault you were late
On the way to Siwa I was supposed to go to Al Alemain battlefield but I wasn't very interested so we stopped off at Cleopatra Beach instead. The rumor is that this rock formation was carved to be a bathtub for Cleopatra, but as usual that can't be proven. It was pretty cool, though. The water felt good on my feet.
Many, many, many hours later we arrived in Siwa. On the way I saw camels wandering, and many many bedouins. Siwa is a mixture of Siwan, Berber & Bedouin cultures. Most of the people there get around by donkey, although a few have vehicles & you can rent a bicycle if you want. I wasn't staying in the town of Siwa, I splurged to stay in an Ecolodge there that's become quite famous. Apparently Prince Charles & Camilla had stayed there just a few weeks prior because Camilla wanted to visit a nearby battlefield wbere her father had fought.
Upon arriving, I was immediately signed up for a sunset safari through the Sand Sea to an oasis 20 miles from the Libyan border
I was supposed to be in the car with Abdullah, but a french couple walked in front of everyone and commandeered it. The French man's botoxed face & safari clothing were just a little too perfect, and she was showing just a bit too much skin for travel in an Islamic country. I had a strangely familiar feeling about them... and after living in LA for 18 years, my instincts were pretty accurate. He turned out to be some French film star (don't ask me who, I'll attach a photo and if anyone figures it out, let me know). Let's just put it this way, they were a little bit high maintenance. Abdullah is an incredibly intelligent and confident man so he took many of their complaints with a grain of salt. When she complained that he snored during a previous an overnight outing, his response was, "But it was musical snoring!" Then while drinking tea at one point, he looked up at her and said, "You know, I am a happy person. If other people don't make me happy I know how to make MYSELF happy." She responded, "You'll have to teach me that someday." I don't think that's going to happen.
Riding in a jeep over the Saharan Sand Sea is SOOOOO much fun
On our way back from the oasis, we stopped on a giant sand dune so that the children in our group could sand surf. Sandboards are a lot like snowboards and riding them down the hills is obviously an incredible amount of fun. I wanted to do it... but walking up a sand dune? HORRIBLE. It's like swimming in quicksand or something. So I just watched the kids. I'm way too lazy to walk up a sand dune any time soon.
The hotel itself is amazing. It's not cheap, but I've spent more on rooms in New York. There is no electricity and at night everything is lit by lanterns and beeswax candles. The food is incredible. There were only about 20 people staying there and other than French film stars most guests were either french families on holiday, or expats living in Egypt. At one point I was sitting by the fire with a large group of people and people asked what I do for a living
I promised Bassel that I'd call him after the safari & dinner so that I could hang out in Siwa with his expat friends for a bit but that was a bit tricky. One of the men working at the hotel REALLY didn't want me to leave the hotel & wouldn't let me call. He kept saying, "You need your rest. This is your holiday. I know how tour guides are." I snuck out anyhow, and had a lovely evening sipping drinks on a rooftop restaurant in Siwa with Bassel and his friends. His friends had been living in Sri Lanka during the tsunami so they told me all about it. In return, I told them what earthquakes are like.
Got home about 1:30 am and the hotel's attendants were waiting for me with lanterns. I felt like I was back in high school and had been caught staying out too late by my mother.
After a good night's sleep, the next day was for touring the ruins of Siwa and the Oracle of Alexander the Great.
I'm back in Cairo at the moment as I recap this and unfortunately the hotel's Business Center is closing. So I'm out of time for now so those amazing photos and stories will have to wait.