Cleopatra's Bath, Siwa, and the French film star

Trip Start Apr 16, 2006
1
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Trip End Jun 07, 2006


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Flag of Egypt  ,
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hi everybody!

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. How could I have drank anything from a sealed minibar? To quote my friend Bassel, "Egyptian men can be sneaky." He just wanted to talk to me. The man, whose name was Muhammed (not exactly rare), asked if I was traveling alone. I said I was with a tour & getting ready to leave. He then asked if I had any sons. I said no. He said "You are not married?!?" I said no.

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. I sent him there to check the bar so that you could be checked out faster. I guess that plan kind of backfired." Ever since then, Bassel & I have been perfecting oru Muhammed impressions & chanting "WHHHHYYYYYYYY!!????" to eachother over the silliest things. It just doesn't seem to get old.

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. Abdullah, a prominent local Siwan professor, had gotten permission from the Egyptian military to take us there. Not once on the entire safari did we see another car or human being. It was incredible.

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! Seriously. It's a blast. My camera battery died unfortunately so I don't have pictures of the whole thing, I wish I did. The oasis was beautiful although walking in the lake's water was kind of an odd experience. Between my toes it felt like walking on top of a cake. It was a bit gross really. I found a shell in the water though... it's so incredible to look at this entire desert and realize that it was all under the ocean thousands of years ago.

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 told them, and then I mentioned that I lived in Los Angeles for 18 years and used to "design movie posters." Needless to say, French film star and his companion suddenly sat up straight and said, "in Hollywood? This must have been very fun!" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "It had its moments." Funny enough, they treated me with a bit more respect after that.

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.
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Comments

roger94401
roger94401 on

I Love Everybody - Fits as the theme to your trip
I was really glad to hear that 'I Love Everybody' came on your iPod at the perfect moment, because it sounds like that's been the theme of your trip so far. Meeting great people like you have is every bit as important as the fantastic places you've been.

- Roger

skoli666
skoli666 on

Remember....
...You're Canadian!

lynnster
lynnster on

Canadian, eh?
Read my last entry from Alexandria & you'll see there's no reason for me to do that! People are incredibly nice here, you silly paranoid man. They don't hate Americans at all... they hate George Bush. But hey, so do I!

When I say I'm from California, Egyptians eyes light up and they put their hands in the air and say 'Ahhh... AMERICA!' The only complaint that I've heard is from people working in hotels or tourguides who all agree that most Americans take 50 pieces of luggage with them when they travel (kinda like Prince Charles)... so since I'm traveling with two carryons I'm kind of seen as a magical creature.

Honestly, people couldn't be kinder. It's completely safe. Fret not, Skunk Boy!

normis
normis on

How are you?
I've been a bit busy here with work. But I ahve enjoyed your travelog. I just read about the explosions in Egypt. I know that they were in Dahab and you're in Cairo, but I'm not sure how that would affect you. How far away or if safety mesures are in place. Please do let us know.

elainetay
elainetay on

Siwa Oasis
Can i know where you stayed in Siwa? Your ecolodge looks lovely. I am a single mum with 3 boys and we intend to spend May/June in Egypt. Any advise?

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