Siwa Oasis

Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Josef Hotel

Flag of Egypt  ,
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Siwa Oasis is truly the paradise of Egypt. It was a 9 hour bus ride from Cairo (not direct) through the western desert. It was very strange, we're in the middle of the desert, there's nothing for as far as the eye can see, and the bus kept stopping to let people off. All I could see was desert for miles in every direction and then suddenly I could see us approaching something black. And just that quickly, we were surrounded by palm trees. The Oasis is huge and the springs are getting larger each year. The lake was enormous and they have natural hot and cold springs all over the place which is great because it was extremely hot!

After finding a hotel and calming our growling stomachs with local cuisine, we set off to find a great place to see the sunset. In Siwa there are ruins called Shali which is a large structure containing people's living space, granaries, and a mosque. The structure is made of mud and salt and in 1938 when it rained for 3 days straight (an amount unheard of in Siwa) large portions of The Shali melted. The Shali is conveniently well lit at night, so even after watching a beautiful sunset from the top, we were able to explore a bit. We met a few Egyptians at Shali and they showed us their favourite café called Dreamers. This café was priceless as it was the local hang out to watch B action movies on one of the few televisions in town. This was an every night event and the longer we stayed in Siwa, the worse the movies got.

We decided to see the rest of the ruins in Siwa which are all within 10km of each other, so we thought it would be a good idea to rent bicycles. This turned out to be a lesson learned. The guy renting us the bikes sifted through a pile to pick out a few that seemed to be in working condition. The one he picked out for me was a boys bike and my knees were well above the handle bars when I peddled. I was the lucky one, I had breaks. After about an hour of riding and stopping at a few sites, we reached Cleopatra's Bath. This is one of the springs and there is a great little café with hammocks next to it. Since the bikes had the hardest seats, we decided to stop for an extended period of time. The owner of the café was in the process of starting an organic farm and building an adobe house for himself and his wife. We made it a daily thing to visit this café, but we decided never to rent bikes again.

The third night we were in Siwa, there was a cultural event at Cleopatra's Bath. There was a Siwan Music Group playing there who had just returned from Nepal. Everyone had a good laugh when one of the group members was asked where Nepal was and he didn't know. There was a feast that accompanied the music that was fantastic. The night was amazing and we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the next day, so we said goodbye to Ian and Nate who had to be back for class and stayed another night.

On our last day we finally jumped into one of the springs. The water was amazingly clean and, even though it was fresh water, you felt very buoyant. We went for dinner that night at a restaurant they built on top of the melted Shali. We were the only patrons, so we had a chance to befriend the waiter who stopped and had a long conversation with us after our meal. All in all, Siwa had to be my favourite place we visited in Egypt.
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