Coming to Siwa Oasis after leaving the rush of Cairo was a welcome respite. We found ourselves in familiar territory with donkeys, semi-dirt roads, and small town friendliness.
Siwa lies in the Sahara Desert, in the far NW of the country but getting here was easy. There is a bus from Cairo that goes to Marsa Mutra, where after a short tea break got back on the bus for the final ride. Since we always take the cheapest option meaning a slower ride, we stopped a few times and once to pray the Friday prayers at a road side mosque.
The slow rides are nice and with this one the flat featureless desert scenery rolled on forever.
Siwa was easy to get around as most of the action, which is locals going to prayers, donkey carts carrying both people and goods, and few restaurants and shops that are lined up around the town square. The women of Siwa rarely come out in public and never show their face if married and instead cover it with a decorated shawl. They get around taking donkey carts. Poking around, I found an old mosque in an abandoned fortress with impressive views of the town, the desert, and the many thousand date trees of the oasis.
We want to celebrate the start of Ramadan and so Mohammad (lots of guys are named this) running the hotel happily agreed to accommodate our request. He warmly offered to wake up us up in the morning and even offered to buy Sahor (morning meal).
Another reason to come to Siwa is to also explore The Great Sand Sea (Sahara Desert); in fact you can see the towering brown sand dunes right outside the door. We made a reservation with Mohammad to go exploring and he arranged for a driver to come pick us up. Driving in the desert is pretty cool, it feels like the truck will tip over right at the precipice of a dune but it just keeps on going. Our truck had a few mechanical issues, luckily we weren't too far from civilization so didn't feel like we would die.
We came to a few small oasis, a large pond even had a few hundred fish. I wasn't feeling like taking a dip, so took a shade under a palm tree and contemplated the scenery. I love dates and there is nothing like picking semi-ripened ones off the tree to nibble on. We ended up at a hot spring, which none of us went inside on the account of the desert heat, so instead had cooling mint tea and dates.
Our guide had told us that we would be sleeping in the desert, so I imagined camels, starry nights, and quiet but instead we found a mosquito ridden campsite that had trash around, pretty bad food, and no quiet, in fact you could hear a water pump or something running in the distance. Both of us opted to sleep outside in the open, which was definitely a better alternative as we could watch the constellations and have some quiet.
We both feel asleep looking at shooting stars and tried our best to tune out the water pump........