Siwa: An Egyptian Oasis Part II

6 Dec

After the desert safari, we went to a camp site closer to our hotel for supper. The food was VERY good. Siwans do a lot of underground cooking, and we got to see our chicken being buried for cooking. A man had dug a hole in the sand about 3 feet deep and there were hot coals at the bottom of the hole. Over the coals, a grill was laid. He then took whole chickens (which had been marinating in a mixture of broth and vegetables) and laid them on to the grill. Then, he put a lid over all the chickens and packed the hole full with sand. About an hour later we had moist, tasty chicken to eat! They employ this same method for cooking Aish (flat bread) and it makes the bread taste amazing. Much better than any of the Aish I’ve had in Cairo.

Once we were sufficiently full from supper, Youssif brought us home to our hotel where I promptly fell asleep….at 9:30. Don’t judge. I was on vacation!

The next day, we decided to relax at the hotel until about 3 in the afternoon. Us ladies attempted to do some yoga, thinking the very peaceful surroundings of the desert would be completely zen and amazing, but we underestimated the power of the flies! I am not sure why our hotel had so many little pesky flies, but they were annoying! With about 20 flies crawling all over my skin, I had zero ability to “get my zen on”.

After our ill-attempted yoga, we ventured out to see some more of Siwa town. We took a tuk tuk to the Oracle of Amun, a temple that is about 3000 years old. Think about that. Three THOUSAND years! Just one of many old things for Egyptians, but absolutely amazing to me as an American. There weren’t many signs about explaining the history of the oracle site, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at. But, it was still pretty amazing and offered some great views of the Oasis.

From the Oracle, we walked through a forest of palm trees to get to Cleopatra’s Bath – a hot spring allegedly visited by famous Cleopatra. The hot spring was….well, just another spring. BUT, the walk through the palm tree forest was amazing! I have never seen so many palm trees! And, we took some time to stop and eat some fresh dates off the trees. They were delicious. 🙂

We had dinner that night at a hotel restaurant named Kenooz that we were told was “the best restaurant in Egypt”…. The food was ok, but nothing compared to the lunch from our first day. And, the waiter was rude and  forgot to order a few people’s food. After we waited for an hour or more for all the food to finally arrive, the waiter informed us we could not order desert because “the kitchen closes at 10”. It was 9:30…. You can’t win them all, I suppose.

On our last day, we rented bikes again, and we went to Gebel Al Mawt, a stone mound with many ancient tombs built into the mound. Unfortunately, the poor souls buried here have all been dug up and removed from their tombs. So, aside from some holes in the sides of the mound, there wasn’t a ton to see. But again, this mound offered yet more 360 degree views of the Oasis. After visiting the tombs, we went back to Albabenshal, the site of our first days’ lunch for another late lunch. Again, the food was delicious!

After our late lunch, we biked out to Fatnas island, an island on one of the lakes in Siwa that has fantastic views of the sunset. When we arrived to the island, we were the only group of people on the entire island. Between the palm trees, the olive trees, and the wild flamingos, I felt like we were on a deserted island a la Gilligan’s Island. The small cafe on the edge of the island was *SO* ideal. We ordered some fresh lemon-mint juice (yum!), whipped out the cards for a game of Euchre and soaked in the views.

The sky was amazing that night. It made it difficult to leave. Luckily, our bus trip home was much less eventful than the first one and we were back home in Cairo by 6AM the next day.

Overall, Siwa was the coolest thing I have done so far in Egypt. The people there were so friendly and accomodating, the air was fresh, the food amazing and the views spectacular. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it! One thing I didn’t get to do that I really wanted to do was have tea with some of the local Siwan women. Siwan women have a very interesting way of life, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for just a few hours! But, since I did not get a chance to have tea with them, I bought a book about Siwan women (Siwan Women Unveiled – unfortunately I can’t find a place to link to it) instead. I read it all on the drive home. Very interesting. I recommend it! It’s a quick read.

In other news, Shaun and I are heading the Mt. Sinai this weekend to do some camping with the Bedoins and take in the sunrise from the summit of the mountain where Moses received the ten commandments from God. We’ll also make a little visit to the burning bush. Sometimes, I really can’t believe this is my life….

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Siwa: An Egyptian Oasis Part II”

  1. Charafantah December 19, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Hello,
    Nice blog, I like your adventures in Egypt and your views about your experience 🙂
    We are Swiss/Egyptian couple living in Geneva, we will be visiting Cairo soon and we are looking for a nice/like minded couple who would like to join us for a cooking class on the 27thDec evening.
    I can see you have already enjoyed a cooking class in Spain, so why not try an egyptian gastronomy cooking class this time?
    The place is called Qasr Twenty http://www.qasrtwenty.com you can have a look at it.

    If you are interested I can give you more information about us and the venue, you have my email in the comment 🙂
    Have a nice day,
    A & Z

    • April - TrueloveNuptials December 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      Charafantah

      Sorry for such a delayed response! The holidays have been quite busy. Unfortunately, we are getting ready for a trip to Greece this coming weekend so are watching our spending. So, we won’t be able to join for the cooking class right now. But, our good friends went, and they loved it! Actually, one of them appears on the website for the class!

      We went to Mt. Sinai a couple weeks back using backpacker’s concierge http://www.backpackerconcierge.com/ which is the same company that organizes the cooking class. The trip was so smooth and wonderful, so I am sure the class will be held to the same standard. Let me know how it goes and maybe Shaun and I will go some month when we aren’t traveling elsewhere (if that ever happens!)

  2. Alistair Carter February 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Hello,
    I am doing some research on living in Cairo and came across your blog. I am been offered a Job in Cairo and wanted to get your thoughts?? I would be coming with my wife that won’t be working and the job will be in Heliopolis area of Cairo. I am more worried for the wife and how she will be especially with myself at work all day. How is life in Cairo for expats at the moment?? I see the troubles are flaring up again with the football etc. Any kind of advice help would be truly appreciated.

    thanks,

    Alistair

    • April - TrueloveNuptials February 5, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      Alistair,

      Where are you from? Do you have any children?

      As for the troubles flaring, it does seem like things are getting a bit harrier at the moment, though it is easy to avoid the conflicts, and the anger is not really directed towards expats. It is worrisome though, and I am not sure where it will all lead. If you and your wife come into Cairo with a plan of what you will do if you must leave quickly (and make sure you have the funds to do so), then I think you’ll be fine. But, it’s really a judgement call for you as you know better what you are used to and what you could get used to.

      I think the bigger issue will be finding a job or something for your wife to do. I don’t know her, but if she is much like me, it will be very hard for her to stay at home all day in this big new and crazy city while you are at work. As a woman, it is not the most pleasant experience to walk around Cairo unaccompanied, which would make it difficult for your wife to “do her own thing” during the day. Now, I am sure eventually she would become used to walking around alone in Cairo, especially if you live in an area heavily populated by expats, like Zamalek or Maadi. And, if she joined a social club like Gezira or the BCA and met other spouses, she would eventually have a group of people to associate with during the day. And, if she has hobbies that can be done in the home, that helps too. Still, I don’t want to sugar coat it and make it sound like it will all be rainbows and sunshine from the get go.

      Living in Cairo has been one of the most eye-opening and life changing experiences for me, and I recommend it. So, I don’t want to deter you, but I think you should go in with your eyes wide open. Having made this difficult decision before, I can say I don’t envy your position! But, if you do decide to take the plunge, I think it could be a very rewarding experience for the both of you…

  3. Layali el-Khameesi February 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Hi April!!!
    I’m planning a trip to Siwa I ran across you’re blog while I was doing the research and I absolutely LOVE it!!
    I was wondering if you could tell me where did you get your tour guides and which restaurant was it that you had this amazing lunch?

    My best wishes to you, and my congratulations to the groom:)
    Best regards,
    Layali.

    • April - TrueloveNuptials February 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      Hi Layali! Thanks for checking out the blog. The place where we ate lunch is called Albabenshal. The town is pretty tiny, and it’s right in the center, so I am sure you will have no problem finding it!

      The guy who did our safari was named Youssif. ysfsiwa@gmail.com and his number is 0122 305 3314

      Have fun!

      • Layali el-Khameesi February 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

        Thank you for caring to replying so promptly.
        I appreciate you going through the trouble of finding Youssif’s number so that you could give it to me.
        I find Americans to be very nice people, since I have been fortunate enough to visit 22 states and have met A LOT of Americans from all walks of life, I speak from experience:).

        Thanks again:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: