Monday, March 1, 2010


Thanks to another religious holiday we had an opportunity to take a long weekend trip to Siwa, an oasis in the Western Desert near the Libyan border. In an attempt to try something different, I decided to post photos and comments in place of a long winded rant. Enjoy.

It was only a matter of minutes after we arrived that we found ourselves walking 15 minutes from our hotel towards the town center. The photo was taken from the top of the salt/mud brick fortress of Shali.

Shali was built in the early 1200's and abandoned after the rains in 1926 when most of the structures were destroyed (mud+salt+rain=no bueno for the Shali dwellers). It is quite a contrast from the modern buildings in the previous photo. The 360 degree view from the top includes lakes, mountains, dunes, and of course palms.

Sunset from Fatnis Island...we were naive tourists thinking that we could reach the island by foot (which you can) but it was just a bit further than the map indicated so we flagged down something a little faster than a donkey cart, it was more like a motorcycle with a pick-up truck bed. Let it also be known that there are more donkeys and bicycles in Siwa than there are cars, in other words parking is hardly an issue. Fatnis is the happening spot to catch the sunset, you could say it was standing room only as all the seats were taken and the folks in the makeshift hut were bustling keeping the tea and coffee flowing in addition to sheesha pipes lit. That my friends is customer service. While on the subject of liquid, did you know much of Egypt's bottled water comes from Siwa? There are natural springs throughout the joint, but this begs the question as to why the water coming out of the faucets smell like rotten eggs?

Greco-Roman tombs in the Al Maraqi area. Apparently the Roman's fancied the idea of sealing up and hiding the dead in the sides of mountains. We saw several mountainside tombs, including the necropolis Gebel al- Mawta (Hill of the Dead), a stone's throw from our hotel. Ahmed told us about small armed self-professed excavators aka makeshift grave robbers that run around at night and trying to knock holes in mountains looking for the next great discovery, perhaps the tomb of Alexander the Great. But a word of warning, these guys shoot first and run later. Word is that dying in a gun battle with the authorities is better than the amenities and pleasures of an Egyptian prison.

This is what the oldest known hominid footprints look like, 1-3 Million years old so they say. This was our first stop outside the oasis. Our driver/guide Ahmed said that we would have seen more but robbers keep on breaking off the pieces and selling them to wealthy Europeans. Good thing I brought my pick axe, any takers?

Fossilized coral and sea shells. The sand storm was just kicking off and being pelted by flying debris was quite a sensation on bare skin. Ana and I were thinking about replacing our coffee table with this piece.

I had to show the BEFORE and AFTER photo. The first shot is about an hour into a sand storm, as you can see the background is sort of hazy. The adjacent image is 30 minutes later; 3 parts blowing sand and a jigger of rain. Ahmed said there hadn't been precipitation in Siwa in over two years. The lake is all saltwater and its taste uh, rather salty-more salty than the Dead Sea, claimed by one tourist. We met up with two other tour groups who also had the hopes of enjoying a picnic along the lake. One of their 4x4's had snapped the alternator belt, luckily they had a spare. And if a broken belt in the desert wasn't enough of a curse, their radiator blew out for good measure. Everyone involved had to push and tow the weak link in the wind and rain with all the landmarks and tracks covered or blurred out. It was a little unsettling for a short while, but things cleared just enough to find our way back towards town.

The third day was much better. We rented bikes and did a little tour. First on the list was the Oracle Temple of Amum where Alexander the Great was confirmed as the legitimate ruler of Egypt-according to the prophecy.

Remains of the Temple. We continued our ride down the road to the Temple of Umm Obeyda. There was only one wall left standing while the rest of it laid in broken chunks.

After some heavy duty research and a thesis I can claim that there is a Cleopatra's Pool in every Oasis. Are they as pretty and well kept as this one in Siwa...debatable. Did Cleopatra really bathe here...most likely not. If you like algae slime tickling your feet, this is your calling. The water was clear and warm as there were continuous bubbles from the bottom. We didn't bring our shorts and opted to sit in the shade and leisurely swat flies, pet a puppy, and drink smoothies.

Ana taking a ride past the pigeon condos. Renting a bike is a nice and comfortable way to see the town at your own pace.

The hot springs of Bir Wahed. Young single Egyptian college boys flock to this "hot" destination. There was a group of ladies hesitating to jump in, and Ana, Kupcake Kristal, and Tagalong Jen opted to sit on the sidelines while Darth Seth and I indulged in the green bubbly slime in the company of the young men who thought of us as the consolation prize. Sigh.

Kupcake Kristal's baptism Brother Seth at the cold water springs of Bir Wahed about 2 km from its' hot springs cousin.

20 km into the Great Sand Sea.


Ana is sad because the truck left her.

Sunset-Moonrise. Ahmed must have thought one of us smelled funky, notice the distance.


  1. I like the new approach to the blog. Keep them coming! This is the best blog ever!!!

  2. Wait a sec. Why is my name all of a sudden Kupcake Kristal?
    Oh, and I'm stealing your before and after picture. That was a fun trip.

  3. glad you two had a great time and are enjoying egypt! i love reading the blogs and hearing all about your adventures! makes me want to go visit egypt!
    -your former student
    Jessica Manley :)