Weekend in Siwa (Part 2)

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2010

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Believe it or not, the previous entry was only two of the four days... crazy I know. Saturday was by far my favorite day in Siwa and you'll soon know why.
We did the usual 8 am breakfast thing at the hotel then hopped on the bus to go into town. We basically had free time until noon, and all of us decided we wanted to shop and walk around the town of Shali. There are numerous handcraft shops selling everything from scarves to bags to rugs to coin purses...you get the idea. They were all handmade by the women villagers in Shali, so I bought an absolutely gorgeous scarf and felt as though I did my share to boost Shali's economy. After wandering around we ended up at the same coffee shop where I indulged in another Turkish coffee-I need to find this stuff in America for real! We headed back to the hotel around 11:30am, and the next adventure on the agenda was lunch with Bedouins!! I was looking forward to this whole trip solely because of this lunch....and it didn't happen. I'm still not sure why, something about prayer and timing, etc. But anyway we ended up eating at the hotel- not too exciting, and finally at 1pm we were ready for the Saturday adventure- a desert safari in the Sahara Desert!!!!!!!!!
We walked out front and their were three jeep-like vehicles parked and waiting; we divided ourselves into cars- I was with three of the guys, Tamer, and Lindley. Before we left, we were told to run back and get our bathing suits which I thought was a joke. Really? We're going swimming in the desert? Who does that? Our driver was a native Shali man, dressed in a full white garment and wasn't the most cheerful guy, but he kept us alive so, whatever. Matthew told us before we left to hold on to the roof when it got too rough, especially if we flipped upside down. UM WHAT? I was legitimately freaking out and felt like we were about to embark on a roller coaster ride that I was too scared to ride. Oh well- I'm totally brave right?
We began driving into the desert, specifically called The Great Sand Sea- it literally used to be the bottom of the Sea, but now is blatantly a sea of sand, with actual shells and fossils of fish in some areas- very cool. We sped through the desert, bumping up and down, and I took an insane amount of pictures and was literally giddy with excitement. I must have said "Oh.My.God. This is SO awesome" five million times along with "This is the best time of my life!" around 3 million times. We drove up and down sand dunes (which are basically moving mountains)- the wind was BRUTAL on this day. We would go up and down the dunes, hold on tight yell and scream, because it felt exactly like a roller coaster ride.
We came to a stop at the bottom of a dune and got out of the car- WHAM! sand in my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my shoes, my hair- Immediately! I didn't care. I leaped over to the other cars jumping up and down because, "Oh. My. God. This is SO AMAZING!!" I ran over and began to run up the sand dune, which is not as simple as I thought. I eventually made it to the top with some of the others and began snapping pictures, until my camera broke from all the sand blown into it. At the top of the dune the wind was outrageous, and I had so much sand in my eyes I could hardly see- somehow I looked down and found the sand had blown all the way up to my calves- I decided to head back to the bottom where the car was, so I lifted my foot out of the deep sand and......MY SHOE!!! I LOST MY SHOE!!" That's what I kept screaming over and over as I lay in the sand with one shoe on and one shoe off and lost in the depths of the sand. I dug and dug and dug, but it was a goner. And I was less one shoe in the desert. Other people came over to help me dig for it but we couldn't find it and the wind was too strong, so I started to get up and head back when low and behold there was my shoe laying on the surface next to me, slightly covered in sand!!!!!! Success!! I was a very lucky girl- I kindly thanked the desert for giving my shoe back and walked to the car- both feet covered:)
We hopped in and started the off-road driving again until we ended up at a little area where there was a tiny hole in the ground hot water spring!!!! It smelled pretty bad, but it was amazing to see something like that surrounded by such desolation. We spent some time here, got back into the cars, and drove like crazy up and down dunes until we stopped at the very top of one. This is where we were going to go Sand boarding (like snowboarding on the sand)!!! This hill was steeper than anything I've ever been down, and even the Bedouin drivers were questioning the safety of it. I guess they decided it was ok, so they got sand boards out of their cars and we got set up. I was hoping there would be a bunny hill for beginners like in skiing, but not so much. It turned out to be really difficult to strap on the feet, which wasn't safe at all, so we resorted to "sledding" on the sand board. One of the guys went first and we all waited to see if he would make it. He did, so we began to go down- I was scared shitless because I don't do extreme adventurous things like this, but I was in the desert and how many times does that happen? So I got on the back of the narrow sand board with Yasmina, and someone pushed us from behind. We went soaring down- SO much sand blowing everywhere and stinging my face, but I LOVED IT!!!!!!! It was a great time! I wanted to do it again, but then reality set in- we had to climb back up.
I though climbing a pyramid was hard- nope, climbing a freakishly steep sand dune beats that a million times over. We had to carry the board too, with the wind pushing me backwards and the sand constantly moving under my feet, I felt like every step really made me go back two steps. I kept looking at the top and literally wanted to sit in the middle of the hill and cry because there was no way I was gonna make it. I have never positively coached myself so much in my life than I did at this point. I could barely breathe, every single muscle was shaking, I was climbing on all fours because I couldn't stand anymore, but by god I was gonna get there! I finally got close to the top and saw an arm reach down towards me- it was Matthew, who resembled an angel at this point- he grabbed my arm and I went completely slack and he literally pulled all of me up. I laid sprawled out in the sand for the next 20 minutes while everyone else took their turn, trying to gain strength back in all of my muscles. We were all pretty dead after the climb up but managed to haul ourselves back into the car. Then it turns out we were going to drive down the hill we just climbed- are you kidding me? It was MUCH scarier in the car than on a board- a roller coaster again.
At the bottom of the hill was a huge...lake? This is where the swim suits come in handy- we parked and went to the water, which ironically was freezing cold. No way I was going in there- too much wind, too much sand, too much cold water. I rolled up my pants and put my feet in, and there were actually only three people who put on their suits and went in- it was that cold. We basically hung out here for the rest of the day, making sand sculptures, and a few feet away the drivers had set up a tent and were heating tea by fire, so we sat up in the tent, finally away from the wind, and drank some hot delicious tea. Blissful- I'm moving to the desert. Then it was time to head back- this is when we ventured down the scariest, windiest, steepest sand dune ever. Key word is windy- Our car was almost sideways and I really thought we were going to flip, but we didn't- hence my love for the cheerless driver. Basically the most amazing adventure of my entire life- I'm in love with the desert and the people and can't wait to go back. Today I'm still finding sand in my ears, my shoes, my clothes, etc. and my camera is not doing too well, but it was worth it. The rest of the day was sloooowww compared to that- and slow because no one had energy for anything else. We ate dinner, hung out at the fire, then went to bed. Next morning, we ate breakfast and left about 8:45am for the looong way back. At around 12pm we were driving through the endless desert when our bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. Apparently, we were out of gas. In the desert. No civilization for miles and miles. Only car on the road. After about 10 minutes of wondering what the hell to do, I kid you not, a petroleum truck drove by and we flagged that sucker down. If only I was making this up- Matthew declared, "I think now is appropriate to say al hamdylila" (Thanks be to God in Arabic). No other cars drove past while we were sitting there, it was just the petroleum truck. The driver of the truck and our driver were transferring gas in a small plastic bucket- this minor error in the day slowed us waay down. We stopped for lunch in a small town- not too delicious but I wasn't picky at the time. When we were about two hours outside Cairo, our bus driver decided to "take a shortcut" which consisted of driving through the barred off area of the road where there was construction and no cars or streetlights- it was about 7:30pm. We literally felt like we were off roading in the desert again since there was not an actual road- this is all well and fine, until our driver couldn't find a way to get back onto the main road. So much for the shortcut, add on another half hour, until we finally followed a construction truck out onto the main road. I love this bus driver- he means well, gets us in sticky situations, but always manages to get us out too. When missing the exit on the highway to get back to Dokki in Cairo what did he do? Well since it's Cairo, he backed the bus up in the middle of highway traffic a good half a mile and took the right exit. Adventures all over the place! We got home around 9:30pm and I went back to the apartment to get ready for class at 8am the next morning..ughhh. But like I said, it was worth it- It was such an adventure and I cannot wait until our next weekend trip later this month! I LOVE the desert!!!
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Andrew on

Goodness Ann nice picture after picture of sand. Do they use Garmin GPS there how do they know were to drive? Your bare foot looks like mom's.

AMD on

this is so totally a-maz-ing! I love the details of the events that took place! talk about an experience of a lifetime! this is so cool!! love this blog thing...

Anita on

Ann I can feel the excitement reading your blog. What an AWESOME! experience. I'm so glad you are taking in all that our great earth has to offer.. Keep the updates coming.

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