Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Siwa: We made it there and back.

Barely recovered from my trip back to DC, my roommates and I used a long weekend to visit Siwa, a desert oasis near the border with Libya. It's the site of an ancient fort, or shali, and surrounded by date palms and fresh springs.

Amy and I with the shali in the background.
We took what we thought would be a ten-hour overnight bus ride (it was more like 12, as the bus left on Egyptian time and it took two hours to get out of Cairo) to Siwa and spent the first day climbing the fort, lounging by the springs and drinking fresh juice, and eating way too much delicious food.
Our view by a salt lake in the middle of the desert. 
The next morning we were picked up by our guide, Hamada, who was thankful to learn Amy knew how to drive stick. He was able to relax in the back seat while Amy drove us around in the desert for a bit. We drove for hours in a convoy, stopping occasionally when one of the cars would get stuck in the dunes.  Later in the afternoon, Hamada dropped us off by a big dune to go sandboarding--and drove away. He had gone back to the camp to prepare for dinner. It would have been a disaster had he not returned.

We spent the night in a desert camp and the next day went to the desert to the West, so close to Libya I was able to check in on Facebook to Sirte, Libya, the birthplace of the deceased Dear Brother Leader Mu'amar Ghadaffi.
Leslie, Amy, me, and our guides Ali and Hamada.
We arrived back in town around 6:50pm for our 8:00pm bus back to Cairo. That's when the real adventure began.

Earlier in the day one of our guides had told us our driver would stay with us until we got on the bus. After we arrived in town, he dropped us off at a restaurant to grab a quick dinner before the ride. Around 7:40, we had paid and went outside to look for him and get our things from the car.

We walked outside and he was gone. Semi-panicked, we turned to the restaurant guys and asked them to call Mohamed Bali, the driver. His phone was off, so they tried calling our guides and all of the friends of our guides (Siwa is a small place. Everyone knows everyone). All their phones were off--they were all in the desert. Around 8:15--after the only bus back to Cairo had left--we finally got a hold of Hamada. Our driver didn't know he was supposed to stay with us and went back to the desert.

Bags in hand, we went to the bus station to try to book a ticket to Marsa Matruh, a coastal city around 3 hours away. The guys at the restaurant were able to get us a ticket from there to Cairo. Unfortunately, there were no tickets on the bust to Marsa Matruh, and we would have had to spend another day in Siwa were we not able to get to Marsa Matruh.

We ended up in a car with one of the guys who works at the restaurant and a driver. After we got in, we realized this may not be the smartest thing we've ever done. Especially when they turned off the highway down a dark, deserted road. I turned to my roommates and suggested we ask them where we were going--they said if the two men were taking us to our doom, they were taking us to our doom. Khalas, there is nothing we can do.

While they were not taking us to our doom, but instead went to pick up some bottles to get through the checkpoints. It's easy for khawagas/infidels to get such contraband through. Again we realized this may not be a good idea--no one wants to get arrested for smuggling. Movies end poorly for stupid white folks like us.

After a very fast drive to Marsa, we got a bus ticket back to Cairo that left at 2am and finally made it to Tahrir around 715, exhausted and looking like we spent two days in the desert. Needless to say, when I got off the bus I heard no shabaab trying to holler.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, you forgot to mention the two awsome guys that was parallel all the way from and back to Cairo :) Though they were totally strangers. Can't believe I found your blog :D