Sunday, June 9, 2013

Last Day in Siwa

I am skipping a couple of the days that we have been in Siwa. I may revisit these days later on, but for now I am moving forward because, frankly, we spent most of our time in Siwa during a heat wave which made it near impossible to go outside due to the extreme heat. At times the power would go off in our hotel, which meant our ceiling fan would stop and the heat would barrel in. On top of this, the dust from the desert was something else. But that is how life here is during the summer. That is what the locals put up with every day. However, there is not too much to write about it.

Last night we went for a nice dinner at a rooftop restaurant near where we are staying. We had spaghetti and Borio shakes. Borios are cookies, a lot like Oreos, only they are spelled differently and they are not as “cool” looking. They taste about the same, however. The shakes were amazing. The spaghetti was great, too. It was nice to sit up there as the city got dark, but let me tell you, the dust was something else. The whole horizon was just shrouded in it. You could not even see the sun setting it was so thick. The dunes, the hills, everything was blocked out by the thick dust that permeated the air around us.

After dinner we retired for the night and the next day we woke up early to purchase a bus ticket to go to Cairo. We will be leaving at 8:00 p.m. as I write this. The bus gets there around 6:00 a.m. we are told.

The day is getting hotter, but it's nowhere near as hot as the last two were. We went to Shali, the old city, earlier today and sat up there for a bit and looked at the desert and the lake in the distance. Then we came back to the hotel, paid for our five nights and told the proprietor that we will be leaving tonight. He let us stay half a day extra for 25 EGP. We did not get to go to Bir Wahed due to lack of tourists and the price for only the two of us to go. That is a shame, because I was looking forward to that, but we may be back here one day. Who knows? There is so much to see here, and we are still on a tight budget, and we figured that we are seeing so much that it is alright to do without a few things. Also, still being a bit sick made put a bit of a damper on seeking adventures.

Our last day in Siwa was a busy day, and, overall, it was an enjoyable one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. We had decided that we would be leaving on this day, therefore, at 9:00 am we made our way to the bus station to purchase tickets to Cairo. The bus ride is an overnight bus and one that we were kind of apprehensive about, as sometimes sleeping on the bus is not the most enjoyable thing in the world. We also went to the bank, which is said to be the world's only mud brick bank. The ATM itself is not made of mud, but it might as well have been – it was broken/off. We did, however, purchase the tickets (80 EGP each) and made our way towards Shali for one last visit.

On our way we visited the government gift shop and Beverly purchased a couple of embroidered shawls, which were, in total 220 EGP. They are a pretty good size and were created by hand by local artisans.

The bank in Siwa.
We climbed up into the old city using a different path and made our way to top. There was a sleeping man in one of the old huts. We were unsure if it is house or if it is just used as a resting area. When we got to the top we sat for a while and discussed some things, things which I no longer remember.

The Siwa bus station.
We eventually came down from the hill and saw that one of the local artisan shops was open. We decided to go in and see what kinds of things were for sale. This shop had a good amount of things, such as handbags, small coin purses, shawls, and other fabrics. There were some wooden boxes with intricate designs as well. We both really like the Arabic style and got a few things here. The prices at this shop seemed to be very good and we didn't really haggle, as we felt that the artisans probably make little money in comparison to the cost of what the goods are being sold for. Beverly purchased a few things that are pretty nice. We ended up purchasing a some hand bags (2 large and 2 small), a couple scarves, and a couple shawls. It didn't come to all that much, maybe about 470 EGP total. We only haggled a tiny bit, maybe we should have more.

After visiting the artisan shop we went back to our room for a bit and spent some time up on the rooftop area. Later on we got lunch (spaghetti) and spent about an hour at the restaurant. One thing about the restaurants in Siwa is that you better set aside a good amount of your day. This is especially true if you go on a Friday, which is the Muslim day of worship.

Later on we went to another artisan shop, bought a few things and talked to the guy that ran the place. He mentioned a friend that lives in New York who comes back to Siwa every once in a while for a sand bath. We thought we may not have not enough money to buy that which wanted, and he said we could pay his friend in Cairo if we wanted. We were surprised how trusting people here are. Many places do not require you to pay until you leave, such as hotels. We both like that. We were offered tea, but we had to turn it down to go catch the bus (hope that wasn't considered rude). The man gave us his business card and we thanked him. He had a great shop with really good prices.

We made our way to the hotel and got our things together and checked out. We then went to catch the bus as darkness fell on the oasis. I was very sad to go, as I had met a lot of people and was starting to really recognize a lot of the locals. Everyone we met was very nice and being some of the only tourists in the city made it so we got a lot of attention. It was a good visit and I may one day return.

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