Memories of Misr - Part 3

If you think there was any respite after our trip to Alexandria, think again. The very next morning we set off for Siwa Oasis, which is hundreds of miles away in the desert. It took us about ten hours to get there but it was certainly worth the long drive. It was also a great adventure getting there because we nearly ran out of gas. Our driver couldn’t find a gas station and if it wasn’t for a good citizen of the desert, we would have been stranded when our gas ran out.

Siwa is a green haven in the desert. Groves of date palms and other trees abounded everywhere. What made Siwa truly special was the large, beautiful lake there. After checking in to our hotel, we went to the lake after sunset. The sun had already disappeared for the day and only the orange and red hues could be seen above the water line. We sat there for a while, enjoying the sound of the water and the utter peace around us.

The next morning, our tour guide made us switch hotels. We checked into a resort with chalets. It was a wonderful setting. The chalets were hidden behind trees and accessed by pathways hugged by date palms. We were able to reach up and pick dates from the trees. I had never eaten so many dates in my life. After lunch we went on the desert safari. What a thrill that turned out to be! The driver of the safari vehicle was a trained professional who took us on a wild drive up and down the sand dunes. I’m still thinking it was a miracle that the vehicle did not flip over once. It was thrilling and exhilarating but I’m not sure I’ll do it again if the opportunity presents itself. We moved on to a little oasis next. It was amazing to see a little lake there too. Even more amazing was there were fishes in it. Someone was using a fishing rod and was catching nice-sized fishes. My husband and I waded in. It wasn’t very deep. The water was clear and there was only desert sand at the bottom. We then went across to a deep pool of water and dipped our toes there while we ate dates and drank tea.

Dinner that night was an idyllic experience. It was outdoor in a garden, with lit torches all around. There were even a couple of swings under the trees. We ate among the trees as the moon beamed down on us. Afterwards we took a dip in the swimming pool. Then it was back to our chalet. Though it was charming in the daytime, it was a bit creepy in the night. I woke up sometime around one in the morning, hearing the jingling of coins. It kept going away and coming back. My husband was still sleeping soundly while I lay tense, staring around the dark room and wondering where the noise was coming from. Could it be a jinn having some fun at our expense? Or was my imagination running away with me?

I decided to be a heroine and get up to look around. I crept over to the light switches, my eyes darting around. When light flooded the room, I relaxed a bit. All was fine, but I was still hearing the jingling sound occasionally. I would have to check the bathroom to see if it came from there. Screwing my courage to the sticking point, I went out of the room and into the dark passageway. I quickly turned on the light. The switch to the bathroom was also there, so I turned that on too. Heart beating, I took hold of the knob and pulled the door open. This was the moment of truth. To my relief, all was quiet except for the steady drip-dripping of our swimming clothes which I had hung out to dry. There was no jingling sound here.

When I returned to our room, I heard the jingling sound once more. I suddenly realized where it was coming from. It was from the overhead fan. I looked for the switch to turn off the fan but there was no switch. Then inspiration came to me again. I took up the remote for the air conditioning unit and turned it off. The fan went off. And so did the jingling sound. I had solved the mystery of the jingling coins.

The next day, we made the long journey back to Cairo and was dropped off straight at the airport by our tour guide. We caught our flight to Luxor that night minus our tour guide. She had arranged for another driver and tour guide to meet us there. We reached Luxor almost at midnight and I was anxious to know if the driver was there waiting for us. We were strangers in a strange land and the thought of being stranded at the airport was a very real fear. But praise God, the driver was there waiting. He was a very amicable young man who knew a smattering of English, so we were able to converse a bit.

We checked in at the hotel, which had a great view of the Nile. The next morning at eight, our Luxor tour guide came and took us to a place that I had really wanted to visit. It was the Valley of the Kings. I had read much about the discoveries there and it was great to actually visit it in real life. We went into several tombs, examining the intricate hieroglyphics on the walls. Ancient Egypt had been a very sophisticated civilization and it was evident by what we saw in the tombs.

Nearby were the alabaster factories. The tour guide told us that the people who owned the factories were actual descendants of those who had been there in ancient days. They carried on the tradition of making pottery from alabaster and other materials that came from the mountains. I bought a few pieces which were really beautiful.

I was amazed by the greenery in Luxor. It is a lush place, abundant with trees and vegetation. We were surprised to learn that sugar cane was grown there. We sampled some of the most delicious cane juice I’ve ever drunk. That evening, we went to the Karnak Temple Complex to catch the Light Show. The temple is part of the old city of Thebes. Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, which was dedicated to the many deities they worshipped. The Light Show, through clever use of sounds and lights, tells the history of the temple in such a way that you won’t fail to be impressed.

Our flight back to Cairo was early the next morning. The hotel staff was nice enough to give us a take-out breakfast. Back in Cairo, we did a flurry of last-minute shopping. Then it was back to our base to pack. I always get nervous when it comes to catching flights but Praise God, everything went well, and we landed safely back in New York. And so ended our amazing trip to Egypt. It was truly a wonderful experience, with memories that will last a lifetime.

Zeenatul Zaman