I realized that despite all the posts I did about Egypt, I had yet to do a “the mood” for Siwa Oasis.
I guess this is as un-wintery as it can get: a huge patch of palm trees and an ancient mud village, right in the middle of the Western desert!
It’s been two years since we went there, but the place left a strong, vivid impression on me. It was like nothing we had done before, and nothing we’ve done since.
A few hundred kilometers south-west of Cairo, Siwa is indeed very remote, yet its has been inhabited since long before Christ, back to a time when it wasn’t even a part of Egypt. I guess this accounts for the antediluvian feeling you get upon walking around the Shali, the old town made of half crumbled mud houses.
Modernity has come to the oasis recently in the form of motorized cars and concrete houses, but this is all still quite new. With beautiful desert landscapes at its doors, the oasis was even a bit of a touristic spot at a time, before 9/11 and the recent revolution drew most of the tourists away.
It is a curious take on paradise this place, with all the palm trees and the abundance of water when there is nothing but sand around, it surely feels like a haven, but one that is rather rough. That’s also what I loved about it, history and craftsmanship don’t feel quaint there, they have a peculiar strength to them, they testify of the resilience of its inhabitants and of their will to make do in this harsh environment. And when they manage to make life tastes sweet, with a comfortable seat in the shade, a handful of dates and the warmest of welcomes, it surely feels special.