There are many things to say, in criticism, around these parts, and most of my memories were mixed between unbelievable ancient historical sites and boring, dull, ridiculously controlled days spent alone -aside from Islamists trying to reform me.
It was all quite impressive in Luxor, at one of the largest, open temple sites the world has ever known. And of course, though riddled with litter and toutes, the pyramids were something impressive, if only for a fulfilling goal of childhood, to see these mysteries shapes in the sand. And in St. Catherine, walking the way of Moses, a beautiful overhead view of the region. It was an impressive site.
But the most impressive of all, a truely unique site (for me anyhow) was…
Firstly, to arrive there you basically have to reach Alexandria first, escape the horrible city far enough away from the dirt and its over-populated region and see some of the beautiful coastline. Unfortunately, because the government is so upside down and rotten, the coastal region is filled with half built construction sites and the coast itself has been ripped up without appreciating the concept of ‘natural beauty’.
Still, it was an escape, rugged, in parts, and all of it to myself; just me and the gorgeous sea. There were a couple of small coves, where the beach was so romantic, so secluded and tucked away. Despite the buildings not far away, halfway to ruin, in Marsah Matruh, I’d say this was finally an ‘adventure’ I’d been looking for, something you could take in and not have to breath exhaust fumes through or derail insistant, agro, Sinai Bedouins. It’s just too bad I had no one to celebrate this free space with. like I said, I hadn’t met any travelers. And, my companion had left long ago back in Rajahstan.
From Matruh, where I spent a couple nights in a cheap hotel for about 5 bucks a night, and making walking trips out from it, it was another few hours on a cheap local bus to Siwa -or hitch. There are some amazing sites in Siwa. Its an oasis near the border of Libya, and the Bedouins are a radically different style than those you’ll meet in Sinai. Much kinder, simpler, and easy to carry on with.
The desert in the region is white as snow, just about, and the dunes are nothing insignificant. With a jeep you can jump in with a couple others and a few sand boards and spin round the region with a badass race-car drivin bedouin madman;
it was too cold at night, in February to enjoy the night though, without sufficient gear. But it was fun as hell.
If you were like this man from ‘Somewhere Else Tomorrow’ who took his motorbike across the globe and these dunes, well, I guess it would be a little more liberating. But in this jeep, bouncing like jelly beans in a grocery sack, shit was hella cool. The transition of the dunes brings you nearly parallel with the sand and you think you’ll eat shit, riding 30 meters, forty, fifty meters downhill, and then it smooths through until a little lake on the edge of the Sahara.
There are regions where the coral of millions years passed by are dried and preserved, still sitting in the sand! What the hell?
They will take you to a little hot tub, surrounded by nothing; the water, from a spring, and the whole thing is just as you imagined from movies or books. Sure, its a little bit artificial, and hundreds of thousands came before you, but the fact remains that this is a natural hot spring in the desert and it was my first! Get your thongs off and climb in!
The shit gets me excited just writing about it.
They’ve not exactly crafted the boards to perfect carving, to say the least, and you’ll sure as shit hurt your tail bone a few times, but man was this fun. I really wanted to just stay out there and continue to throw my body against the deceivingly tough ground. Falling into sand? Sounds nice. No, it’s not. It fucking hurts. Like falling against icy, packed snow.
The Jeep tour was around 30 bucks each I think with the sand boards free. It wasn’t too bad, but it did hurt my budget (had been traveling 5 months already and about to spend 6 weeks doing the TEFL program).
So, though I skipped out on kite surfing in Dahab with all the Russians, I wasn’t gonna back out on this. A few hours (the whole day actually) it might have been, but man, an epic time in the desert. From the Great Sandy, and the Rajasthan before it, this had me absolutely in love with the concept of desert life (without a jeep of course) as the terrain just goes and goes forever (it seemed). Like looking out to the sea, it’s the unknown (to yourself) that pelpitates temptation in the nomadic spirit of new, I guess?
So. Apparently, this is what I know. This place, as old as civilisations go, in the west anyhow, was built so that Alexander would live on forever. It’s a beautifully decrepit, nearly disintegrated to rubble, landmark that sits in my mind uniquely, compared to many others that I’ve seen world wide. It is so sensitive, and so secluded and far away. There was no one around so I could roam through all the little holes and pockets and just take my time and reflect -not bound to any other person’s emotions- simply let my mind wander, independently. And this is one of the things I loved most about travel! Letting my mind wander independently, but stimulated by the nature of your surroundings. And the little hot tubs of water, made for the Roman totalitarians, might not be exactly, nature, but its still history, and to feel those vibrations, even a little bit, is to be close to your environment (hence nature).
The other part of this unbelievable place is that you CAN roam around and go where you like, you can get a shitty bicycle and kick it about; there is much more freedom and people are less concerned about what you are doing. People chatted with me, they weren’t stuck with their nose in the Qua’ran. Finally after weeks in Egypt I finally felt I was free to kick it and turn over my own path -and meet some normal locals.
And turn it over I did, strolling up every high hill I possibly could to see with my own eyes, the far east of the mighty Sahara Desert.