Tuesday, June 05, 2007

sometimes when we're out of touch...

alexandria's corniche on the Mediterranean sea. i guess this kind of marks the end of the trip...

wacky egyptians hamming it up at the market.

well, i'm back in cairo. there's a price to pay though. bright (well, as bright as it gets here with the smog), sunny and 40 C. since the last posting , i've been to alexandria and the extremely isolated oasis of siwa in the great sand sea close to the libyan border.

alexandria's sort of like a mini cairo; however, the people are much more relaxed. founded by the one, the only alexander the great, it was famous for the great liberry back in the day. until it was torched and razed to the ground. i went to see the new replacement liberry. i must say it didn't have much of a collection yet. it could fit 8 million books but currently held only a half million. lot's of empty, dusty shelves. alexandria was also famous for having one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. well, it was dismantled and the pieces were used to construct a fort.

perhaps what alexandria is most noted for (well, in my books) are it's people. really friendly folks. i think the lack of tourists or reduced numbers has to do with some of the friendliness.

next, i headed deep into the western desert to the oasis of siwa. i've never been to an oasis before. the landscape prior to arriving was horrifically bleak. i mean nothing. flat for as far as the eye could see. nary a soul. hot as hell. then the bus i was on dipped into a shallow depression, and voila, we were in a patch of a date palms, surrounded by pools of cool clear water! soon thereafter, we were inundated by donkey carts, the preferred mode of siwan transport, at the bus station. funny how things work out in the end.

not much to see in siwa. the chic thing to do is rent a bike and visit some of the exquisite springs in the outskirts of town. you can escape the oppressive heat of the day by taking a refreshing

this is my new bud, robbie, from amerika taking the plunge into "cleopatra" spring.

dip in the coolish waters. very nice. alternatively, you can do nothin' and sit on your butt all day reading a book or watching siwan life go by. ain't that fun, eh? plus, it's quiet as hell. Siwa's an anomaly in egypt that's for sure.

nice sunset, eh? if you have yo tv screens adjusted correctly, you can see a small sample of Siwa's 70 thousand date trees in the foreground.

siwa's pretty conservative in terms of adherence to tradition and islam. the women are covered from head to toe in public - even in the oppressive heat. as my friend, sal, would say, the full ninja suit. the whole nine yards. they can walk around, but they can't drive the donkey carts.

however, traditions are a changing, just as the shifting sands of the surrounding desert. i had this conversation with the hotel manager, mano:

bubba: so, mano are you married? (one of my favourite questions).
mano: no.
bubba: (feigning shock and dismay) why not!
mano: i'm just 24.
bubba: that's really old. (well, relatively old)...
mano: i need money to get married...
bubba: ha! how are you going to meet your wife?
mano: my folks are going to set me up.
bubba: then?
mano: then we are going to meet...
bubba: ...and go on a date?
mano: ha! no.
bubba: play cards?
mano: no. maybe watch tv (with her parents present of course). if the parties are interested, her family will talk it over (family meaning parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.). if they like me, we'll get engaged.
bubba: when would that happen?
mano: could be next day or maybe ten years... hopefully, not ten years.
bubba: why not 10 years?
mano: very expensive.
bubba: how do you know if she's the right one?
mano: if her family is good then everything is good...
bubba: what about the woman?
mano: she doesn't matter. just as long as the family is good.
bubba: when are finally going to get married?
mano: before i'm, say, 30.
bubba: that's quite advanced in age. hmmm...what about your friends?
mano: well, 99 percent of them are married. i don't get to see them much.
bubba: they just disappeared?
mano: yep. i like my freedom.

ed notes:

1) i've been sick for the past few days. that certainly put a wrench into my plans of chillin' in dahab (capital of western decadence by the red sea - i'm sure it drives the islamists crazy). it's been pretty rough. high grade fever, head eck, muscle and joint eck, and to top it off, you guessed it, explosive diarrhea. dunno what it is. any doctors out there? anywho, i'm resting for next couple of days.

2) while i was bedridden, the ducks won the cup. that kind of sucked...


Wasta said...

Egypt sounds pretty good. Obviously the transport is better than where you have been recently?

Asking them about marriage is a bit like a preemptive strike! Getting married in Egypt sounds less than ideal-- or maybe nice and easy, if you have the cash. Have you invented a family yet?:)

Anonymous said...

Al, my friend, you sound like you need some immodium and a tylenol (extra strength). Keep yourself hydrated buddy - that doesn't sound like a happy condition!

Ah, the mulling of marriage. You know, of course, that the grass is always greener....... :-)

Take care of yourself man!
hugs from,
the haus frau!

Steve H. said...

Sounds like you had dysentery.

dean said...

Get well Al.

bubba said...

wasta, egypt's ok. bring the bank with you (or fake ISic card). not a cheap place. i must bring up the subject of marriage first. it feels better if i can grill them before they ask me. sometimes we yammer on and on such that they forget to question me on the same topic. ha.

thanx haus frau, i took a hand full of advil and a tiny fortune in cipro. i can understand why some poor souls would look for greener pastures. ha!

steve h., thanx for the diagnosis. i think i'd be dead now if i had dysentery. oh, i wasn't pooping blood out.

dean, thanx. it sux being sick overseas. very lonely.

Steve H. said...

King Tut's revenge?

So what was your favourite country in Arfica?

Dillan said...

Your 'wacky egyptians' photo is great. I hope you're feeling better!