[This blog post was written yesterday (June 22), but the Internet was (extra) bad, so it was posted today]
I forgot to mention earlier that I was going to Siwa. Whoops. So...I went to Siwa this weekend!
It was my first experience with what I have decided to term a “donkey-cart-no-women-hot-sand-desert” culture. To explain: Siwa is an ancient oasis town close to the Egypt-Libya border where they speak a special Berber dialect in addition to Arabic known as TaSiwit and the temperature has been known to reach unhealthy heights in the summer…[BREATHE] which is why the tourist season is in the winter. But we, clever Americans with State Department funding, decided to spend our time there, touring in the sweltering heat of late June. (Don’t worry Mom, much sunscreen was applied.) Until the the first quarter of the 20th century, Siwa was a sort of homosexual Mecca (pardon the inappropriate religious reference), most likely because Siwan men were entirely segregated from their female counterparts before marriage. We got a taste of the vestiges of that culture when, on Saturday night, a bunch of (fully clothed) male belly dancers, well, danced, and grabbed the guys on our trip to join in their homoeroticism. As for encounters with the fairer sex, I think I saw approximately three women in Siwa, two of which were under the age of 13, and one of which was FULLY covered (eyes included), on a cart pulled by a donkey, holding a baby, and probably sweating..it was hot out.
Backing up a little bit, the first day in Siwa was one of the most fantastically full days I’ve yet had in Egypt. We got on the bus at 6 am, arrived at Siwa around 1, had lunch, and jumped into jeeps for a “Safari” tour of the Sahara desert. We (lets see if I can remember) drove through the desert crazy-fast over dunes, some of which were close to sheer drops (like 70-degree drops, no joke) where, as the drivers took us over in 2nd gear, we literally thought we were going to tumble down to a gloomy, sandy death.
So here’s what we did, descriptively and chronologically: We went to an overlook of the desert -- ascetically cool. We went to a watering hole -- physically cool. We went to a bed of fossilized shells (foraminifera?) left over from when the Sahara was an ocean -- geologically cool. We went to a hot spring -- kind of the opposite of cool. We watched the sun set from the top of a huge sand dune -- really, really cool. Dinner was a fire-lit Bedouin (or, in according to the spelling on our itinerary: Bedwin) feast -- treifly cool. No goat for me, thanks.
So, in short: Siwa is a pretty chill town, if you’re a guy. You can walk the length of it (with escorts, if you’re a girl) in approximately 20 minutes, and there are mosques at 3 ½ minute intervals. The old city or “Shali” in Siwa (before it was bombed by Italians in WWII and then went through a nutso rainstorm something like 10 years later so that the mud-and-salt walls crumbled) is located in the middle of town and is pretty sweet. And, as my nicotine-addicted friend found out, there’s only one guy in town who sells cigarettes.
As for today -- my friend Dan Bregman (who many of you are privy to call your friend as well) came to Alex to visit. We saw some of Alex’s key sights (the Bibliotheca, Pompey’s Pillar, the Greco-Egyptian Catacombs) and then I went to class and then I tried to do all of my homework and then I failed and then I started blogging. So here I am, 2am, with a load of not-yet-done homework and a completed blog post. I’d say I’m in good shape.
Oh if you want to send me a real letter or something (which would be sufficient but not at all necessary for us to maintain this generally one-sided electronic relationship), my mailing address is:
Alexandria Center for Language
FOR: Elisheva Goldberg
11 Mohammad Khattab St.
Just because I want to send YOU something, had coffee this morning and I’m feeling fantastic, your song of the post is the Beatles': “All My Lovin’” I will send to you.