n. pl. o·a·ses (-sz)I think this definition certainly sums up our most recent excursion to Siwa Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. Yes, we actually spent midnight, New Year's Eve 2010 at a real live, honest to goodness oasis! Hard not to keep that horrid song out of your mind once you put the words "midnight" and "oasis" together, but once you get past that, the whole trip was fantastic. A long drive from
1. A fertile or green spot in a desert or wasteland, made so by the presence of water.
2. A situation or place preserved from surrounding unpleasantness; a refuge: an oasis of serenity amid chaos.
Not to miss a moment in history, and given Steph's penchant for war museums, we made a stop along the way at El Alamein,
One pit stop later, we ate at possibly the best kofta and kabab restaurant in Egypt, Abdu Kofta, then fully stated with lamb, tahini, baba ganoush and kofta, we slept the rest of the way to Siwa. (oh yes, we had a driver!) Arriving in Siwa at night is probably not the best way to do this as we missed the full impact of the transition from desert to lush green olive and date tree groves. However, it only added to the impact of our first real view of the magnitude of the oasis from the top of Shali Fortress.
No wonder Alexander the Great schlepped all the way from Alexandria to consult the oracle at Siwa...the existence of such a lush, green, water-laden patch of ground in the middle of the desert has to carry some kind of mystical weight with the gods. And, of course, it was here that the Oracle (being no fool) told Alexander that he was the son of the god Amun, which made Alexander quite full of himself (like he wasn't already). My son, Alexander, standing in the same spot, learned nothing more than that his own father was entirely mortal and anxious to go to lunch.
Just to remind us that the oasis was indeed surrounded by a quite awesome desert, we went out on our second day for a desert "safari" complete with a Toyota Land Cruiser, Bedouin guide, lunch and sand boards. While sand boarding should have been the most thrill producing part of the excursion, it was in fact, the driver taking us over the tops of some of the steepest sand dunes in the desert and then plummeting down the other side that made our hearts race and our stomachs jump. Some amusement park could make a lot of money re-creating this roller-coaster experience!
The entire trip was amazing, and we were taken to a salt-water lake for lunch, the fossilized remains of an ocean bed(complete with shells and sand dollars), a hot spring to soak our feet, a cold spring to watch the locals take their prayer break and finally, to the top of one of the largest sand dunes to have Bedouin tea. Not a bad way to spend the last day of 2010--especially after the chaos that this year has brought to our family!
Here's hoping each of you finds an oasis of your own in the coming year! If not, come and enjoy ours here in Egypt...you are welcome anytime!