Woke on Friday night to what I thought was rain, which is very rare in Siwa, but the light wind sounding like waves in the palms turned to heavy wind that makes the sound of rain. It is expected to last three days, and if this is a taste of the khamseen, which is supposed to blow for up to 50 days, I can see why they say that sends some animals and people mad.
Walking out to the hot spring with A was beginning to become difficult against the wind and sand dust, but we were offered a lift in cars part way there, and the same part way back, which we gladly took.
A. had encouraged me to try sitting and standing under the pipe where the spring gushes out (it then runs along a canal and into the swimming pool). Bliss. I was tentative about getting in, as the entry from the canal to the base of the small pool beneath the pipe in slippery with algae, and you also sink up to your knees in soft sand walking towards this. But sliding in avoided falls, and the water comes up to chest level once you are in. Then you can lean into the waterfall and it is like a forceful massage on your neck. Standing up, letting it pound your shoulders and back is wonderful, and the water varies from warm to cooler as you move about under the spout.
Then it was into the main, warmer swimming pool for a swim, the gum tree (yes, there are many eucalyptus in Siwa) rattling over us in the wind. Getting out is the tough bit – after the 40+ degrees water, into now chill air, and a quick change for coffee to warm us up.
Y. who runs the cafe and spring has two beautiful two month old pups, which were being fed but had to come and play with us when called. We sit at tables only a few inches off the ground, A. had ordered a lassi, and one of the pups astounded us by jumping up suddenly, and drinking not out of the glass but from the top of the plastic straw, as though he were a person and had been doing it all his life. Very funny, one of those moments that you wish you had the camera ready, but also of course we had to discourage him swiftly and no time for camera. The duo (the pups, not us) found an empty tuna tin to play with, and had a great time carting that around the pool garden and wrestling each other. A small kennel has been built for them, which reminds me I must get Habibi’s enclosure built soon, in case I have to go to Alexandria to collect my freight or to Cairo, and need to leave her outside overnight.
A few tour buses in town but I haven’t seen much of the visitors, they are possibly part of inclusive tours connected to the larger, upmarket hotels. Had dinner at Palm Trees Hotel with A., the garden was empty and we were the only interested diners due to the wind/sand, but the hotel was happy to let us eat inside in the area the Siwan workers and friends use, so caught a bit of television between conversation, and were given tea and kept cosy. Delicious baked macaroni for me, and kofta and salad for A. The chef at Palm Trees is really doing good work, and takes pride in his presentation – will take some photos on future visits – eating out will be a once a week or so treat, and I cook for myself the rest of the time.
Then braved the cold for a few things at the stores, and a sahlab to warm up before bed. Sahlab is a long time favourite for me, a thick, hot mixture served in tall glasses, more like a runny vanilla pudding than a drink really; sahlab flour or powder is made from ground dried tubers of some species of orchids, this is mixed into hot milk and laced, depending on the maker of the drink, with combinations of banana slices, some nuts and dried sultanas or raisins, and coconut. If that doesn’t warm you inside, nothing will. Australians, you can buy the powder in many Middle Eastern stores, including those on Sydney Road, Brunswick, and can sometimes get orange, rose or chocolate flavours.
Sunshine today but it dropped to about 7 overnight, and still chill this morning. I am off to take some photographs and get cat food. No point sweeping the house or washing clothes until the wind dies down, there is sand everywhere, it gets in through any crack and leaves a cover fine as flower but slightly gritty. While I debated bringing plastic containers to Siwa, as I would like to cut down on using petrochemical products, they are certainly a start for keeping food and belongings sand dust free. I would prefer to use wood (olive wood containers are used locally but not widely available) and may in time get some more of the locally made woven palm containers for some things, but plastic for now has to do. A cupboard for my books will eventually be essential, if I have any hope of keeping them in decent condition. Either that, or just face the wear and tear that is natural to most things in the oasis.