Sad days here, despite the sun and crisp, bird filled mornings. Abdou, one of the Siwans best known to the tourists and foreign residents, and probably to everyone in Siwa, has died. Abdou opened the first restaurant here in the mid 1980s when Siwa town was much smaller than the vibrant cluster of stores and restaurants it is now. The restaurant prospered and improved its facilities over the years, and was a favourite with tour groups.
I ate most of my meals there, Abdou always had good cooks and menu, and friendly staff. On my first visit to Siwa, it was one of his staff who pursuaded me to stay overnight for the annual Festival when I had intended this to be a one day visit, and probably my only visit to the oasis (as there was so much of Egypt and the world left to explore, and Siwa was so isolated). The experiences of that stay made the difference between me being a one time tourist and a return visitor, which eventually led me to settling here.
Abdou was a gentle man and for me it became a habit when entering or passing the restaurant to look to his table at the back of the room where he so often sat surveying his kingdom, and nod a greeting. Even when I was no longer eating at the restaurant, becoming mostly self catering last visit and now, he always greeted me in the street or when I passed by the restaurant.
This time I had brought with me for Abdou prints of a photo I had taken in the restaurant in 1995, to remind him how much it had changed. Also, though I was going to be cooking for myself from now on, before I bought supplies I could not resist having my first breakfast back in Siwa at Abdou’s.
The picture in this entry is from one of the Siwan Facebook pages, and I am sure they will not mind me sharing it. The caption is theirs, and sums up my feelings too – that table at the back of the restaurant will never seem the same without him.