When you can’t drink the spring water, swim in it…

I enjoy swimming year round in Siwa in the cold or hot springs, but in the hottest month swimming is simply the best way to cool down. Sometimes standing in the bathroom and tipping a small bucket of water over yourself just isn’t enough (my shower remains a decorative object, hopefully one day I will get a pump so it actually works, or at least works in the hours we get water).

Swimming is one of the few pleasures of the flesh permitted in Ramadan, providing you ensure you don’t swallow any water. It is even worth the half hour walk in 40 degree heat to spend an hour in Cleopatra Spring pool. It is deliciously cool, and I now have the place to myself most days – no tourists at the cafes (two of the three are closed now until the tourists return) and also there are very few Siwans swiming during fasting hours.

I always wanted to take some pictures from the middle of the pool instead of from beside it, but getting the camera wet is a risk. Today as there was no-one else jumping in, I took some stills and a 360 degree video. The video is shaky, but keep in mind I was treading water in the middle of a very wide and deep pool with no support to hang on to, trying to keep camera out of the water and also not drown.

As a visitor said to me, Siwa is one of the few places you can’t really capture even with video. The 360 degree video only shows you what the view around the edges of the pool looks like from the water, with the three cafes and palms now laden with dates. That looks inviting enough, but it cannot show you what it is really like to lie on your back encircled by palms and sky, or how soft and calming the water is. Maybe one day I will get someone to support me in the water while I lie on my back, to try to capture that view. It really is the most blissful feeling to lie in the cool and watch the moon in the midday ultra blue sky, with just the sound of the spring water bubbling up, birdsong, and the breeze in the palms.

I don’t even mind anymore that I need to be fully clothed to swim, the clothes become like a second skin when wet, against expectations they don’t weigh you down, and it is really only uncomfortable when you get out of the water and the fabric clings to you. Peeling off the wet clothes can be fustrating, especially when balancing on one leg in the change room, trying not to get sand all over your wet self before you towel dry and change.

I can’t add video to this blog directly, so see 30 second videos at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOWv_6MeMzA

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsEvdi3hJ3s

The walk to the spring has changed colour as summer hits its peak. In winter the gardens were a mix of many greens and browns, but now the palms are heavy with clusters of golden dates which will eventually turn a cinnamon brown, and some dates which turn from green to purple then brown and appear to be a different variety; I must ask my neighbour about the differences and report back. The ripening olives are not as obvious as they blend with their leaves, but most olive trees are now also well stocked with fruit and some are already being harvested. Also brightening the green walk are sunflowers in some of the gardens.

I have already enjoyed some early ripe dates along with figs from my neighbor’s garden, and as figs haven’t appeared in the fruit and vegetable stores I gather all those grown here are kept for the families who own each garden, so I am very fortunate to be given some. The figs were divine, so ripe that once you bite through the skin they are as soft and sweet as jam. The dates were also superb as the fresh ones always are, incomparable to their later dried state. Both are perfect with yoghurt or the local soft white cheese.

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