Water baby across the deserts – Red Sea to Siwa

I love water. A year and a half living cheek to cheek with two major deserts, first the Sahara and now Sinai, has made me appreciate water and swimming even more. I am not a strong swimmer, I just like to float and dive and laze around in the water, whether it is the springs of Siwa Oasis or at the beaches of the Red Sea and Mediterranean coast. Now most days are 40 degrees and nights drop only to the high 20s, so I try to find time for the water at least once a day, either 7 to 8am before the sun is strong, when the water sparkles, tide is high and there is something resembling small waves, or the hour between 6pm and dark, when the water is flat but still wonderful to slip into after the peak heat.

Below are photos of some favorite beaches in Nuweiba and in Marsa Matrouh, which I visited this week. I also returned to my beloved Siwa and was delighted to again swim in the spring at the desert-edge garden of A (my neighbour and landlord) with his daughters and their cousins. I only include two photos as the Siwans keep their lives private and I can’t use photos that identify the children clearly. This swim was a wonderful reminder of the softness of Siwan spring water.

I had hoped to return to Cleopatra Spring (Ain Guba) also to swim, but having only one day there meant seeing people was more important. I suspect visiting Cleopatra would also have made me sad, as T. and his cafe are gone, and it was difficult enough being in Siwa without him and seeing where we lived. So many memories stirred, though they are never far below the surface and I miss those days every day.

In the narrow space between the front of the house and the palm leaf fence, I had some small olive and citrus trees placed as a garden for cat Habibi to enjoy. They were watered mostly by drips from clothes on the washing line which stretched above them. I gave these baby trees to A when I left. On this visit to the desert garden he showed me that he has planted them there and they are doing well. It is sweet to know that there is a little trace of my time living there, which continues now that I am gone. I had thought he intended to plant them in his larger garden close to the town, but I am delighted they are out there on the edge of the desert, in such a beautiful place.

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