Day 2. Driving all the way to Siwa. After extensive breakfast on the basis that we must make sure not to miss another one, load up and hit the road. It’s a long long way through a flat landscape dotted with modes of transport: lorries, donkeys, lorries, camels, lorries, Landcruisers. There is a crisis in Team Z’s car – the CDs have been destroyed by a combination of baklava and sunshine. 300 km with no music??? Found a way to connect the iPhones to the car stereo. Battle for consensus on good driving music ensues.
I now get the idea of country music for driving long endless roads in bleak landscapes. We didn’t have much country (music that is, there was plenty of landscape to chose from) but this is what we tried…Santana good, Rolling Stones not – need smooth music not stimulating. Andrea Bocelli not working. Siwa 250km Barry White hitting the spot. 230km – yep Bob Dylan good “I’ll give you my heart but you want my soul. Don’t think twice, it’s alright. 200km – John Denver has new relevance. Stairway to Heaven good – pass reassuring ambulance station with helipad in the middle of nowhere. Sultans of Swing induces air guitar and end up with plenty more Dire Straits – turning into a growly sing-along.
Thought we’d get to Siwa with Knopfler playing but have moved on to Hendrix. Works for a while but those were the days when no feedback was good. The heat is building as we approach high noon – I can see the and at the horizon separating from the landscape and floating above shimmering imaginary water.
“Smoke on the water’ reinforcing hallucination as suddenly we’re Holding Out for a Hero. Siwa 90km and suddenly it’s Bruno Mars – why? Then after a medley of “try this, noooo, ok this one, nope, how about this, not working” it’s Siwa 50km and Pitbull’s asking us to take a Polaroid. On final descent into Siwa (oases are basically below desert level to tap the groundwater) we are introduced to a band called Camel.
Turns out that the appropriately named Camel are a rock band that have a cult following and.a ton of albums – fantastic guitarist. Straight to late lunch of couscous and lamb followed by sweet couscous washed down with sweet lemon juice. No time to pass out – off to an Eco hotel.
What’s one of those? I hear you ask. Well it’s a modern hybrid – the Prius of the hospitality market. So, we have lovely houses built from traditional materials: mud, palm trees, mud, stone, mud, all baked to a golden brown finish. The windows are made from slices of local salt and let in a surprising amount of light. There are also mesh windows to let in air but keep the Mosquitos out.
There is no electricity but you do get a bathroom with running water heated by solar energy. Hmmm – can’t make up my mind how to adjust. We brought our own solar panel for charging phones and iPads so no disaster there.
Dump stuff in rooms and start training. The hotel backs on to one of the local necropolises (guess at plural – suppose it should be necropoli) which makes for creepy nights. But the food – unbelievable – as in good unbelievable. The chef, Mohammed, is Moroccan and a master of his art.