So the last time I wrote anything of substance here was... Saturday afternoon, I think. That evening I just went back to the hostel and slept. Sunday, I hung out with Sundae, Kenzie, Lisa, and her roommate Shahrina (sp?) since it was Sundae and Kenzie's last day in Egypt.
Basically, they were just shopping for souveniers, but it was a fun time nonetheless. See, Sundae and Kenzie were looking for Mobaco cotton shirts. They're polo shirts, but instead of a guy on a horse with a polo hammer, it's a guy on a camel. There's a store in downtown, actually pretty near my hostel, that they knew about--in fact had walked by before--so we tried walking there. After maybe 5 minutes going down the street, the girls realize that they've missed it somehow. Apparently it's normally hard to miss, but somehow we had.
So we walk back down the street, until we get to the store: it's closed. Now, Egypt is a muslim country, and their sabbath day is Friday, so there's no reason it should be closed, unless for some reason it's run by Christians. Maybe they went out of business?
No worries, Lisa knows of one near-ish to her apartment. So we head down to Ma'adii, Shahrina and I go to a coffee shop and get beverages while the rest of them head towards the store. Except they come back sooner than we expect. This one's closed too. I think someone said something to the effect of, "The Copts secretly run everything around here!" Kenzie is frustrated, since apparently her relatives are hard to get gifts for, and the shirts were about the only thing that could work. We go to get ice cream to de-stress and think about other plans.
Lisa remembers that there's some hotel downtown that has a mall that carries the shirts, but they don't want to head all the way back up there, only to find that it too is closed. So they decide to try calling ahead. Lisa thinks it's the Nile Hilton, and gets the number from (yet another) roommate, who's actually at home. Kenzie calls over ice cream, the number we think for the Nile Hilton. "Hello, can I be transferred to the mall?" Some waiting, a click. She's been disconnected. She tries again. We conclude that maybe it's the Ramses Hilton. No luck there either (call-disconnect, call-interminable hold, wash, rinse, repeat). When they do finally get through, they discover that the mall doesn't sell clothing at all. D'oh!
Finally, I remmber that I've actually been to this place before, and I thought it was on the island Zamalek. I poke through my guide book, and find a number. After a few more calls, they manage to get through to the right store (after almost asking for "Mubarak Cotton"). What I hear goes something like this: "Hello, is this Mobaco Cotton? Yes, what are your hours? ... 'Yes' isn't an answer to my question. When are you open? ..." Then, muttered, "how can he not know... Yes, hi. What are your hours? ... YES, of course the hours you're open for business... Until midnight? Today, you're open until midnight?" So, the moral of the story is, I think they got their shirts. I don't actually know, since I had to leave before they could actually go by the store.
Triumphant, we went to Lisa and Shahrina's apartment to gather up some of their stuff. Now, Lisa, Shahrina, and their roommates are actually moving, since they've been having trouble with the local boys hassling them, lying in wait to harass them on their way home from school. The police have been totally inept at stopping it. Since I'm around, they ask me to walk back to their apartment, basically to ward away the troublemakers. Apparently having someone who's a) male, b) vaguely egyptian-looking, and c) freakin' huge kept them from running into too much trouble. But they pointed out to me which kids would have hassled them had I not been there. It feels good to be Knight in Shining Armor, even though it does suck that I have to be.
After that, I went back to my hostel. Me and another guy I had met there decided to go to Siwa together. So we go to the bus station, and after some fumbling around showing people our ticket, find our bus (the problem? the bus didn't arrive at the terminal until about half an hour after the scheduled departure time). So we get on the bus, and curl up and try to go to sleep. At first it's all right, but as the night goes on, it gets colder and colder. I feel around, and they actually have the air conditioning on. At night. In the already-cold desert. We think it got down to 40 in the bus. So we spend most of the night shivering, trying to sleep on the 9 hour ride.
We get into Siwa, a sleepy little village, around 6 in the morning. The sun is not up so we're still cold. However, none of the hotels are open either. So we wander around for a bit, trying to find a good spot for the sunrise, then sit down in the first 'ahua to open and get some tea.
Finally, the hotels start to open, so we check in, then wander around town for a bit. Now, the first thing a visitor notices about Siwa is the Shali, a giant, 13th century mud fortress. There really are no words to describe it. We wandered up, then surveyed the land around. Then, we rented some bikes and went out to the Temple of the Oracle, where Alexander went to be declared the son of Amun-Zeus. Ah, the good ol' days when you could do that.
By now, it was maybe 11 AM, and we hadn't eaten since the night before, so we went back to town and got some chicken-and-couscous stew. While sitting down, we start chatting with a random tourist off the street, and it turns out he's trying to find people to go into the Great Sand Sea, since his hotel would run a trip, but only if there were enough people. We say we'll think about it, but want more details. After Jun (the guy we just met) leaves, we decide that at the price quoted, it would be a great idea no matter what. We then go back to our hotel to rest up. Evan (the fellow I met in Cairo) goes out to check his email, when Jun comes over to our hotel and says that we need to leave at 3, but to meet at 2 pm at the other hotel to pay for the permits. Trying to hunt Evan down, I shot him an email, then posted here on the blog (that's the before the desert post). Eventually, we all meet up, pay for everything, then head out into the desert.
And now I'm actually kinda tired, so I'll finish this later...