Egypt: Western Desert

At Home at Gezira El Bairat

Gezira El Bairat, Al Ramla 

Luxor, Egypt

March 9, 2020

Hello,

Here in the town of Gezira El Bairat, on the west bank of the Nile, the modest El Masala Hotel provides a simple and comfortable guest room with a balcony overlooking the Nile.  The staff is friendly and accommodating.  Breakfast is served at the open-air rooftop restaurant with a sweeping view of the river and the river traffic. 

Kareem, the owner of the hotel, is determined that my week’s stay in Luxor will be both active and restful.   He drives me around town.   He helps me to book drivers for my tours.   Kareem invites me to his home for lunch where I meet his wife and children.

Siwa Oasis

Siwa

Matrouh Governorate

Arab Republic of Egypt

February 18, 2020

Welcome to Siwa!

The urban oasis of Siwa lies 750 km (466 mi) west of Cairo and only about 50 km (31 mi) east of the Libya border.  Consequently, the population of 33,000 is mostly ethnic Berber.

Siwa sits atop the aquifer that begins in Sudan and runs northward in an arc under the Western Desert.  South of Siwa, towards Luxor, several other oasis cities lie along the arc and benefit from the springs.

Siwa is blessed with fertile soil, abundant date palms, lakes, streams, irrigation works and scenic hills.

Siwa Oasis Temples

Siwa

Matrouh Governate

Arab Republic of Egypt

February 19, 2020

In her book The Western Desert of Egypt Casandra Vivian writes “Siwa is different. It is not Egyptian, but North African.  Most Siwans are Berbers, a people who once roamed the North Africa coast from Tunisia to Morocco as early as 10,000 BCE.  The Berbers are the true Western Desert indigenous people.”

The Berbers had many visitors: Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Arabs, British, Germans, Italians … and Yours truly. 

I visited four of the ancient sites:

El Alamein

El Alamein War Cemetery and Military Museum

Al Alameen City

Matrouh Governate

Egypt

February 23, 2020

Fifteen years ago, a thought came to mind as I wandered through the rows of gravestones of British soldiers at the Htauk Kyant Second World War Memorial Cemetery that lies 25 kilometers north of Yangon in Myanmar:

Britain had the largest Jewish population in Western Europe. Surely many Jews fought in the British army. Surely some of them were casualties in the battles in Southeast Asia.  Are they buried here? 

Mersa Matruh

Mersa Matruh

Matruh Governate

Egypt

February 23, 2020

Despite our itinerary to spend only one night in Mersa Matruh, I decided to spend two.

I was exhausted after the journey across the desert from the Siwa Oasis.

Except for meals, I never left my hotel room.  

Why leave?  The hotel was called the Belle Vue Hotel.

The view was beautiful across the beach and the  Mediterranean Sea.

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