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Travellive 4 - 2018

Making a fire to keep

Making a fire to keep warm before sunset in the desert A carriage in the area of Shali Fortress Watching stars under the night sky TRAVELLIVE

WE WERE REliviNG thE stoRiEs tolD iN "oNE thousaND aND oNE NiGhts" it sEEmED. it fElt iNCREDiBlE to BE slEEpiNG iN a tENt iN thE miDDlE of thE DEsERt uNDER thE staRRy NiGht sky. It became a fun thing for us to try to pick up dates from the ground right in front of our hotel room to eat. Considered truly magnificent ruins that all must visit in Siwa, the ancient Shali Fortress's buildings were built in the 13 th century using a salt and mud mixture taken from a lake nearby. The only reason why they remain for so long is due to the fact that the desert almost never rains. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the top of the fort. To have a better view of Shali though, we decided to climb up a hill about 2km away. The fortress looked absolutely stunning in the soft afternoon light. Some structures still remain inhabited, or have been turned into souvenir shops. Despite its remote location in the desert, Siwa Oasis is full of life thanks to its copious supply water by underground springs. How amazing is that? Our Egyptian guide took us to a spring which provided water spillling of the ground. Locals often gather here for a nice and relaxing bath in the afternoon. Near the springs are crops planted by the Berbers, which have been their main source of food for centuries. experience a nomadic life in the desert We booked a 4WD car and a driver from the hotel to take us around the desert, and catch the incredible sunset. The sun was bright red when it sank deep into huge sand dunes. We slept in a desert tourist camp that night. The evening temperature dropped drastically down to 7-8 degrees Celsius. With hungry stomachs, we sat by the fire to keep warm, while waiting for our chicken to be roasted in a very special way. The chicken was put into a large tin with a lid, then covered, and buried in the sand. A large fire was placed right above the tin to cook the chicken inside. The smell of the chicken was absolutely mouth-watering since we were all cold and hungry. It was a truly unforgettable meal. The desert's night sky was stunningly clear, and the stars shined bright. We put on some warm clothes, and climbed up a nearby hill to try to catch a glimpse of the milky way. Out of nowhere, a fox showed up, and seemed rather curious about us! I was a little scary, so I tried to reach a higher ground. The curious creature immdediately ran away. When we got up in the morning, we saw their footprints everywhere around our tent. Our camp consists of about 10 small tents, set up into a rectangle. The largest tents can accommodate up to 15 people, whereas the small ones only had space for 4-5 people. Blankets and pillows are provided, as well as thick sleeping bags to help us fight the evening temperature. Since electricity was out of the question, torches were used instead. A large fire was set up in the middle the camp ground to keep us warm throughout the night. We were reliving the stories told in "One Thousand and One Nights" it seemed. It felt incredible to be sleeping in a tent in the middle of the desert under the starry night sky, while listening to ancient Arabian stories. The experience is a must-try for all who visit Egypt. GET THERE ñ From Ho Chi Minh City, you have to transit in Abu Dhabi before boarding a connecting flight to Cairo. A number of airlines can fly you to Cairo, but Etihad seems to offer the lowest price. Booking in advance can get you 850 USD for a round-trip ticket. From Cairo to Siwa, night buses are available, but the journey takes 11 hours, and is arduous. VISA ñ The visa application process is simple, but is only available in Hanoi. If you live in Ho Chi Minh City, choose a visa service in Hanoi to save time and travel expenses. The visa fee is 30 USD/person. EXPERIENCE ñ A must-try experience for all visitors to Siwa is to camp overnight in the desert. The camp is run by an Egyptian travel company. Ask your hotel for more information. The fee is around 45 USD per person for one night in the desert. Pick up is availabe at the hotel. A one-night stay is sufficient since there are not a whole lot of things for you to do, except making fire, eating roast chicken, and watching the stars. FOOD ñ Egyptian food may present a challenge for Vietnamese. We often headed to small restaurants that are packed with westerners in hope of finding dishes with an international flavor, and are not too local, so that we could try the food. EXPENSES ñ Our group spent 21 days in Egypt. The total cost of which, including meals, transportation, sightseeing, and accommodation, was 45 million VND per person. On average, one spends about 2.1 million VND a day. TRAVELLIVE

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