Day 3, October 14: Marsa Matrouh to Siwa Oasis, 309 km
Now we're getting off the beaten path. The only vehicles we see all day are the two tan Toyota four-wheel-drives that are part of our group, and seven or eight 16-wheelers transporting Allah knows what.
The road quality really takes a dive from here—a combination of perfectly graded pavement, old asphalt with rocks poking through the top, graded dirt, and non-graded, rutted dirt. We pass road construction sites on the shoulder, some seemingly abandoned but some staffed with people staying in trailers.
The scenery is spectacular. We see deserts that are so flat, you can see the edge of the earth, and nothing but desert, in every direction. Some desert sections consist of gently undulating dunes with valleys and hills, with banked-up sand that takes the appearance of rock formations. Some of these formations can be anywhere from 15 to 150 meters high.
The desert takes on a spiritual quality for me, and I become meditative, even while continuing to ride. I begin to understand how the prophet Mohammad had his spiritual awakening in the desert. It has a stark beauty, much better than the (sometimes chemically-enhanced) experiences I had in Joshua Tree.
Our destination for the day is Siwa Oasis. We arrive and head to the main square, and get a speech from the local governor. While he gives his speech, I hear that the main exports are salt and dates, and see the donkey carts that serve as the main transportation for many people.
One of the other riders said that the women here, once they marry, rarely leave the house and dress in blue. I saw a few women dressed in the blue veil and abaya, the clothing that covers women head to ankle. The veil entirely covers the face and there isn’t even an eye slit in the face covering. Apparently if you squint hard enough, you can see through the almost opaque fabric.