Saturday, August 17, 2013

happiness ... straight from the heart

During that fateful trip in 2007 we stayed several days and nights at the Beshmo Lodge in the Bahariya Oasis.  One evening after dinner we were entertained by some of the local villagers -- a singer, a man who played mizmar and nai, another who played an exotic looking stringed instrument whose name I was unable to capture, along with several drummers and dancers ~ all male. The hip articulation, foot work and shoulder shimmies rivaled any dancer I've ever seen and the happiness coming straight from the heart beamed brightly through their eyes.

They encouraged me to dance and I enjoyed myself in this wonderful organic setting albeit I have to admit the tempo of the 2/4 rhythm they were playing was a wee bit faster than I felt comfortable with or inspired by. When they started doing deep knee bends, I bowed out. One by one they encouraged everyone to dance and before long everyone was dancing hand-in-hand.

The next day we headed out to the White Desert where we would camp that night was a caravan of 4x4 jeeps. Hours passed as we drove miles and miles past the black desert sand remnants of volcanic activity making our toward the White Desert. Along the way we stopped at Crystal Mountain, discovered only 20 years ago. Brilliant sparkling crystals charged by the sun and the moon dazzled us in the mid-day light.

Jihadah, our driver
In our jeeps we took detours off road through sand dunes and in and around the boulders and natural sculptures of the spectacular White Desert. I enjoyed this experience of being off the paved road and driving into nature while at the same time thinking/praying/hoping escapades such as ours do not harm the environment. I must tell you the Bedouin men were extremely careful to carry out everything we carried in and I bless their hearts for their diligence in this regard.

In addition, they not only skillfully maneuvered the jeeps (and changed a flat tire off-road), the also set up a beautiful tapestried camp and happily drummed and sang for us by a lovely fire after preparing a feast and pitching tents for us ~ and all this amidst a sand storm!
After a couple hours of the winds kicking the sands around, the storm finally passed and we enjoyed our desert camp feast which consisted of barbecued chicken, roasted vegetables and rice, chopped tomatoes and cucumber salad and tahini and bread.  After dinner we clapped along with the men who were drumming and singing at the fireside.

Jihadah, our driver, tied a scarf around his hips and with a cigarette in his hand, he danced around the fire joyfully singing with a broad smile on his face and a teasing and slightly mischievous kind of sparkle in his eye. Pure joyfullness pervaded every cell of his being and extended out toward all of us as he invited us to join him in...
the dance,
a celebration of life.

In the morning our Bedouin hosts broke down camp as efficiently as they had set it up and not one trace of our ever having been there remained behind.

We reluctantly left Bahariya Oasis and the hardy, happy Bedouin souls we met there; however, Saqqara, home of the famous "Step Pyramid of Zoser", the mastaba of Mereruka, the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, the many temples of Luxor and the West Bank, and more, still lay ahead.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome to Egypt

Upon landing in Cairo Mohamed Shata (see previous post for more about Dr. Shata) warmly greeted us and welcomed us "home" to Egypt distributing a long-stem red rose to each of us, a very nice gesture I am sure you will agree.

On Day Two, we toured the Citadel of Salah al-Din (c. 1171 CE), the Mohammed Ali Alabaster Mosque and the famed Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where we were captivated by Professor Shata's thoughtful, careful, archeological and egyptological explanations. His passion, sincerity and depth of expression beautifully translated the spirit of loving protection symbolically depicted in the artistry of the delicately carved and colored bas-reliefs, statues, jewelry, etc. of ancient Egyptian culture.

Surprises & Smiles in Bahariya Oasis: On our third day in Egypt we headed out to the Bahariya Oasis which as the itinerary promised was indeed "full of surprises." Hotel Beshmo, located in the Garden Under the Moon Camp, charmed us immediately upon arrival and it was lovely to be far from the "maddening crowd" of Cairo. Driving in to the Garden Under the Moon Camp it appeared to me the villagers are content. They walk through the village with grace and ease and the children play in the dirt streets greeting you with their beautiful smiles. I must tell you, however, behind their smiles they are hoping we will gift them with a pencil or pen (their favorite being a ballpoint clicker pen), a chocolate, or the big jackpot, an American dollar bill. I was happy to take the time to exchange a few words, share each other's names and to tell the girls they are 'gameela' (beautiful). In so doing, their faces and the pink in their cheeks reflected their genuine happiness and good health. 

Clockwise: Shadia and daughters:
Walah, Minar, and Narme

We visited Shadia's shop "Horass Handicraft Exhibit" and I was happy to exchange my money for the handicrafts therein since the sign said "The exhibition is for helping poor families' girls through working." Shadia agreed to my taking a picture of her and her daughters.

When I was back in my room at El Beshmo Hotel taking a little siesta I heard a donkey braying and the sounds of children voices as they played outside. I thought now there's a sound that has become nearly extinct in our culture where children stay inside glued to a TV and/or X-box.