I’m pretty sure my visit to Ain El Oda was unprecedented. Never had a non-Egyptian stepped foot in the place. And then here I came, an actually American, wandering the unpaved streets and taking in the sights.
As you might guess my sudden appearance created quite a stir. On about the second day I began to catch villagers sneaking peeks at me. They’d hide behind donkey carts and such. All I’d see would be a curious eye, often wide with amazement, peering out from some dark, secretive place.
Azza’s family’s reaction to my visit was sweet. Many tried their hand at speaking English, not having uttered a word of that foreign tongue since graduating from school. People wanted to give me things. The fatted calf was killed and great pots of food were heaped upon the table. They wanted to make sure that my glass was always full. Did I want a little taste of homemade cheese? How about some fresh bread?
They also planned a lot of events. So, every afternoon and evening, they’d load me into a car and shuttle me around. I think they were worried I’d find the place too off the beaten path, so they wished to assure me they had places to go and things to see too, just like the larger world did.
I was driven to see two nearby hotels and given tours of each one. Both were funky-cool by any set of standards a person might want to apply. One of the places was called Badawiya Dakhla Hotel and was situated in El Qasr, an ancient place known for its wonderful folksy handicrafts. The other was Al Tarfa Lodge and Spa which is owned by a member of Sawarises, a family with pockets so deep their bottoms cannot be seen without the use of a high-powered telescope.
I’ve included a selection of exterior and interior photos. Note how reminiscent the buildings are of New Mexican adobes.