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My Short trip to Siwa

By Mona Khalifa

Siwa is 300 KM south to the Northern coast of Egypt. It is like an emerald Mirage in the middle of the desert backed by the Great Sand Sea. The Oasis is carpeted thick with palm trees full of fresh water springs shadowing and cooling the valley's villages.

Old houses in SiwaOur trip took place during February 2009. We planned the trip one month before we actually went there. Checking and studying all resources plus investigating with all travelers who like to explore remote places we could not find a lot of activities to do during our stay in Siwa. The most interesting comment we heard was that it is the last paradise on earth, thousands of olive and fruit trees and date palms which shade and cool the place. You enjoy less rushing, have the luxury of forgetting about your watch as time is not at all countable there and strangely enough you will not mind that. Less means of modern life, donkey carts much outnumber engines & cars. No computers except for 2 or 3 remote, primitive cyber cafes with very slow internet connection, supposedly to serve tourists. Moreover you feel so secured and peaceful that you do not even want to bother yourself with watching TVs. Imagine yourself sitting calmly and leisurely with a small cup of tea in your hand or shisha, letting the sight of green palms and water springs with bubbles wash over all the worries and accumulations of your days!.

Palm trees in SiwaThe Siwa oasis is full of natural underground hot & cold water springs scattered everywhere. Most well known of them is the Bir Wahed known on maps as the Siwa Lake located on the north west site of the Oasis, almost 15 KM away on the edge of The Great Sand Sea. It is a hot spring like a Jacuzzi where sulphurous water bubbles in a pool. There is also the Cleopatra bath on the north east side of the lake which is a popular bathing spot for locals and there are changing rooms nearby. Also there is the Fatnas Spring which is about 6 KM from the town. You can swim there and enjoy the greenery around you and the primitive areas.

The Oasis also has a few historical places like the 13th century mud-brick Fortress of Shali built from local material known as Kershef (Large chunks of salt from the Siwa lake mixed with rock & plastered in local clay). It was used as houses for hundreds of Local inhabitants as it was four or five storey high and for centuries few outsiders were allowed inside & fewer of them came back to describe the tale. Now it still has a few inhabitants and there is a small mosque for prayer. It is opened for visitors to climb on their own and I remember spending one afternoon on the top of the mountain amongst the fortress remains watching the sunset across the shades and over the Siwa Lake which is seen from there together with a couple of explorers who were there at the same time. A wonderful sight that I keep remembering.

There is also the temple of the Oracle in the northwest corner of the ruins of Aghurmi village which was built in the 6th century BC dedicated to Amun by the Greeks who invaded the country at this period. There is also the famous Gebel Al Mawta or Mountain of the Dead dating back to the 26th dynasty, Ptolemaic and Roman times. It is located 1 KM from the center of town. The best tomb in this Mountain is the Tomb of Si Amun.

Traditional costumes of SiwansOne of the must places to visit is the House of Siwa museum which is in the center of the town. It is a modest display of traditional clothing, jewelry & hand crafts typical of the Oasis. An Italian mission to help restoring and financing the Oasis to keep it style without being contaminated with modern civilization is assisting the local settlers to sell their primitive nice looking products, including embroideries, carpets and dry mud pots is selling these beautiful products inside the house. You can buy a handmade small money pocket at 20LE (approx USD3.5).

Of course had to give the youngsters a chance to make a few adventures…My twenty and 18 years old daughters joined a Safari with their fellow friends around the Oasis where they had barbeques and enjoyed an excursion over the sand mountains with dune driving. They stopped at fossil sites and watched some fantastic desert vistas. They also swam in the scattered springs and returned late in the evening full of enthusiasm over the adventures they made.

Last but not least I nearly forgot to inform you about the small hotel where we settled There. We've chosen the Mubarak Hotel, which was not a good choice. The hotel was OK and near to all sites and to the town, but we were told later that other places like the Shali lodge or the Desert Rose were more unique places. The food served at Mubarak was more like Continental Menus except for one night where they served barbeque dinner outside the hotel in the gardens surrounding it.

Siwa Hotels - Online hotel booking in Siwa oasis

  • Shali Loge Siwa hotel booking
    Elegently decorated rooms in traditional Siwan style. The lodge has 16 rooms overlooking the charming palm trees area surrounding the hotel. All rooms are furnished with Bedouin style beds and chairs. The old town of Shali is a few steps from the lodge. More information and [Online Booking]
  • Adrere Amellal Ecolodge Siwa
    The hotel is located 16 km from the town of Siwa overlooking Lake Siwa. The hotel has 40 guest rooms all built in the traditional style of Siwan homes. All rooms have private bathrooms and balconies. There is an onsite gift shop where you can buy Siwan and Egyptian souvenirs. Although you will feel you are back in time when you stay in Siwa you will enjoy tranquility and peace of the desert. [Online Booking]
  • Albabenshal Hotel Siwa
    11 room hotel in the desert of Siwa outside the 13th century Shali Citadel. The hotel style follows the ancient houses of Siwa and built with the same building materials Siwans built their homes with. All rooms have their private bathrooms and the hotel serves tasty local food of Siwa which we hope you will enjoy in your desert holiday in Egypt. [Online Booking]


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