Egypt western desert siwa oasis
Siwa, meaning, in Amazigh, ‘Bird of prey which protects the god Amun’, is a 9 hour drive west from Cairo. This oasis town sits on one of the world’s largest underground wells. “When you arrive, it’s like a mirage. You drive along and there is sand as far as the eye can see.
Suddenly, there’s this huge lake in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by date palms. The lake is as salty as the Dead Sea — it’s almost impossible to submerge in it, and it’s great for the skin,” as featured in a London Times article The Hippest Hotels in the World, May 2005.
Siwa’s rich history goes deep beyond the earliest civilizations, to Paleolithic times.
In the 1st millennium BCE, Siwa was famous with the ancient Egyptians, thanks to its oracle.
The oracle was though to be so true and powerful that generals feared its predictions.
Both when the Persian king Cambyses invaded in 525 and when Alexander the Great before his expeditions into Asia in 331 BCE, was the oracle consulted.
During these times, Siwa was a wealthy place, well illustrated by the Gebel al-Mawta and its rich tombs. In early Islamic times, Siwa went into decline and sometime in the 13th century was down as little as 200.
Today the population is on the rise, and has since long passed 20,000. Most live in the town Siwa, the rest are spread across over 10 smaller villages.
The main settlement is Shali, situated at the centre of the oasis. dem·o·graph·ics n. the characteristics of human populations and population segments Geographic Area: 18 meters below sea level, near the border of Libya. The oasis is 82 km long and its width varies from 2 km to 20 km. Population: 20,000 Berbers Languages: Arabic and Berber (Amazigh) Time Zone: GMT+ 2 weath·er n. the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, with respect to variables such as temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and barometric pressure Average January temp Siwa: High 66ºF; Low 39ºF in·for·ma·tion n. Knowledge of specific events or situations that has been gathered or received by communication Siwa Information office 20-3-933192/931841 ext. 7 Tourism Offices in Siwa Town Center Tel. 46 4602883 There is now a bank and an ATM, as well as an Internet cafe, how modern! trans·por·ta·tion n. a facility consisting of the means and equipment necessary for the movement of passengers or goods To and from Cairo: The Western Delta Bus Company run a daily service from Cairo to Marsa Matrouh which is en route to Siwa. The bus leaves Turkamen Bus Station, Cairo at 7.30am.
The journey is 500 kilometers and takes five hours. The fare is 38 LE. Refreshments are served on the air-conditioned bus.
From Marsa Matrouh catch the onward bus service to Siwa. The journey takes four hours and the ticket costs 12 LE. The bus leaves at 1.30 pm and arrives in Siwa at 5pm.
Leaving Siwa for Cairo the bus leaves at 7am from the Ramel Station or Market Square.
Change at Marsa Matrouh where there are buses leaving for Cairo until 2pm.
Superjet buses leave Shurbra Khama Bus Station in Cairo at 4.30pm arriving at Marsa Matrouh at 11pm if you wish to spend some time at Marsa Matrouh.
About once a week, 4WDs are cutting their way through the desert, ending up in the oasis.
Walk, rent a bicycle or ride in a caretta (donkey cart) to outlying sights and bathing places. his·to·ry n. A chronological record of events, as of the life or development of a people or institution 7th century BCE: Temple of Amon is constructed. 331 BCE: Siwa is visited by Alexander the Great, who comes to visit the famous Oracle of Temple of Amon, seeking confirmation that he is the son of the god Zeus, as well as upholding the image of him also being the son of the god Amon.
1203: The town of Shali is founded. 1792: After 2,000 years of relative isolation, the first European visitor comes to Siwa.
19th century: Siwa becomes part of modern Egypt. 1986: A road between Marsa Matruh at the coast and Siwa is opened. ac·com·mo·da·tions n. room and board; lodgings Adrére Amellal: The Desert Ecolodge Sidi al-Ja’afar Siwa, Egypt 02-735-0052 The lodge was built with 100 percent Siwan labor so that it would fit entirely into the architectural styles of the oasis.
Built out of indigenous material using traditional Siwan building techniques and styles so as to have a minimal impact on the land, Adrere Amellal sets an example for ecolodge development.
Situated at the base of a majestic white mountain and overlooking olive and palm groves as well as the Siwa lake, Adrere Amellal consists of a series of traditional Siwan kershef houses that have been restored and reconfigured into ten suites and 17 rooms, all of which offer genuine desert-style comfort.
Kershef, a mixture of sun dried salt rock mixed with straw, is used for wall building.
Oil lamps and candles are used for lighting, as there is no electricity.
On cold winter nights, coal-filled braziers are used for heating.
The lodge makes delicious organic meals from foods from their own gardens and they will take you on any excursion you want, just simply ask.
They will take you in Jeeps out into the desert to explore the hot springs and watch the sunset or they will take you into town to show you the oracle and the ruins.
They even have a full functioning stable with horses that you can ride all around the oasis.
Or if you just want to relax, you can spend some time in a stone lawn-chair beside the pool. ap·pre·ci·ate v. to recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of; to admire greatly; value Ruins of Shali The ruins of Shali dates back to the 13th century.
Shali is supposed to have risen 60 metres above the ground level of the oasis, helped by the two mountains here. It must have been a fabulous sight.
It still is, but none of 5 story houses still stand. Gebel al-Mawta The name means simply Mountain of the Dead, and it is the place where Siwans for over 2000 years buried their loved ones.
Every inch of the lower platform of the mountain has been used for family graves.
The mountain is truly perforated, it must be centuries since there was no more room for new graves.
The lower part of the mountain has countless mounds, with small passageways to the tombs.
Most of the tombs belonged to families, and arranged according to the same patterns as graves all around Egypt.
The larger ones had ceremonial chambers, while the smaller ones had ceremonies performed outside the grave.
The mountain holds a couple of truly great graves, full of wall-paintings equally beautiful to the noble tombs of Luxor or Aswan.
Unfortunately, there are strict rules on photographing here.
Alexander’s Tomb Siwa hit the news in 1991 when it was claimed that the tomb of Alexander the Great had been found.
It was a structure with Macedonian inscriptions in Greek letters, it was 55 meters long, complete with decoration. It had been discovered by Greek Liana Souvlatzi.
It was later on discovered that some of the inscriptions had been misread, and now she is not allowed to return to the site for further excavations. The most popular theory for the tomb is that it belonged to a Macedonian general.
However, the tomb might give hints to where Alexander is buried.
It is not certain that he was even buried in Siwa according to his wish, but rather in Alexandria.
For tourists, there is little to see except the long corridor. All moveable objects have been put into sealed storage rooms.
The Oracle of Amon is today mainly remembered for being visited by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, when he was seeking confirmation that he was the son of Zeus (whom the Greeks associated with the Egyptian Amon).
Nobody knows what the oracle told Alexander, the answer was whispered into his ear.
Alexander expressed ever since a wish to be buried at Siwa, and he embarked upon great conquests in the east, conquests that only a son of a god would dare to embark upon.
The Temple of Amon tis in an even worse condition than the oracle. Just a piece of a wall still stands, held up by crude modern bricks.
Fortunately some fine wall-paintings on the western side of the wall have survived. It is believe to have been built by the command of Kind Nectanebo 2 in the 4th century BCE.
Egypt western desert siwa oasis
It would have been standing if it hadn’t been for an Ottoman general who blew it up in 1896 to get building material.
The local authorities have decided to light up 3 of the main mountains of Siwa Shali, Gebel al-Mawta and Aghurmi (with the The Oracle of Amon).
na·ture n. the world of living things and the outdoors Gebel Dakrur There is no better place to take in fabulous views over the entire oasis than at Gebel Dakrur.
The mountain has three peeks, and lies near the Birket Zeitun. But there are stunning views over the western part of the oasis too.
Every year, the Tourist Festival is held on the mountain’s foot in October or November.
Fatnis Island lies about 10 meters out into the Birket Siwa, and is completely covered by palms, except for the circular, tiled pool.
The entire setting is beautiful, actually quite romantic should that be of any use for you.
Coming out here is best done by a bike, an hour or so before sunset is perfect.
Birket Siwa is the visually most attractive of the two salt lakes of Siwa. It starts where the palm groves end, and it is framed by table-top mountains.
The largest is the Adrar al-Milal, or White Mountain. Today the lake is receding and it is becoming more and more saline.
Much of it has now a surface of thick crust. Birket Siwa is best visited as a part of a trip to Fatnis Island. There are passageways running from the island and out into the lake. con·sume v. to take in as food; eat or drink up Restaurants of Siwa are generally simple, but usually very charming. Fortunately, you will never have to leave the simple luxury of the Adrére Amellal.
The meals are quite an experience; fresh yogurt, thick date syrup, eggs, local bread, fruit and rich coffee make up breakfast which is served in natural rocky grottos at the base of the mountain, lunch in village style by the swimming pool, hidden within a palm and olive grove and fed by one of the 230 springs in the area, while dinner is by candle light and served in the maze of dining rooms, alcoves and bars, their mud walls studded with chards of salt from nearby salt lakes that make dining an experience to cherish.
Abdu Restaurant is the longest running restaurant — and still the most popular — in town. It’s right across the street from Youssef Hotel and serves traditional dishes, veggie stews, couscous, and pizza.
Kenooz Restaurant Dine like absolute royalty – imagine excellent food, ground seating surrounded by thousands of soft cushions, flames roaring on crackling wood, all under the bright desert moon. And things do not cost much here, even with such opulence. Alexander Restaurant is located just a few yards away from the Youssef Hotel.
It includes some simple local dishes such as Siwan soup, Cous Cous and pizza. re·ju·ve·nate v. to restore to youthful vigor or appearance; make young again Siwa Oasis enjoys numerous properties that place it at the top of the list of sites recommended for therapeutic tourism.
It is distinguished by a calm, clear environment and mild temperature.
By boiling the deep subterranean pollution-free mineral water a treatment is available for treating stones.
Gabal al Takrour is important for treating Rheumatism and general weakness by burying the patient in hot sands surrounding the mountain.
Abu Shuruf is famous in Siwa for its fine pool as well as its many female donkeys.Egypt western desert siwa oasis
The pool is one of the most inviting in all of Siwa, few by the fiercest well of them all. Warm water gushes out of the ground not too far away from the oval pool.
The female donkeys is another matter, and of course you will not notice this unless you know a bit about donkeys.
It is supposed that the Siwan saying “Have you been to Abu Shuruf” is a question to a man if he has had sex.
Bir Wahed is both one of the new tourist traps of Siwa, and a quiet, secluded place for spending the late afternoon and evening.
This is a well set out 12 km southwest of Siwa.
It is truly a strange place, with water right in the middle of the sand dunes, without the typical oasis vegetation.
Bir Wahed is visited as part of a 4WD excursion, and is considered to be the best place for women to bathe, as there are no locals here.
Juba Bath (Cleopatra’s Bath) It sounds like an historical place, but there is no reason to believe that Cleopatra had anything to do with it.
The fine name indicates however that this is one of Siwa’s nicest pools.
Nowadays it is used by local men for bathing, but foreign female visitors will not be denied entry. It was formerly used by local brides for bathing, but that practice has now moved to the nearby Tamusi bath, which is more secluded.
Cleopatra’s Pool has a little cafe, sheltered from the sun and good for hot days.