Siwa, an oasis in Egypt, is 80 km in length and 20 km wide, and is one of the most isolated spots in Egypt. It is located the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert. It is also known as Siwa Oasis, and for all practical purpose Siwa, Siwa Oasis, and City of Siwa are one - an ancient settlement of around 23,000 people, the majority being ethnic Berbers who speak a language called Siwi. The main economic activity of the people is agriculture, mainly growing dates and olives. This is an ancient settlement - anthropological and archaeological evidences indicate that the oasis has remained populated since at least 10th millennium BC. Coming to more recent past, Alexandra the Great had visited the place to consult the Oracle of Amun in 331 BC before his campaign in Persia. During the period of the Ancient Roman Empire, the oasis was used as a place for exile. Still coming to very recent period, Siwa had witnessed action both during the First World War as well as the Second World War. It was a base of the British Army's Long Range Desert Group though the base was taken over by Rommel's Afrika Korps of Nazi Germany. However, such eventful history has not diminished the charm of the great greenery, the oasis of Siwa. Tourists flock here, one of the most beautiful landscapes of Egypt. The region has a really beautiful climate, a little chilly in winter, rather hot in the summer and moderate in the spring and autumn. Lake Siwa located to the west of Siwa is a large saltwater lake. The nature's bounty has given Siwa another dimension: yes, it is a real oasis in the great sandy desert - there are about 1,000 sweet water springs which dot the landscape of Siwa. The water is not only sweet, it is believed to have medicinal properties.
Hotels and lodgingEdit
People who do not believe in done-to-death destinations and want to do something different, want not to follow the beaten path come to Siwa for a change. Over the years, the number of tourists coming to Siwa is rising, and with them the facilities for the tourists. You should surely find a a hotel of choice, costing moderately to expensive - all depending on your budgets:
- Alexander The Great Hotel
- Amon Hotel
- Arous Waha Hotel
- Badawi Hotel
- Cleopatra Hotel
- Jafar & Kenooz Eco-Hotel
- PalmTrees Hotel
- Siwa Inn Hotel
- Siwa Safari Paradise Hotel
- Youssef Hotel
The oasis of Siwa has remained populated for last several thousand years, and it has a history dating at least to the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Naturally, the great green oasis has many monuments (as also places of natural beauty) to be explored:
- Siwa's Temple of the Oracle
- Mountain of the Dead (locally called Gebel al-Mawta)
- Umm Ubayda (Temple of Siwa Oasis)
- Other spots
- Spring of Juba, also known as Cleopatra's Bath or Ain el-Hammam
- Gebel Dakrur
- Fatnas Spring or Fantasy Island
- Qara Oasis
- Ain Qurayshat and Abu Shuruf
Ethnic Berbers constitute the majority of the population in Siwa and they are engaged primarily in agriculture, growing dates and olives. The local folks lead a traditional life and they are also good artisans and manufacture many items of handicrafts, baskets, jwelry, exotic dresses, pottery, decoration pieces, and many other similar items. While enjoying strolls through Siwa or moving around to see various spots of historical importance, you may stop at some village shops, do a bit of bargaining, and buy some fancy exotic items to take home. You may also buy a small packet of Siwa salt.
Maps and transportationEdit
Getting to SiwaEdit
You may take an international flight direct to Cairo, the capital of Egypt. From there, you may take a bus or hire a taxi. You may also fly from Cairo to Alexandria and take a bus or hire a taxi to Siwa. However, you should keep in view that desert travels require expert guides and your taxi driver should be experienced one to drive in desert and the vehicle should be proper for desert driving.
Exploring Siwa is certainly an adventure, and to enjoy the adventure and the experience to the hilt, you must come well prepared. You may require certain "gadgets" to assist you in the desert safari around the great wonderful oasis, Siwa: Binoculars, magnifying glass to examine fossils, swimsuits (and also few towels) for swimming in the hot and the cold springs, woolen garments and sleeping bags for staying overnight under the open star-filled sky, and perhaps a constellation map for stargazing would be of much help. You should also carry sufficient water and dehydration tablets or olives. Once you have "equipped" yourself, you shall need one or more local guides to escort you in your sojourn in the desert around Siwa, as also in Siwa. Siwa has a compact community, and people are helpful. You may take the assistance of your hotel management also to arrange trips in and around Siwa. It is going to be a life time experience and something really unique.
There are different types of Safari lasting from half day to many days and the guides would also arrange everything from food to the official permits required to sleep under the open sky during the night safari.
You may also hire a bicycle to move around Siwa. In case, you want to travel in a really local style, have a little more fun! You may hire a donkey cart and move around the oasis of Siwa. However, please ensure that the cart driver is experienced one as managing cart on the move is more difficult than it looks. Likewise, cycling in the sandy desert may be difficult if you are not accustomed to do prolonged cycling.
Practical information and resourcesEdit
- Currency: Egyptian pound (LE) (EGP)
- Time zone: EET (UTC+2) [Summer (DST) - EEST (UTC+3]
- Calling code: +20
- Official language: Arabic and Masri
- Local language: Siwi
While you are in Siwa, you will generally get wholesome foods at the place of your stay, and even when you are on a desert safari, the guide can arrange foods for you. The choices may be limited, but the food will be fine, natural, and different. You may miss what you are accustomed to - but once you have decided to be different by selecting Siwa as a holiday destination, you will surely want to try different foods during your stay. Siwa dishes are rather easy and natural - people use fresh vegetable available in plenty. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and generally includes rice (or macaroni), salads, fruits, olive, and cooked vegetables. Meat soap also accompany the lunch. A typical dinner would include salads, cheese, fried potatoes. People take green tea and hot milk too. While in Siwa, you should taste these natural foods. In an exotic place like Siwa Oasis, once visited by Alexander the Great, the names of dishes are also exotic sounding!
Moreover, there are special dishes for special occasions like Ashengoot, Engeel, Edsheesh, Emjerdig, Menina, Neseqqud, Roqaq and Tanqota’t.
Most of the hotels, and the household from where your guide may arrange your meals, should be in a position to happily prepare one or more of the above dishes.
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