Why You Must Visit Siwa A Sahara Oasis In Western Egypt

By: Peter R Stewart

Siwa is a small desert oasis some 350 miles west of Cairo, and the best time to go there is between October and April, which is before the mosquitoes and the heat arrive. At this time of year the nights can be very cold, even freezing.

It isn't easy to reach Siwa which is the most western of the five major oases of Egypt. A hire car, fully air conditioned can take about eight hours to get to this Sahara Oasis.

Most of the tourists who visit Egypt restrict themselves to the Nile Valley, and visit the cities of Aswan, Luxor and Cairo. There they explore the familiar ruins and monuments of ancient Egypt, including the Great Pyramids and the temples of Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel. Sadly they are missing something totally unique in the Siwa Oasis, which after all is one of the great places of history, because of the visit of Alexander the Great seeking confirmation that he was a demi-god from the Temple of Amun.

If you love the desert, and you want to explore well off the tourist trail the Siwa with its oases, tumbledown ruins, salt lakes, springs, tombs, and amazing eco hotels is not to be missed

A few of the eco- friendly hotels at Siwa are as follows.

At the budget end of the market is the Palm Trees Hotel with a beautiful shady garden.

The Shali Lodge which has one of the best restaurants, but only eight rooms.

The Adrere Amellal, which is top end of the market, no electricity, and some way out of town

Please note, there is no bank in Siwa, so take plenty of cash.

The first thing you will see when you arrive at the Siwa Oasis is Shali, the remains of the old fortress, rising above the town square. When you climb up to the top of the hilly outcrop through the labyrinth of alleyways you will see the entire oasis below you. It is very lush after the arid desert with its springs and lakes, and beyond that you can see the mountains and the Great Sand Sea of the Sahara Desert stretching apparently forever.

The best way to explore the oasis is to hire a bicycle or hire a donkey cart, and for a few pounds the local boys who drive the carts will take you to Bedouin villages, Roman ruins, Cleopatra's bath, and the Hill of the Dead where you will find ancient Egyptian/Roman era tombs, some still containing mummified remains.

A visit to the Temple of Amun is a must do, and if you want to go further afield then the hotels will organise jeep safaris.

It is important to remember that Siwa is still a traditional society, and it is courteous to conform to the rules. Shorts, bikinis and brief tops should not be worn. It is sensible to be covered up, and women need to cover their upper arms, and wear one piece bathing suits with a long shirt if they bathe in a public place like Cleopatra's Bath.

Siwa is a beautiful Sahara Oasis, and should be visited now, before tourism takes a hold and spoils it forever.

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