The Siwa Oasis in Egypt: A Trip Alone in the Sahara

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In these times of turmoil, Egypt is perceived as an unsafe country to travel to. It seems as if the masses of tourists that were overflowing his most famous attractions, had fled in disarray.

In the Egyptian Museum, before the revolution tourists had to queue to enter Tutankhamun's room. Nowadays -I was there in 2015- you will share a close view of the glittery mask of the Pharaoh, only with a few bunch of people. In this state of things, if you get yourself to a remote oasis, it's almost guaranteed that you'll have it all for you.

Siwa Oasis
Siwa oasis is half a day's journey by bus from Cairo, and it takes nearly eight hours from Alexandria. This didn't stop backpackers and tourists in general from filling up cheap hostels and air conditioned villas.

But the area is only 50 kilometers from the border with Libya, and when I went there, the last news from the neighboring country was quite gloomy.

But we are looking at the bright side of this situation. Now we can enjoy a country that has so much to offer to the visitor, without the excess of visitors. So let's see what awaits us after passing like six or seven military checkpoints on the way to Siwa:

The Siwa Oasis

Tea in the Sahara

The obvious in Siwa are the palm trees, lakes and a sea of sand. You just have to go out to enjoy the show and find a small paradise where you can relax, like Fatnas Spring.
All the images by Atlas of Wonders

The Oracle of Siwa
In history, this place is well known as the location of the legendary Oracle of Siwa.

The most illustrious visitor was Alexander the Great, who crossed the desert in a risky expedition with very few men. This was just after founding Alexandria, more than 23 centuries ago.

Temple Oracle Siwa
However, there is not much left of the shrine of the legendary Oracle, but the views form the top worth the trip.

Cleopatra Bath spring swimming pool
There are many natural springs and pools to have a splash, like the one known as Cleopatra's Bath.

Cleopatra's bath

Here I could witness a not very glamorous phenomenon: The bottom of the pool was pooping algae, emerging to the surface from time to time like bubbling turds.

Temple of Amun Siwa
Still, this is a nice place to stop and have tea on your way to the last standing wall of an Egyptian temple.

The sanctuary was demolished more than a hundred years ago.

Egyptian Temple Siwa
The temple survived until 1896. In this unfortunate year, an Ottoman governor short of building materials for the new mosque, decided to blow it up. Bye bye legacy.

Siwa oasis sniper elite 3
But if you'd like to see ancient Egyptian stuff (in this case, so far from the Nile), head to the Mountain of the Dead.

You can enter some tombs with decorated walls. Some of them were discovered during the Second World War, when the inhabitants took refuge here in the crossfire between the Afrika Korps and the British Desert Rats.

Backpacking Siwa Oasis
By the way, wondering what this is? Pigeon houses. Here pigeons are not a pest, but a delicacy in Egypt's cuisine.

Their droppings are also a valuable source of fertilizer.

Sugar cane juice
Egyptian food is absolutely delicious. I really miss the ultra-cheap pints of freshly squeezed juice, that you can find in every corner. Don't miss the juice of sugar cane mixed with orange.

Shali castle

I almost forgot to talk about the ancient fortress of Shali, in the middle of the town.

It was like a cluster of mud brick houses, built one next to the other. Today it's a labyrinthine ruin of abandoned crumbling walls and very narrow alleys.

Doggy Siwa Oasis Hotel
I stayed in a dirty-cheap hostel not far from there. So dirty that my en-suite room included a dune from the Sahara, inside the room.

Siwa Oasis homosexuality
Today it's better not to bring this subject up, but in Siwa male homosexuality was historically accepted.

Very quickly explained: It started with the tradition of forcing young boys to live together out of the city walls before they got married, without access to women.

Waters Oasis Sahara
To read more about this and the other interesting stories about Siwa, you can find many sources, like Wikipedia.

Dunes Siwa Oasis Sahara
I left the best part of the oasis for the end: Get out of it! Walk and find your way to the Sahara.

Only three or four miles to the southwest starts the Great Sand of Sea. Have fun rolling down a dune, screaming out loud or just enjoy the silence.

  1. I've been to Siwa twice and it certainly is a place to behold. First time, January 23 we stayed with friends of a friend on their farm, a 5 minutes walk from town past Shali Fortress. Sunsets are a must-see from atop Shali rock also Fatnas Lake, the desert....anywhere round Siwa really. The desert safaris were great fun....sandboarding, , sitting round the fire eating as the bedouin and berber tribes still do, sleeping under the stars, waking with the desert sun on your face. If you'd rather not sleep in the desert, ask your guides to take you for a very relaxing hot spring, GREAT. The town itself is busy busy busy but weirdly relaxing. Wander the shops, explore, listen, taste, smell, Its all there except pubs and clubs. Although, we did find a place for overpriced wine and beer [as you'd expect].It was in a hotel in the middle of the lake 20 minutes drive from town. And you have to try a lemon asab sugarcane drink mm mm mmm when in town. There are a few hotels, lodgings and Air BnB, in town and roundabouts, Dont expect much from some places so, look first if you can! A couple of hotels have modern facilities. Again, check first. It really all depends on what you want from your break away. The people are very friendly and helpful, NOT in your face trying to force sell you something [very refreshing]. The shop keepers and street vendors are very polite and discrete... and always willing to have a cuppa.
    Ok, so, there are 2 downsides to Siwa, the long drive from Cairo and.....I'm, the second downside isn't coming to mind yet.
    The second time we went April 23, we were less touristy. We had a plan! ..........And so we move to Siwa in October 23. We have a small farm [Known locally as a garden] not 10 minutes from town, 1 minute from the desert, 5 seconds from our own mineral pool and may be able to have our own hot spring from a well at the garden gate. The farm workers are always willing to please and share lunch if I happen bye at the right time, even though, lunch is laid on for the lads by us!!!
    I'm not a spiritual type of man [too many years in heavy industry] but, Siwa has an ambience of sorts. I'm not sure if it's the people or the place or both. It definitely has something. If I can feel that peaceful essence after just putting 1 foot in the sand then, someone whose more in tune with their spiritual side will probably move there faster than us.
    Ah yes, the second downside to Siwa and the worst....The road back to Cairo!

    1. Beautiful, thanks a lot for your story!

    2. That was so wonderful written. Thank you for sharing. I myself have been to Siwa twice as well. 2018 and 2023. And now I am looking for my own garden. Congratulations to you on finding yours.
      I am on the contrary, a spiritual person.
      I totally agree on that, Siwa is a very special place. I believe...... energy wise, it's because of it's location. But also because of its beauty in it´s nature. Which then in its turn, is reflected in the souls of its people. I wish you a happy life in paradise!


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