Siwa Oasis – Siwa, Western Desert, Egypt

Desert Tempo in an Oasis Stuck in Time

Covering two thirds of Egypt and the very antithesis of the green Nile Valley, the Western Desert (an extension of the Sahara) is punctuated by only a handful of exotic oases. Picturesque Siwa, located near the Libyan border on a centuries-old caravan route, is famous for its dates and olives.

Despite the recent arrival of television and a steady trickle of adventure tourism, this lush oasis remains an intriguing desert outpost, where the unique Siwan culture and customs con­tinue much as they did when Alexander the Great passed through in 331 B.C. (the dis­covery of his alleged tomb here made interna­tional headlines in 1995).

Siwi, a Berber tongue, is spoken instead of Arabic. Women veiled in raven black still wear the traditional complex braids and cover themselves with Egypt’s largest, most ornate silver jewelry—a local craft whose examples have become cov­eted collector’s items. The oasis is sustained by 300 life-giving springs and freshwater streams. More than 300,000 palm trees and 70,000 olive trees attract an amazing bird population.

Within this biblical setting, the magical Adrere Amellal Oasis hotel lies within a lush grove of ancient date palms. The lodge is the brainchild of a Cairene businessman bent on proving that luxury and return to nature are not mutually exclusive. There is no electricity, no phones, and no nightlife; instead, there are rock salt houses, candlelit alleys, exquisite meals from the hotel’s organic garden, and fascinating excursions into the Great Sand Sea of Egypt’s Western Desert.

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