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Siwa - A travel report by Filippo
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Siwa,  Egypt - flag Egypt -  Maºrø±
2802 readers

inzaghi's travel reports

The last frontier of humanity

  16 votes

Siwa travelogue picture
Siwa Oasis was my wildest dream come true. If in your mind you had always pictured soft, flowing, orange and yellow sand, a landscape out of this earth, unspoilt natural beauty, amiable local faces keen on smiling, then Siwa will be for you as much a dream come true as it was for me. Easily the highlight of my entire middle eastern backpacking odyssey.

Several members have written me emails requesting for information on getting to Siwa. There are no safe direct links to Siwa from anywhere else in Egypt except Alexandria. The only other way, which is very costly (US$500-1000) is by jeep along the Western Oases Highway (more like mudpath) which is very dangerous. Consider Alexandria, which you can get to easily on one of several daily trains from Cairo. The Spanish "turbini" comes first to mind, it is comfortable, express and very affordable even for First Class, which is recommended (I recall it being about 8-12 Euros one way for a student ticket). Continue right below...


Favourite spots:
Siwa travelogue picture
Every where in Siwa is a good spot, if not because every location is so beautifully bizarre, then because everywhere is so unspoilt and untouched. It's almost as if time never moved in this part of the world. I remember my favourite spot to be that on top of a ten storey high sand dune, on which I took a most incredible picture with my guide seated behind me. The desert sun was setting, the cool chill was blowing, the desert wind playing its tune - and for once I wondered if I had found paradise on earth.

Getting to Siwa (con't): From Alexandria, catch the local bus at the Misr Bus Terminal (NOT the train station). They run only 2-3 days per week, and advanced ticketing is necesssary. Bring lots of food supplies and water, because although there are stops enroute, the offerings aren't palatable nor safe for the long bus journey (about 7-9hrs) during which one would be well advised to stay healthy. A one way student ticket should set you back about 2-3 Euros. Continue...

What's really great:
Siwa travelogue picture
My most special moment is also the most unforgettable. Upon arriving in Siwa after a gruelling bus ride from Alexandria, my new friend and I hired a donkey cart that was led by a local boy of not more than 8 years old. He drove us through a jungle path towards what was to become a most unforgettable sunset experience in my life - that at Fatnas Island. The warm glow of the setting sun, casting its orange and red hues on the oasis - makes for an enchanting moment which no camera but the human eye can capture in its entirety.


Getting to Siwa (con't): You will be treated like royalty on the bus, because first of all they hardly see any travellers on this route. And you will realise that a lot of locals will go all out to extend their courtesies. I unintentionally held up the bus for about 10 minutes at Alexandria because I needed to get my food and water. They were all very gracious about it and just kept smiling. The final stretch on the road is like... continue below...


Sights:
Siwa travelogue picture
Temple of Umm Obeyda Amon, Temple Oracle, Tombs of Gebel Elmawta, Cleopatra Spring, Fatnas Island, village of Agourmey.

Getting to Siwa (con't): ... a page off Lawrence of Arabia. Miles and endless miles of desert sand as far out into the horizon as the eyes can stretch out to. We were also caught in a little sand storm which was more "wowww" than "ewww"! You will know that you are in Siwa when you begin seeing greenery all around you after an hour of sand. If you miss that, you won't miss the locals getting out of their seats and rushing to get together their belongings and rushing off the bus!

Getting back to Alexandria can be a little tricky. I suggest buying your return ticket right upon getting into Siwa, or perhaps after finding your accommodation and dropping off you bags. The ticket office is the strangest thing I came across in all my years of independent travelling. It's about 200m from the Cleopatra Hotel and housed in a ground floor apartment... continue...


Accommodations:
Siwa travelogue picture
Palm Trees Hotel, for barely LE7.50 I got myself a fairly huge double room. Things cannot get any simpler than they are here, with what only two single beds, a ceiling fan that threatened to fall off and grind me into minced pork, and a window net which will prove indispensable. All over Siwa, pretty horrifying lodging is common, but the Palm Trees makes up for it with cleanliness both in the room and in the common toilets. You will see smashed mosquitoes on the wall, but before you wonder how they got there, you would already have added your own mark to it. Smack!

Hangouts:
Siwa travelogue picture
Directly opposite the main entrance to the Palm Trees hotel is a newly opened coffee place. Very warm and inviting ambience, super cheap entrees.

Getting to Siwa (con't)... of a 4-5 storey high flat. You will see 2 men sitting on the ground floor balcony (which is weird), sipping tea and smoking away. THAT'S the ticket office! Just tell them you want your tickets, book the date and confirm the schedule. They do not run daily, so you might have to make plans. And for this reason alone, Siwa is not the place you want to go to if your next stop is the Cairo Airport. Buses can stop running due to bad weather, or simply sell out. Although you buy tickets here, you board them in the oasis centre near the melted down sand palace (where you first alighted). Hope this helps clear a little confusion!


Restaurants:
Siwa travelogue picture
The new Kenooz Restaurant is where you can live your wildest dream - to be the king of the world. Here you can 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.

Other recommendations:
Siwa travelogue picture
Go on the Edge of Sea of Sand Dunes excursion offered by just about every and any hotel you stay at. Arrange with fellow backpackers to go together because that represents good bargaining power. Expect to pay between LE20 and LE35 depending on the group size, but not any more. I paid LE25 for a group of 6, for a full day excursion including lunch.

Published on Tuesday August 13th, 2002


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Sat, Nov 13 2004 - 03:56 PM rating by shsmrsb

Great tips, many thanks.

Fri, May 28 2004 - 11:31 AM rating by mikeygee91

Great report! There's some humor in some spots although I find it "essential"!

Sat, Apr 24 2004 - 05:31 AM rating by willow

Good job!

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