Can you imagine what it felt like to discover Siwa Oasis for the first time?
Imagine yourself lost under the burning desert sun looking for shelter. Suddenly in the endless sand dunes, you see in the distance a scenery of lakes and palm trees. You run desperately towards the view, hoping that it’s not another mirage. Yet, it turns out to be real.
Arriving there to discover that this heavenly oasis doesn’t just provide you with water and shade. You realize that you discovered one of the most beautiful places in the whole world. You just arrived in Siwa oasis located in the western desert of Egypt, 450 km away from the Nile river banks.
Siwa has always been a famous stop throughout history for travelers and nomads. It provided them with an abundant water supply, food, and shelter. Humans lived here since the 29th century BC according to historical records.
This oasis is most famous for producing various types of dates and olives. Yet, this place is full of wonders; varying from architecture, culture, history, and nature.
Let’s find out what this amazingly peaceful place holds for us.
Siwa has a mixture of Egyptian and North African nomadic cultures. Moreover, the town cultivated its unique identity due to its isolation from nearby civilizations. Its locals speak “Siwi” which is derived from Moroccan nomadic language “Berber” or “Amazigh”. Nowadays, all locals speak Arabic due to their connection with the Egyptian culture, trade, and growing tourism.
Crafts and products of Siwa are getting stronger popularity year by year. The Siwan people developed a unique set of designs for their decorations, traditional clothing, cooking pots, and jewelry.
One of our favorite Siwan Products is the amazing salt lamps, which are produced from local salt that is found abundantly in its saline lakes. The lamps come in beautiful abstract forms and geometrical shapes, which can really add a nice lighting touch to your home. Additionally, they remove negative energy.
Siwa is very popular for producing various kinds of delicious dates. They have over 100 types, the most common ones are Siwi, Azzawi, and Frehi Dates. Dates are very important for Siwans, that’s why they make a feast after their annual harvest.
The traditional cuisine of Siwa is very similar to the Egyptian as well as Moroccan ones. In addition, camel meat is popular among Siwans, especially during feasts.
The secret ingredient to Siwan food is its locally pressed olive oil. This magnificent oasis produces the best olives in Egypt. Locals use them in all sorts of food and health products.
Traditional Karshif Architecture
Siwans build the traditional homes from the local materials found abundantly within the premises of the city. It sets an amazing example of how locals can make use of their environment to fulfill their needs for shelter sustainably.
“Karshif” is the basic building material. It’s created by mixing sand, clay, and salt, then it’s left to dry until it gains its mechanical properties.
Along with the thick walls’ construction, the building material provides protection from the hot summer days and the extreme cold of the desert night.
The roofing of the Siwan homes is made of halved palm trees and covered by dried palm leaves. Locals take these half palms from the male population of palm trees as they don’t provide a fruit yield and can be taken sustainably without affecting the annual crop.
From inside, of course, locals produces amazing furniture and handicarfts that is used to decorate their homes.
Annual “Siyaha” Feast
Siwans celebrate for many feasts during the year, some of them are exclusively local like Siyaha Feast, and others are for Egyptian feast for Eid, Moulid, and other religious feasts.
Every year in October, when it’s the full moon, Siwan people gather on the foot of Gebel Dakrur to celebrate the season of harvest. The celebrations last for 3 days, where all the locals gather to eat, feast, sing, chant and get along with their neighbors. Every family spends a certain amount of money and some loaves of bread and sacks of rice to the festival.
Certainly, all the locals contribute to the preparation process, and they are very welcoming for guests as long as they respect the traditions and rituals.
Traditional Music and Group Chanting
Of course, a feast cannot be complete without the traditional tunes of Siwa. Siwan music is characterized by its group chanting and sharp Flute melodies combined with clapping and percussive sounds. Siwans sing about their culture and their lives. Additionally, they sing for the sometimes love of God and religious figures.
Music is an important cultural activity for Siwans. It combines the people together, which makes it a common thing to do among groups of friends and families, not just during feasts.
The Best Activities & Destinations in Siwa Oasis
Because of the unique natural resources found in this small town, Siwa has a rich set of attractions. The contrasts found there can be seen all over the different activities you can do during the day and the night, varying between history and nature.
Hiking Dakrur Mountain
If you decide to climb this hill, you will get one of the most rewarding views in your entire life. You will be able to have a 360-view of the whole oasis. The scenery combines beautiful palm tree fields combined with the contrast of the desert and water bodies.
It is very interesting to notice the fossils of coral reefs on the top of this hill, which proves that this lowland was once completely submerged under the sea. Even though this hill is the highest point in Siwa, it is still below the current sea level by 25 m.
Moreover, Dakrur mountain is very famous among visitors because of the nearby sand burial remedy centers. People from all over the world come to these center’s seeking cure for rheumatism disease and relief from back pains.
Float in the Salt Lakes
This incredible place is known for its crystal-clear water with its magnificent light blue color. The salt lakes attract visitors from all the world not just for its beauty, but as well for its healing power against sinuses, as well as skin and eye infections
The water in these lakes can reach up to 4 meters deep. But you don’t have to worry if you can’t swim because it is impossible to drown. You will naturally float in these lakes due to their high saturation of salt.
Relax in the Hot Springs
If you think the desert is always hot and sunny, you haven’t experienced it by night. It can get extremely cold there especially in winter. But in this heavenly oasis, there is nothing better than the feeling of a hot spring in the cold desert nights.
You can find these pools of hot relaxing water in various camps. Just put on your swimsuit, and dip into this warm relaxing water. These natural hot springs could reach temperatures up to 60-degrees C.
Refreshing Cold Springs
During the day, you can enjoy a refreshing swim as well. And as bizarre as it might sound, If you are doing a desert safari, don’t forget to take a swimsuit with you.
Bir Wahid is a natural cold-water spring in the middle of the desert. There you could see the image of an oasis as depicted in movies; huge sand dunes with a magnificent spring surrounded by green bushes.
You can also enjoy another refreshing spring around the city in Cleopatra’s bath. Legend has it that Cleopatra went there to have a refreshing bath, but rumor has it that it was just a marketing technique by local shop owners.
Don’t forget to get a refreshing drink in the nearby juice bar “Tanta Waa”. You can chill in their roof terrace, have a fresh juice, and listen to some good music.
Desert Safari in an Ocean of Sand Dunes
This amazing ocean of sand only takes seconds to make you realize how humongous the world is. It is a very beautiful and serene place where you can go for night camping and enjoy the moon and the starry night. Additionally, if you are up for some sports, you can enjoy sand-boarding.
Watch the Sunset from Fitnas island
This island has the absolute best sunset view you can ever watch. Fitnas island overlooks the salty lake of Siwa, where you can see the great sand dunes in the distance.
It is by far one of the most serene places where you can unplug from the world and enjoy a nice tea with an amazing view.
The high walls of Shaly Fortress
This magnificent architectural masterpiece was once a collective shelter for all Siwan people. Its ruins are centering the heart of Siwa. Unfortunately, heavy rains highly damaged and destroyed it in 1926. This is because the local architecture is not well situated for heavy rains. As it rarely rains in Siwa.
The fortress was built so high to prevent thieves from entering. It sheltered the Siwans ever since it was built in the 13th century. On the bright side, there are plans by the EU to fund a restoration for this magnificent Shaly fortress.
Hiking the Mountain of the dead
If you are a fan of Egyptology, there are still some historical gems that you can visit in Siwa.
This Roman-era necropolis dates back to the 26th dynasty. The craftsmen carved it into the mountain during the Ptolemaic period. The tombs feature a cluster of terraced chambers decorated with beautiful wall art.
Oracle Temple of Amun
Erected in the 6th century BC, the Temple of Amun was famous in historical times for its divine oracle. Noble-men sought after it during that time to foresee their fortune.
The most famous visit to the oracle was by Alexander the Great, during his conquest of Egypt in the 3rd century BC.
This was announced to be featured in an upcoming Netflix show named “Alexander the Great”. The show will start filming in February 2020. It will feature some shots taken in Siwa, depicting the legendary story of Alexander’s visit to the oracle.
The Magical land of Siwa provides its visitors with an amazingly unique experience found nowhere else in the world. No wonder why it is gaining a lot of popularity, especially in recent years, among visitors from all over the world. We are happy that it is even starting to attract Egyptian youth, which encourages all of us to discover the beauty of our country, Egypt.
We encourage everyone to visit Siwa, we promise you one of the best adventures in your whole life and advise visiting Siwa in the colder months of the year to avoid the high summer temperatures.
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