Sand Sea

Siwa, Again and Again…

My last visit to Siwa for the next coming months was in the beginning of May when I went there with my friend Chris whom I met on the Camino de Santiago. Unlike all my prior visits to Siwa, this time I didn’t go with my friend who has a camping land and a Safari car from AmazighEx.com, instead I went all alone with Chris. I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Siwa like I do every time, but I was wrong!

We stayed in a hotel in downtown of the village, right in front Abdu’s Restaurant. I will have to give credits to Abdu’s restaurant for the most helpful staff ever; they have helped us with lots of stuff and answered all our questions, besides – of course – serving amazing western and local dishes! (You have to try their cheese with olive oil for breakfast!)

The first morning we woke up quite late (we had a LONG bus journey, a flat bus tire, and changing to another bus…not a promising start) so we just went to the receptionist and asked for directions to get to Shali, the old fortress/village. It was REALLY hot to climb up there, but the views of the whole oasis from above the mountain village were rewarding enough.

View of Shali
View of Shali the Old Village from the hotel's roof - Mountain of the dead can be seen at the right of the picture
View from Shali
The view of the Village from Shali

I didn’t know what else to do for the moment, so we came back to Abdu’s restaurant for lunch, then I thought we should do like the many tourists I always see in Siwa. Rent bikes!

To our luck, our hotel did make the service of renting out bikes, we negotiated a good price of EGP 10 per day, and then we went for my favorite spot in Siwa…the sweet heaven of Fetnas Gardens.

Relaxation in Fetnas

There I met Siwa’s God Father, Hajj Omran, who surprisingly was expecting me that day! Apparently my friend called him and told him I’m going to Siwa and definitely I’ll visit Omran and also ask him for some help…which of course I did, who else would I ask to get us a good Safari deal, and a night in the desert?

It was scheduled for the following day at 4 in the evening. So before 4, we decided to rent bikes again (we liked it a lot, the village is small but places to visit are at least 4Km outside town, empty streets!) and go visit mountain of the dead – Gabal Mawta. With an EGP 5 tip to the guard there we were allowed into 3 of the closed tombs that are still keeping their vivid colors from the times of the Pharaohs and Romans!

 

View from Gabal Mawta
EGP 5 was not enough to allow pictures inside the tombs :D

Next thing: Safari! Our driver’s name is Zait. He drives a brand new Land Cruiser, and boy is he a crazy driver!

Zait
Zait and his Car, and out beds for the night...

Zait is adventurous, he loves adrenaline and from my conversation to him I learned that desert driving is not just a job to him, before owning a 4WD car he used to do desert driving with a cheap Chinese dirt bike, something which – judging by the thickness of the sand – isn’t easy at all. He really loves his job and when I asked my friend who works in Siwa about him he told me that even if he has no guests with him, he would go visiting his colleagues in camps in the deserts just for the heck of doing some sand driving!

We did the usual safari visits, “The cold lake” and “Beir Wahed”, but this time he also took us to a part that I’ve never been to before, which explained why this desert is called “The Great Sand ‘Sea’”.

Sand Sea

Fossils

At this point I wanted to say “Thousands of years old fossils!” but I am not quite sure if it is 1000s of years, millions of years or how old is it…

So I’ll just say it is sea shells fossils in the middle of the desert! Indicating that this place was all covered by water, as a part of the ocean, back in the day…

Chris in the desert
Viking man in local Siwan dress, in the burning hot deserts of Egypt :D

After that we went to the place where we will camp, a totally different place from where I usually camp in Siwa, this part is called “Labaka”, it is full of huge whitish rocks and miniature mountains. And for the first time of my life I witnessed this natural phenomenon as the Moon Rising!

This was such a breathtaking view, the moon SO orange, SO BIG, SO bright and TOO close! Beautiful! And now I regret being THAT taken into the moment that I couldn’t look away and bring the camera! In a few moments the desert had bright white light and we could see without flashlights…

Desert Camp - Siwa

The overall of the night was amazing, I love desert camping, the serenity and the vastness of the place. The cons of camping at that time of the year though (May) were that the weather was just perfect for mosquitoes to be alive and energetic; I was eating alive that night! Have I not been too lazy to use the body mosquito repellant spray, I would have enjoyed a really goodnight sleep…

The following was just a nice lazy day, spending it back and forth between the hotel, Abdu’s restaurant and Shahrazad cafeteria (because they have Wi-Fi), and of course another beautiful sunset in Fetnas Gardens :)

Sunset Fetnas

I know that this is not my first post about Siwa, and I assure you it is not the last. I just love this place. A lot!

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