While the Pyramids of Giza are symbolic to the rich history of the ancient Egyptians, the lands towards the west are also shrouded in primordial abundance. The Siwa Oasis is inhabited by a few thousand friendly Berbers and Bedouins. The city is 348 miles away from Cairo; the flight time is restricted to 45 minutes in the air. A drive would cost 8 lost hours in the desert. The closest civilian airport to Siwa disengaged from service a long time back. The only functional one is operationalized by the military. Consequently, in case of round trips, an average window of two weeks is needed to confirm parking availability. Siwa presents a range of different sightseeing activities for tourists. Nowadays, COVID-19 restrictions mandate 1 metre for social distancing in the region.
1. The Temple of the Oracle
We recognize oracles as harbingers of divine knowledge sent by the deities of antiquity. The Temple of Amon is dedicated to the most documented god in Egyptian mythology; Amun-Ra. Alexander the Great built this temple to gain the acceptance of the Egyptian people as the son of the sun god. Ancient literature always drew parallels between Amun-Ra and Zeus, so this move was necessary for Alexander to secure his authority in the region.
Even though most wall details have eroded over the test of time, the feeling of walking within those prehistoric ruins is almost unbelievable. The entire shrine looks like it materialized from the mythical papyrus of Egyptian records. The impression really makes one realize the strength and might of a bygone empire.
2. Cleopatra’s Pool – Spring of Juba
Surrounded by shops and tiny cafes, the Cleopatra Pool is only a few kilometers away from the Temple of the Oracle. Sanitary conditions are always improving through tourist feedback. The water collects from a natural spring water source. Swimming in this pool has a fun twist to it; everyone bathes with their clothes on. So, remember to bring a fresh set of clothes for a dip.
Surprisingly, the main attraction about this Siwan location is embedded into the serenity it offers. The crowds are limited, tourists can relax and douse on some refreshments under shady palm tree cafes. The only question left is – did Cleopatra really grace this spring with her majestic presence? Visit to find out what the locals think!
3. Zeitoun Saltwater Lake
If you had swimming involved in your original trip plan, then this is the place to do it wholeheartedly. Except, this won’t be like your usual swim. The water is crystal blue and dense with saline compounds. People can float in the water! Among the locals, it is believed that the lake manifests healing properties. Several parents take their young children here for medical remedies to sinus, skin, and eye conditions – but mostly for the enjoyment.
The biggest Salt Lake among them all, Zeitoun is only 50 km away from Libya. Its sensitive ecosystem was preserved over the centuries because the location was primarily remote. The salt deposits carve an interesting mesh of pathways in the oasis. Happy floating in the middle of the desert!
4. Old City Siwa – The Shali Fortress
In the heart of Siwa lies a remarkable architectural structure standing since the 13th century. To this day, the rocks are climbable and preserved. The point at the top presents a breathtakingly historical view of the entirety of old city Siwa. Nature is truly magical here. Clay-based foundations like this can only survive in the desert. The residents moved out in the 1800s, but the old mosque welcomes worshippers to this day.
Watching the sunset from the summit is a view appreciated by all tourists who explore these centuries old ruins. The guides spin incredible tales once home to the fort and its outskirts. A few rainfalls some years down the lane may disintegrate the entire monument, so climb before it’s gone.
5. Fatnas Saltwater Lake
If Zeitoun is the largest saltwater lake in the region, Fatnas hordes the highest amount of salt. Which means, this lake is even better for floating. The shores are laden with palm trees, hammocks, and open-air cafes. The scenic beauty of the lake is second to none; the caramel hues in the sky are stunning. Into the distance, the Fatnas Island is also visible. Sunbaths are a relatively new custom here where sand from the shore is used to heal the body.
Mix your fruit juices, sip some lemon-grass tea, and enjoy the Egyptian romance in the air. It will take some half an hour from the center to arrive at the destination. Book a car or take a tuktuk, your choice. The primary point is to arrive before the sun starts descending into the distant island.
6. The Western Desert
The desert itself has a lot to offer. Bedouin camping and dune bashing are one of the more popular activities that interest the tourists flying into Siwa. Setting up tents amid the sand is a unique experience. Laying down under the star-lit sky of a majorly nonurban area is different from the usual sky that we see. The air is devoid of smog or pollution which makes the sea of night stars shine their brightest.
Jeeps and cars are available for sand driving. Sandboarding provides a fresh take on skateboarding in general. There are several local service providers for such activities. Enjoy barbequed dinners at dune camps after the tiring workouts in the desert.