Friday, May 16, 2008

Siwa Oasis - Part 3 : Where to Stay (contd)

This is the third in a beautiful series of articles written by my friend Gabi Philips who has spent an extended period of time in Siwa.

Read Part 1: Where to Stay before you read this part.

In my previous message I forgot to state that there is more than one hotel (less than 100LE) in the area of Gebel El-Dakroury, one of them is called Amun hotel. They are usually used in the summer by people who come to experience the curative powers of being buried in sand.

Now to some of the interesting hotels in Siwa:

1. The Desert Rose hotel: "Desert rose" is not just another name for the hotel, but a very meaningful one. After leaving the "noisy" town behind and on your way to the hotel, you pass a long stretch (by bicycle/donkey cart/car) of land, where there are gardens on the right side and thedesert on the left.

It is located about 3 kms away from downtown on the way to Bir Wahed in an area called "el-shahayem" (Southwest of Siwa). I felt as if I was on the border of the great sand sea as the old asphalt ends only about 200 meters after the hotel (my personal conclusion is that this asphalt was paved when king Fouad visited the oasis).

There are only 8 rooms with external bathroom. Prices on B&B are 70, 120, 180 LE for single, double or triple room respectively. But add everyday transportation to move anywhere (about 20LE each time) to your costs. They can prepare Siwan food.

2. Dream lodge: Located in the Northeast of Siwa in the area of Gebel el-mawata. It is built and operated by a local Siwan "Gamal Youssef" who is originally a builder.

The lodge consists of only 6 rooms (planning to build more) Each room with attached bathroom, TV, fan and heater.

Prices on B&B are 120, 160, 190LE for single, double or triple room respectively.
Contact 046/4601745 , 010/7625862, 010/0999255. The lodge is still new.
They can prepare Siwan food.

Speaking with the owner gave me insight into the operational problems that he faces because he is a local and not an investor.
As a builder, he built every part of it himself, so it cost him material and finishing about 240,000 LE. Now to get a licence from the tourism authority he has to pay some fees where the lodge is priced at a value of 2 million LE!!! He also stated that some Non- Egyptians bought houses in Siwa and operate them as lodging facility, marketing through the internet and accepting the guests officially as friends not tourists hence they pay nothing to the tourism authorities.

3. Adrar Amellal Ecolodge: in the Siwan language it means 'the white mountain', sometimes also called Ga'far for the Shrine of a holy person in the area named "Ga'far". It is located about 17 kms to the West of Siwa at the Western end of the Western lake. Adrar Amellal Ecolodge is built using Siwan materials.

There are several locations on the premises for having breakfast and dinner (about 5-6 places, check the photos). Lunch is served in the garden (amidst palm trees) where there is a natural water pool.

Normal room price may be 250 - 350 $/night and reaches 400$/night in the Royal Suite. (Prince Charles stayed here and so enjoyed himself that he extended his stay from 1 to 3 nights) As far as I know a desert safari is included in the price of the room.

However, there are some people who disagree with the building of such lodges. Some locals say that a poor man can't build a house anymore as such ecolodges increase the prices of building material. For example a palm trunk which used to cost 1LE now sells for 6 LE (600% increase). Palm trunks are used as ceiling and must be used at a specific time of the year otherwise it needs some extra "treatment" before being used for building.

One more "resort" I would like to point to is "Royal Cleopatra International Touristic Resort" It is just behind Gebel El-Dakroury and it seems to be targeting guests interested in the sand burying technique.

Pictures and more descriptions can be viewed here

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