Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Siwa Oasis - Part 10 : The desert : Is it the original Siwa? Hiking in Siwa!

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

Also Read
Part 1 : Transportation
Part 2 : Where to Stay
Part 3 : Where to Stay (contd)
Part 4 : Shali
Part 5 : Places to Visit
Part 6 : Aghourmy : The Oracle & the Broken Rock
Part 7 : Cleopatra Spring, the mountains & Fatanas island
Part 8 : The House of Siwa
Part 9 : The Annual Celebration

I have been to Siwa twice, but haven't experience a desert safari yet. I like to leave something to do during my next visit :)

The basic desert safari in Siwa is visiting Bir Wahed (Well Number One), and to an area called Sheyata.

Bir Wahed is about 15 kms to the South-West of Siwa. It was closed for a period of time to control smuggling through the Egyptian/Libyan borders. The well was dug while searching for petrol (please correct me if wrong), now it can be visited after getting theappropriate permissions (the safari organisers handle them).

Sheyata is another area to the West with a lovely scene at sunset and not far from the paved road and the inhabited areas. It is the place where they go for the cheapest safari trip. When you pay more, you go deeper in the desert to more "special" places. I say special because while I was talking with one of the people who works as a desert driver he said that each driver keeps to himself some special places.

There is a place to visit known as the petrified village.

I was talking to an Arabian person from Matrouh who owns a shop in the main square in Siwa. He hold me that when he was a kid, he used to travel with his family (nomads) until they reached Mauritania, and that his grandfather was told by his ancestors that current Siwa is not the one they used to go to! Could this be real? Is the petrified village the original Siwa? I don't know.

One more interesting thing he told me was about some food his grandfather used to prepare and eat for such long distance travel (as far as I remember it is called "telbina" and is made basically from camel's milk and barley/she3eer).

There is a Siwa protectorate in the West. I have heard that there are some 4-6 ibex there, which sounds like good news :)

Hiking in Siwa:
Is there any desert hiking in Siwa? I don't think so, but the project manager of the Italian development project in Siwa (called Shali project) said to someone familiar with the desert "go find me routes suitable for hiking in the desert, in the area of Sheyata for example".

There was a suggestion for hiking to Bir Wahed, but it would be a long distanceto cover in one day (going and returning) and there is no shade along the way.

There are three uninhabited oasis around Siwa (on the route from Siwa to Bahareya, their names are el-Bahrain, el-Arag & Nawameesa.

There is also the oasis of Qaret omm el-Shagheir, about 130 kms to the northeast of Siwa and needs special permission to be visited. There is a complete article about it in the Al-Ahram newspaper, as far as I remember it was dated 26 September 2006.

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