WARNING: Most Western governments have issued a travel warning against travel to Egypt and have asked their citizens there to depart. While there are seemingly stable areas such as Red Sea resorts, the political unrest in Egypt after the military deposed President Morsi makes it unsafe for tourists. Most western governments now warn against traveling to any part of Egypt.
The historic town of Siwa stands on an isolated oasis situated in the Western Desert region of Egypt, approximately 550 km west of the capital Cairo, 305 km south-west of Marsa Matruh and some 50 km from the border with Libya. Extending some 80 km in length and 20 km in width, the oasis is one of the most isolated settlements in the country. Siwa nonetheless holds a special appeal for many travelers on account of its isolation and unique character, its natural beauty and its historical associations. The town has a population of around 25,000.
The inhabitants of Siwa Oasis are ethnically Berber and their mother tongue is a Berber language called Siwi, though nearly all Siwis speak Arabic as a second language and many can also speak some English.
Note: This oasis is not a stereotypical palm grove with a watering hole for animals, Siwa Oasis is a vast region of date palms and olive trees extending over the horizon, with villages and a central lake.
The West Delta Bus Station is the city's main transportation hub and is located near town's main square, up the street from the bank. Buses to Marsa Matruh and continuing to Alexandria leave three times daily at 10:00am, 5:00pm, and 10:00pm. Booking ahead is well advised.
There are direct night buses from Cairo Gateway Bus Station to Siwa, leaving daily at 9:30pm and costing 75LE. Direct buses also run from Siwa to Cairo daily, leaving at 8pm and costing 75LE. You get dropped off in Tahrir Square at around 6am the next day.
To reach Siwa from Cairo on days not serviced by the direct bus, or to reach Siwa from Alexandria, catch a bus (or shared taxi) to Marsa Matruh, costing 25LE-35LE. From Marsa Matruh, buses run to Siwa daily at 1:30pm and 4:00pm, costing an additional 20LE.
There are regular buses from Alexandria, leaving at 8am, 11am and 3pm, air-conditioned and with modest prices. Journey time 9 hrs. The bus stops three times so you can buy a cup of tea and use the very basic toilets.
There is no bus service from Siwa to Bahariyya.
The road to/from the Bahariyya Oasis is in bad shape and must be driven by a 4x4. Drivers will make the journey when they have enough passengers, for a price starting from 1200LE per vehicle. One must try to negotiate a bit and look for other passengers to share the price.
Shared taxi service is erratic, but is available between Siwa and Marsa Matruh costing 20LE+++. The shared taxis arrive/depart in front of Abdu's Restaurant (across from the Yousef Hotel). Confirming in advance is highly recommended.
Bicycles are the best way to explore Siwa and surroundings, and Chinese gear-less models can be rented for 10LE per day (5LE half day). Before accepting a bike, however, check that it is sturdy, that the brakes are functioning well and that the handle bars are not cracked or bent. Note that driving on sand covered streets can be quite a challenge for inexperienced cyclists.
Donkey cart drivers are mostly children who have been riding donkeys for several years. Prices for this mode of transport are negotiable - just make sure the price is clearly agreed before setting off - and run from around 3LE for a short trip within the downtown up to 30LE for longer journeys. To get a few people and their backpacks from the bus station to town center can be as cheap as 1.5 LE. An afternoon trip to Cleopatra's Well will probably cost about 20-25 LE.
Temple of the Oracle, (Situated on the hill of Aghurmi, about 4 km east of Siwa Town). Built in the 6th century BC, dedicated to Zmun (Zeus). Kings unsuccessfully sent armies to destroy this temple due to the power of the oracle. Visited by Alexander the Great, who asked if he was the son of Zeus. Poorly restored. Nearby village is worth a look.25LE Adult, 15LE Student. edit
Temple of Amun / Temple of Umm Ubaydah, (200m further from the Temple of the Oracle). This structure is almost completely destroyed, owing to its dynamiting in 1896 by an Ottoman governor eager to acquire building material. An inscribed wall represents all that remains to be seen. Based on earlier drawings by pioneer explorers, however, scholars have deduced that the temple was erected by the pharaoh Nectanebo of the 30th Dynasty.edit
Cleopatra's pool. A natural hot spring feeds this rock pool, a popular swimming hole for locals and visitors alike. Tito’s Cafe, previously listed here, has closed. But the friendly owner has opened a new café at Cleopatra Spring, called Dolce Vita. He is fluent in Italian and also speaks English. The cafe offers a choice of cold and hot drinks and food, and you can get an uninterrupted view of the pool from the café or the Bedouin tent. They have a website with lots of photos, including the parties with Siwan musicians held there sometimes at night, check the Dolce Vita website for upcoming events. edit
Fatnas Spring, (6km west of Siwa town. Go past the Council Building and take a left at the first fork. Continue around the Shali and follow the signs.). Idyllic setting among palm trees and lush greenery. Great place to watch sunset. Small Cafe.edit
Gebel el-Mawta / Mountain of the Dead, (located about 1 km north of the centre of Siwa Town). tombs open when the guardians are present, daily 7AM-2PM (Fridays 7AM-12noon). This hill features a large number of rock cut tombs, mostly dating back to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (3rd century BCE - 2nd century CE). Make sure you see the tomb containing the 1500 year old Graeco-Roman mummies which are in excellent condition.30LE Adult, 15LE Student, Baksheesh expected. edit
the Tomb of Siamun - beautifully colored reliefs
the Tomb of Mesu-Isis - contains a mummified skull
the Tomb of Niperpathot - inscriptions and drawings
the Tomb of the Crocodile - deteriorating wall paintings show a yellow crocodile
Gebel Darkur, (4km from Siwa town). Get thrown into a bath of hot sand for 20 minutes at a time then drink tea. Supposedly good for rheumatism. (Summer only, July & August) edit
Excurisons to Bir Wahid, (12 km southwest of Siwa.). Hot spring out at the dunes of the Great Sand Sea. Spend a night on a desert safari in a 4x4. Experience enormous rolling sand dunes. Sandboarding can be done at a small additional cost, ask before departing. Swim in the hot and cold springs in the desert - excellent, although the hot spring is filled with (possibly rusted) minerals which will leave orange stains on clothing and towels. This may or may not be due to the pipe which supplies the pool. The cold spring is in fact lake-sized with very cold and clean water. Visit the fossilized sea remains in the desert. Sleep overnight at a touristy Bedouin camp, dinner provided. More than likely, the driver will leave and return at 8:00 AM to drive back to Siwa town - although the Bedouin caretakers will look after you.100LE + 5$ permit, Haggling necessary. edit
Egypt Western Desert Tours, (Pick-up from Cairo/Airport, Siwa Bus Station or as requested), ☎ +20 122 226 4711 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Let Loly & his team, of Bedouin descent, guide you by 4x4 on a desert adventure, including the major sights as well as the hidden gems!edit
The Siwa Guide. Join one of our desert safaris. Enjoy the view of a sea of sand that goes as far as your eyes can reach. endless fields of sand dunes and deep depressions, forming the famous oases of the Western Desert. Siwa, Bahareya, Farafra, El Dakhla and El Kharga comprise 85% of the whole Western Desert area and are inhabited by Bedouins, email@example.com or visit www.siwaguide.com.edit
Excurisons by car safari, (around the oasis outskirts). A nice trip by van or car can take you to a hot water spring in a camp next to Darkur, to the eastern lake, to zaytoun abandoned village, to Abu Shoruf cold spring and to the outskirts of the Great Sea of Sand. Cheaper then jeep safari, Around 50LE per person, no permit needed. Recommended and honest driver: Anwar (+20) (0)10 739 8012 .Around 50LE per person, Haggling necessary. edit
Abu-Zahra Bedouin Safaris, . One of the most famous families working in the safari business. well mannered and well-known. with a high level of concern regarding keeping the environment clean.edit
Siwa Dates are the best in Egypt, and perhaps the whole world. Apart from regular dates, they are also sold stuffed with almonds and chocolate. Shops specializing in dates are located around Market Square, and prices range from around 7 to 8 LE for a 500 gram box.
Abdu's Restaurant, (around the corner from the town center). 8:30am to midnight. Small, popular place. Offers a breakfast and a variety of entrées such as pasta, vegetable stews, couscous, meats, and salads - all freshly made, so be prepared to wait.6LE to 25LE per entrée. edit
East-West, (on the road leading from the town center to the bus station). fresh fish, pigeon, and pizzas.3LE to 15LE. edit
Dunes Restaurant, (Sharia Torrar). Tables set under the palm trees. Pancakes, smoothies, stuffed pigeon. Sheeshas, live music.From 8LE to 25LE. edit
Alexander Restaurant, (off central market square). Pizza, vegetable stews, great chicken and curry. Slow service.From 5LE to 15LE. edit
New Star Restaurant & Coffee Shop, Sharia Subukha (Opposite Siwa Safari Paradise). Set in a beautiful palm grove. Usual food. Sells traditional clothes and craftsFrom 5LE to 20LE. edit
Zeytouna, (Central Market Square). Popular Cafeedit
Bakri's Cafe, Sohag Rest House (Central Market Square). Great place for sheesha and backgammonedit
Nour El Waha Restaurant, Seboukha st. (opposite Shali Lodge), ☎ 2046 460 0293, . Nour El Waha is a popular hang-out in a palm grove opposite Shali Lodge. The food is a mixture of Egyptian and Western cuisine. Sheesha is available at night. Enjoy the food & the music & the traditional siwa tea in a romantic ambiance. * abou Ayman, town center (at Shali entrance). very good grilled chicken & Kofta (1/2 chicken @ around 20LE)editedit
Albabenshal Siwa Restaurant, Market Square (Just to the left of Shali Main gate, Fortress of Shali). Good food & dessert. (feteer (meat/veg) @ 15LE 1/2 chicken @ 20LE. don't miss the Konafa & the date chocolate fluf cake. you can have a drink on the roofedit
abou nesma, town center, ☎ +20(0)115022548. highly recommended chicken (do not miss)15 to 20. edit
Dolce Vita, Cleopatra Spring, . early morning to evening. A new café opened in April 2011.The friendly owner is fluent in Italian and also speaks English. Dolce Vita offers a good choice of cold and hot drinks and food, and you get an uninterrupted view of the pool from the café or the Bedouin tent. Their website has lots of photos of Siwa and the cafe, including parties with Siwan musicians held there sometimes at night, and also information on upcoming events.edit
Arous al-Waha (Bride of the Oasis) Hotel, (just north the town center - near the bank & Police station), ☎ 0464600028. checkout: 12pm. rooms with private bath with hot and cold water, but no air conditioning (except for some rooms), single:38LE, Double:50LE, triple @ 75LE. ask for safaries. Ahmed Bakkar 0020118547632edit
Cleopatra Hotel, (Just south of town center, near the Military Intelligence), . Probably the best value in Siwa. Staff will only clean rooms when requested to do so.Single: 14LE w/o bath, 18LE w/bath; Double: 25LE w/o bath, 30LE w/bath; Triple: 38LE w/o bath, 42LE w/bath. edit
Palm Trees Hotel, (Sharia torrar, Town centre, in the market). Bed bugs have been reported. Opt for the "chalets" rather than rooms in the main building. Bathrooms can be quite grotty, and don't count all of the toilets being functional. Very large, nice garden with trees and fire pit, where the staff will sit at night with guests. Roof terrace with a view of the oasis and Shali, can be used to hang clothes to dry if needed. Laundry done at 1 LE per piece.15 LE for a private room with a shared bath. edit
Yousef Hotel, (just around the corner from the town center and directly across the street from Abdou restaurant, in the market). A very clean, quiet hotel . Extremely clean private bathrooms with endless hot water. Roof terrace with a view of the town, beds are comfortable, and most rooms have balconies.Single: 8LE w/o bath, 15LE w/bath; Double: 16LE w/o bath, 20LE w/bath. edit
DREAM LODGE, 1 mile from town centre, ☎ 00201090650045 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 12; checkout: 13. from 160LE for a single room in a stunning hotel with two swimming pools! refilled with spring water. edit
Albabenshal Hotel, . Boutique hotel. Highly recommended. Albabenshal currently offers 11 guest rooms on three levels, connected through a network of alleyways and terraces that look over central Shali and the palm groves beyond. Inside, guest rooms are furnished and decorated in authentic Siwan style, with colorful Bedouin carpets, palm frond chairs, tables and beds, and linens of fine Egyptian cotton embroidered by women of the oasis (Siwa Creations). On the main terrace, the Albabenshal Restaurant serves a diverse offering of Siwan dishes.375 LE for double room. edit
Shali Lodge, . 16 rooms. Just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Siwa along a palm-covered dirt road, the 16-room Shali Lodge has simple yet elegant rooms furnished with palm frond chairs, tables and beds, complemented with colorful Bedouin carpets. Highly regarded restaurant with several different places to eat. Specialities include date omelet, lamb casserole or vegetarian tajin, each flavored with fresh herbs of the oasis.375LE. edit
Siwa Safari Paradise Hotel, ☎ 4602289 (email@example.com, fax: 46022285), . Bungalows and main building, with gardens. Continental style breakfast with Egyptian touches. De luxe hotel with air conditionning, cafeteria, restaurant, swimming pool. Visa card is accepted. It has a few annoying features but nothing you can't live with. Remember this is Siwa not a major resort.edit
Siwa Villa, Shali (behind the Old Shali), ☎ +20 (0)16 53 400 18 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Traditionaly restored boutique hotel. Run by an English family who live in the oasis.150le, 1,000le for the whole villa. edit
Taghaghien Island Resort, (Taghaghien Island in Lake Siwa (7 km from the town)), ☎ +20 2'' 634-4420 (Cairo) and ''+20 46'' 460-0455 (Siwa), . Single: From 200LE, Double: From 300LE. edit
Adrere Amellal: Desert Ecolodge, . 40 rooms. With no electricity, the rooms are softly lit with a dozen beeswax candles.From USD600. edit
Tamazigh, (Around the corner from Adrere Amellal). 8 rooms. A more intimate and more luxurious version of the Adrere Amellal. Large spring-fed swimming pool in lush garden. Some rooms are made entirely out of salt, including the bed and bedside tables.edit
Tourist Information, phone 4602338, in the municipal building, open Sat to Thu 8am to 2pm, Fr 6 to 8pm
Gas Stations beside the mosque in Shali and behind Hotel Arous al-Waha
telephone office, post office, police across the street from Hotel Arous al-Waha
The Siwa Guide, www.siwaguide.com , phone number (oo2)0119966319, Organizing trips and Safari trips, free tourist Advising and information about lodging, activities and sightseeing, and Cultural information
Busses to Alexandria leave Siwa at 7am and 10 pm, journey time 8 hrs. Busses to Marsah Matruth leave Siwa at 7am, 10am and 2 pm, journey time 4 hrs.
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