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February 1, 2003
In town you can again find any guide easily who will take you, or if you are at the Ecolodge, you can go in the experienced hands of abdullah. The excursion will usually start with the guide piling you into the jeep and then heading out to the outskirts of the town, to the edge of the desert. Once you hit the desert, the guide will deflate the tires, and head out onto the sand. I was particularly shocked by how easy our guide made it seem. I pushed on at over 100 km/h, effortlessly weaving around dunes. The jeep seemed to glide atop the sand as we headed out into the desert. Just to play with us, Abdullah would have the jeep climb way up on top of a dune, and then plunge down the other side at a grade so steep I thought we’d for sure tip over.
I particularly loved just sitting in the back of the jeep and watching as the reassuring mountains around Siwa were slowly replaced by endless dunes. I couldn’t believe how our guide could remember exactly where he was going. He said that every night the landscape of the desert changes because of wind, but there he was driving around like he knew the exact route, without a compass, GPS, or anything. I guess when you grow up with the desert, you learn all its secrets. Abdullah told us not to worry though, he’d only been lost once, and that was just for two days.
After some cruising around the guide will stop and allow you to have your chance to have your fun climbing up and down dunes. As we trekked around Abdullah started getting some supplies out of his jeep for making tea. He invited us all to climb on top of a dune and sit as he dug a small hole and lit a fire atop, where he placed a kettle. Just as the hibiscus tea, made with his own home-grown hibiscus, was finished, the sun started to set. Watching the sun slowly disappear behind a sea of dunes while sipping hibiscus tea is still one of my favorite memories of Egypt so far. Everything was so peaceful and the colors produced by the sun were spectacular. The whole experience was almost spiritual. Desert sunsets are a must for any traveler to Siwa. It doesn’t get much more romantic than this.
From journal Luxurious Nature: The Ecolodge at Siwa
January 30, 2003
At the Ecolodge they have a private desert driver named Abdullah who is a good friend of the hotel’s owner, as well as superintendent of the Siwa school system. It seems that when he is not attending to his over 5,000 students at 29 schools spread over 250 kilometers, Abdullah makes some money on the side. He is an experienced desert driver who grew up in Siwa, but has traveled extensively around the world, especially in the US. He is the kind of man who will make you feel immediately comfortable and at ease.
The Ecolodge, and most hotels, have a few popular excursions that they run. The first excursion is to the hot and cold spring in the desert. It will often also include a stop at a section of the desert where you can find fossilized marine life from the time when the Great Sand Sea was really underwater. The hot springs (Beir Wahid) and the cold springs are located right near each other, just a dune apart. The hot springs is the more popular of the too. It may seem counter-intuitive to jump into a hot springs while in the middle of the desert, but the desert can be surprisingly windy and chilly. Also, after trekking around for a day, a nice warm spring is quite refreshing. The spring is surrounded by lush palm trees and there is even a little stand where you can get some tea or even a shisha. Beir Wahid is also a popular place to spend a night in the desert. If you are going to spend a night though, dress warmly. Desert excursions are an unforgettable experience. Now you can continue on to Excursion 2.