Siwa Oasis, Sahara Desert, Egypt
of Viia Beaumanis, special to Billy's House of Charm ~
Where to Stay | Getting There | When To Go | Rates | Snapshots
Adrère Amellal, a compound of ancient, original Berber dwellings
carved into a limestone cliff, deep in the Saharan desert. Launched in
1998 by Egyptian eco-pioneer, Mounir S. Neamatalla, and ingeniously handcrafted
using local techniques, it’s slowly been expanded into a 40-room hideaway.
100 percent electricity-free—hand rolled beeswax candles illuminate the
evening interiors; stairs and walkways torch or lantern-lit—a rustic-luxe
mix of Limoges china, antique silverware, Peugeot pepper mills, organic
cuisine and hand-woven, burlap placemats sets the tone at mealtimes.
More experience than hotel, at Adrère Amellal you ride black Arabian stallions
across the endless dunes that circle a vast, shimmering salt lake. Soak
in palm fringed natural hot springs under a starry night sky or wander
the desiccated basin of the ancient Tethys Sea, now lined in fossilized,
50 million year old oyster shells and sand dollars. Never been sand surfing?
Handsome Abdullah in his flowing white robe drives you to the desert’s
highest peaks in his Jeep and waxes your board Afterward, he brews a
pot of hibiscus flowers over a small fire as the sun starts setting;
colouring the sky the same hue as your tea.
Twenty minutes away by car is one Egypt's most isolated settlements,
the region’s namesake, sand road town, of Siwa. Where visitors can pick
up beautiful handicrafts, particularly textiles, drink mint tea in cafés
in a palm grove oasis with 23,000 inhabitants and a culture unaltered
in twelve centuries and tour historical sites include the Oracle of Amon
where Alexander the Great was declared a God in 331 BC.
Hard to reach and not inexpensive, Adrère Amellal is known
as the ultimate in authentic desert chic amongst intrepid travelers that
have ranged Juliette Binoche to Prince Charles.
GETTING THERE: Arriving at Siwa entails an eight-hour drive
($500 return) from Cairo or Alexandria—or a private plane that lands
at a nearby military airstrip.
WHEN TO GO: The ideal time to visit is December through March,
when it’s coolest.
RATES: $500 - $1500, per night, all inclusive.