The Western Desert and Oasis
Occasional rains fill huge underground aquifers beneath the desert, which occasionally break through to the surface. Just like along the Nile, water is the key to life here and where the water break through the surface thriving oases have formed around the springs. These isolated gardens in the desert have long supported substantial communities of people and substantial agricultural development as well as a culture unique from that of the Nile Valley.
In Siwa, people even speak a different language called Tisiwee, which comes from the nomadic Berber people who live further West in the desert of Libya and Algeria.
Today the oases are much smaller, but they still support a unique culture and some of the most active archeological sites in the Egypt highlighted by the discovery of a huge Middle Kingdom burial ground known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies near Bahariyya in 1999. Today, given its proximity to Cairo, Bahariya is the most popular with visitors, who use it as a starting point for desert camping expeditions to the surreal White Desert and the Great Sand Sea.
The other oases are less commonly visited, but they offer an adventure to the traveler seeking to get as far off of the beaten path as possible and each of them offer several interesting archeological remains from the pharaonic or Greco-Roman periods.
Outside influence in Siwa has increased since a road was built linking it to the coast in the 1980’s, but it remains a singularly unique place, famous for its warm springs and huge groves of olives and date palms.
Today it is a growing attraction to visitors seeking to the ultimate relaxing and remote getaway and several luxurious hotel and eco-lodges have been built there. The journey to Siwa is long, but well worth the effort given the unique charm of the oases with the remains of an ancient fortress town, salt lakes and fresh water springs, palm groves, and the surrounding desert.
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