Siwa is one of Egypts hidden treasures. Reachable by a tarmacked road down from the Mediterranean coast, it is situated far out in the desert, surrounded in some of the harshest terrain imaginable. After hours of driving you crest a small escarpment and there before you is the green of the oasis, surrounded by large lakes. It is now a backwater, a time-warp of carts and horses still walking along the streets and through the bazaar. The old town, a mound of crumbling mud- brick buildings still sits on a small hill at its heart, but these days the inhabitants live in more modern buildings at its foot.
In all directions are irrigated fields, channels directing the water from springs and wells through a regimented and exact plan to ensure that everybody gets their share. The surrounding lakes are teaming with flamingos, feeding on the algae that thrive in their soda waters. To the south are the high dunes of the sand desert, creeping closer to the precious arable land but a playground for those who want to explore the old fossil beds that occasionally jut through, or go on a camel or 4x4 expedition.
In Classical times Siwa was one of the most influential places in their World. Its oracle was revered as one of the most sacred and many made the long and dangerous journey to visit it and ask questions of the future. This included Alexander the Great, who delayed his conquests to travel here, almost dying in the desert to get there. The remains of the Greek temple he built can still be seen on the site of the oracle, as can Greek and Roman masonry in nearby houses and their tombs that dot the rocky hillsides nearby.
It is an archaeological and cultural gem.