Siwa (1 of 2)

Set against a backdrop of jagged sandstone hills, backed by the rolling silica ocean of the Great Sand Sea and carpeted thick with palm groves, this is easily the most captivating oasis in Egypt. Here, an abundance of free-flowing freshwater springs support hundreds of thousands of olive and fruit trees and date palms, which also shade and cool the valley's mud-brick villages as they rest concealed in the greenery.

Siwa's very isolation helped protect a unique society that until today stands apart from mainstream Egyptian culture. Originally settled by Berbers (roaming North African tribes), Siwa was still practically independent only a few hundred years ago. For centuries the oasis had contact with only the few caravan traders that passed along this way via Qara, Qattara and Kerdassa (near Cairo), and the occasional determined pilgrim seeking the famous Oracle of Amun. Even today local traditions and Siwi, the local Berber language, dominate.

Siwa is less about rushing around any major sights than it is about sitting back with a cup of tea or a sheesha and letting the halcyon days wash over you.

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Siwa, 60 pictures

Egypt, 1200 photos