200 kms of almost dead straight desert road and we have arrived in Siwa, our base for Christmas. We got a faint glimpse of a town against a backdrop of sandstone with the desert rolling in the background set amongst palm groves. We rubbed our eyes and new we had arrived.

http://www.siwa.com/AlbabenShal.html

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?ll=29.205101,25.519399&z=13&t=h&hl=en

The 23rd was spent travelling from Cairo to Alexandria. We camped on the roadside after a few fruitless efforts trying to camp behind closed gates in hotels along the coast.

On the evening we arrived, we camped on a small dune outside of Siwa before booking into our hotel the next day. We got stuck in the sand for thirty minutes as we dug ourselves out. We let out half the pressure in our tyres and got going straight away; t made a huge difference. We awoke the next morning to a fantastic setting of pure sand.

Siwa was originally settled by Berbers making it stand alone from mainstream Egyptian society. It remianed independant till a few hundred years ago and was a stopping point for caravan traders. It was also visited by pilgrims searcihng for the Oracle of Amun.

It feels like Timbuktu, being on the edge of the Sahara. There are some really good routes down to the Great Sand Sea, Gilf Kebir plateau and the White Desert from here. 18 days notice is needed to get down there and it’s a 15 day round trip to somewhere like Gilf Kebir. Our Sahara Overland book talks in detail about some of the routes.

The afternoon we arrived I trip around town trying to get some sand ladders. I was taken to a family running tours who had a set. I might have to go back before we leave to get them. I’m sure we will need them from now on.

On the 27th, we have permission to follow another 4×4 vehicle to Bahariya Oasis, a 400kmm sand track that will take us south east from here. We are not allowed to go without having a satellite phone so the timing has been good for us.

Photo of Bun waking up on Christmas Eve. That was before she fell out of the tent and I had to try and catch her as she fell!