“A spectacular desert eco-lodge wrapped up in silence 5 miles out of town, with a pool in the palm groves and a night sky to amaze you”
The 40 rooms are very private. They are scattered about in a number of different buildings, all of which use mud brick and palm wood as their main ingredients. There are no different categories of room. Instead, rooms are assigned depending on how many other guests are staying at the hotel, with an emphasis on protecting your privacy. Only one has a bath, put in for Prince Charles when he came to stay a couple of years ago.
Some rooms are enormous, the size of a couple of squash courts. Others are smaller altogether. One twin we saw comprised two small rooms with a shaded terrace in between. Many have walls made from blocks of salt, hexagonal chunks cut from the beds of Siwa’s saline lakes. There is no electricity whatsoever. At night, candles provide your light (you might want to bring a torch). They are lit when you are at dinner and you return to find them flickering from alcoves cut into your bedroom wall.
Several rooms have terraces or balconies, a couple of which hold proper beds in case you want to sleep under the stars. Many have cushioned seating areas; all have shuttered windows, which are generally kept closed to stop the sun invading the room. You get desert colours, Siwan rugs and red stone bathrooms with walk-in showers (gas-fired boilers provide lashings of hot water). Beds are turned down while you‘re at supper and come smartly attired in crisp white linen. There are no wardrobes, just pegs in the wall. You might find a sofa at the end of your bed.
All meals are included in the price, as are all drinks, including alcohol. Much of the food comes from the hotel’s organic farm, which you can visit. Everything else is homemade: the breads, the jams, even some of the cheeses. There’s a no-choice menu for lunch and dinner, though dislikes are taken into consideration, and the food itself is delicious. There is, apparently, enough variety to go for 21 days without repeating the same dish.
Breakfast is served by the lake. You get a mix of Egyptian and western dishes, perhaps scrambled eggs, bean soup, freshly baked bread and homemade olive jam. There’s tea and coffee, fruit and yoghurt, fresh juices.
Lunch is served in the palm trees down by the swimming pool. It is usually a vegetarian meal, as is traditional in the oasis. You might have imam bayaldi (baked aubergine with vegetables) or macaroni with salad. Everything is brought to your table. You get baskets of warm bread and there’s a bar from which you can help yourself.
Dinner is a pageant - and you never eat in the same place twice. If you wander around the hotel’s buildings, you’ll discover a number of open courtyards and roof terraces, and these come to life at night, when you are escorted to your private dining room under the stars. When you get there, you’ll find candles by the score illuminating your table. Then comes the food, perhaps shish kebabs with pumpkin couscous or aromatic chicken stuffed with rice. Puddings will be sweet, as is the Egyptian way. Very special.
Children of all ages welcome; kids aged 5 and under stay for free when sharing a room with their parents. There are no extra beds but there are additional beds in three of the largest rooms.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Families should take either the Royal Desert Room or one of the two Special Desert Rooms which can accommodate children.