Adrere Amellal

Siwa & Desert, Egypt Book from US$460

Reviewed by Tom Bell
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
This hotel is like no other. It appears in biblical fashion, a mythical town marooned in the desert, its mud bricks built into the side of a sandstone mountain, its windows opening onto a shimmering lake. At its heart it is an eco-lodge; there is no electricity, no TV, no sockets in which to charge your mobile phone. By day the sun beats down, by night hundreds of candles illuminate the land. It is a place of wild beauty, the mighty desert tamed for us mere mortals to enjoy.

Nothing here is done by halves. Each evening you eat in a different place, one night on a roof terrace with a crown of stars above your head, another in an open courtyard with flames leaping from a fire. The 40 rooms – all different – are equally remarkable. One is so big you could lose yourself in it, another has doors onto a balcony where a second bed awaits in case you wish to sleep outside at night. Elsewhere, breakfast is served overlooking the lake, while lunch is taken in the shade of palm trees. There’s a large pool, too, and daily excursions into the desert are unmissable. Out of this world.

Highs

  • The setting is magnificent: desert, lake, mountain, sky
  • The buildings are pretty cool, too; they blend into the landscape like chameleons
  • At night hundreds of lanterns line the paths that weave through the compound
  • The trips into the desert each afternoon are spectacular

Lows

  • It’s hugely expensive, but rates do include all food, drink and activities
  • There is absolute no electricity, which may not be to everyone’s taste
  • Don’t come looking for nightlife; this is a quiet place
  • There’s no choice on the food menu, but dislikes are discussed in advance
  • There is no reception, no room keys; they do things differently here

Best time to go

The best time is winter (November-March) which is warm but not hot by day, and surprisignly cold at night. In the summer (June through August), when the heat is at its strongest, the hotel limits occupancy to 10 rooms; you really want to avoid coming at this time, though, as it is far too hot for comfort.

You’re also better off avoiding Ramadan, when some businesses will close for the whole month. And if you are travelling over holidays – Eid al-Adha, Ras an-Sana - expect the rest of Egypt to be competing for your seat. The dates for these holidays change every year, so check before planning your trip.

Our top tips

There’s no electricity here at all, none whatsoever. At night, paths are lit by oil lamps and rooms are lit by candles. All the same, it’s a good idea to bring a torch. And the batteries to keep it going.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Desert Hotel
  • 40
  • All-inclusive
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Fireplace
  • Internet access
  • Terrace

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Climb the mountain after which the hotel is named: white mountain. A path leads up to the top and takes about 20 minutes to climb. The views are predictably magnificent

  • The hotel organises 2 excursions a day, both included in the price. In the morning there’s a trip into Siwa. You might visit the shali, (the ruined citadel in the middle of town); the Temple of the Oracle (following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great); Gebel al-Mawta (the Mountain of the Dead), where you’ll find 2,000-year-old tombs. It’s also possible to visit the hotel’s organic farm

    Every afternoon there’s a trip into the desert. You’ll come across Roman tombs cut into the sandstone hills; ancient fossil beds; vast sand dunes that mark the start of the Great Sand Sea; hot springs where you can bathe. At sunset, you’ll drink mint tea in the dunes and watch the sky turn red. Unmissable

  • The hotel has a resident masseuse and massages can be arranged in your room, using Siwan olive oil

  • Horse riding in the desert is offered in winter

  • Decamp into the desert at night to enjoy dinner under the stars

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Massage
  • Sand boarding
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

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.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Families should take either the Royal Desert Room or one of the two Special Desert Rooms which can accommodate children.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

This hotel has not yet been reviewed by guests

Rates for Adrere Amellal