Siwa Oasis And Great Sand Sea
Siwa Oasis offers all you could ask for in the way of desert beauty spots: thick palm groves clustered around freshwater springs and salt lakes; rugged massifs and enormous dunes. Equally impressive are the ruins of Shali and Aghurmi, labyrinthine mud-built towns that once protected the Siwans from desert raiders. Scattered around the oasis are ruined temples that attest to Siwa's fame and prosperity during Greco-Roman times; some claim that the tomb of Alexander the Great lies here.
The humble Ain Della (Spring of the Shade) has played an epic part in the history of the Western Desert as the last waterhole before the Great Sand Sea, used by raiders and smugglers since antiquity, motorized explorers in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Long Range Desert Group in World War II. It now has a small Egyptian Intelligence garrison that chases smugglers using 4WD instead of camels, as in the days of the Frontier Camel Corps, which once pursued a caravan of hashish all the way across the desert to Giza.
Between the Gilf Kebir and Siwa Oasis lie 72.000 square kilometres (27.800 square miles) of dune fields that the explorer Gerhard Rohlfs named the Great Sand Sea (Bahr ar-Raml in Arabic). Though maps still define parts as beyond the “limits of reliable relief information”, its overall configuration is known. From thick whalebacks and a mass of transverse dunes near Siwa, it washes south in parallel seif dunes (oriented north–south, with a slight northwest–southeast incline) as far as the eye can see.