Adrere Amellal: A diamond in the desert
Charlotte Winter visits Adrere Amellal, a magical eco-hotel at Siwa Oasis
Driving towards the entrance of Adrere Amellal, it was clear that this was not going to be your average hotel stay. We bumped around in our minibus for the final leg of our journey, driving around the outskirts of Siwa Lake, passing by its glimmering salt waters, donkey-drawn carts and fields of palms, before being greeted by the mystifying mud, sand and salt-built structures. This other-worldly sandcastle was set to be our home for the next three nights.
Located in Siwa Oasis, Adrere Amellal is an eco-lodge like no other. With so many hotels dubbing themselves as ‘eco’, Adrere Amellal showcases what it really means to be green. The lodge is completely sustainable with no electricity, no plastic and water supplied from a natural spring. The buildings themselves are made from mud bricks and the bed frames from rock salt — basic but incredibly comfortable. And to a degree, it is the way that the property is stripped back to its raw form that makes it so special and unique.
With no electricity, at night the eco-lodge is magically lit up by hundreds of twinkling beeswax candles and oil lamps. During its high season, the lodge can get through an impressive 2,000 candles per day. The rooms at Adrere Amellal are simple but comfortable, each with a unique design and adorned with candlesticks, handwoven traditional rugs and colourful handblown glasses by the bedside. Crisp Egyptian cotton bedsheets and plush fluffy towels add a little extra luxe.
For those looking to cool off from the Saharan sun, there is a natural spring that serves as the resort swimming pool, perfectly shaded by a large palm grove. In the cooler months, lunch can be served poolside, along with several other spots dotted across the resort.
The food took us completely by surprise; every meal was exquisite, and in tune with the rest of the resort: simple but beautiful. The hotel grows almost all of its fruit and vegetables onsite at its organic garden, with other produce being sourced locally from Siwa Town and the surrounding areas, meaning guests can expect the freshest produce at every meal. Every evening, dinner is served in an entirely different location around the hotel, with enchanting cocktail spots and private dining areas beautifully illuminated by candlelight. From grilled pigeon to date souffles, hibiscus risottos to stuffed organic tomatoes, there wasn’t a single dish that disappointed. Even breakfast was a treat with freshly baked flatbreads, homemade date jam, local feta and bubbling glazed pots of smoky tomato beans.
During a stay at Adrere Amellal, I would highly recommend that guests visit the nearby town of Siwa. Unlike other parts of Egypt where tourism levels are high, Siwa Town is largely ‘untapped’, making for a truly authentic and memorable experience. We spent one afternoon exploring the town’s natural springs, including the Cleopatra Spring, before finding ourselves at a local bar drinking freshly squeezed juices with locals. For those keen on ancient history, the nearby Temple of the Oracle of Amun, which Alexander the Great once travelled to, is certainly worth a visit, as are the Tombs of Jabal el Mawta, where four 26th Dynasty tombs with well-maintained mural drawings can be marvelled at.
The resort is also adjacent to the mighty Saharan Desert, which makes for an exciting adventure. There is a little bit of paperwork to fill in, all handled by the team at Adrere Amellal, but once completed, guests can embark on a Saharan rollercoaster, bounding over endless mountains of talcum-quality sand by 4X4, before enjoying a refreshing drink and well-earned snacks (locally harvested nuts and fresh dates) as the sun begins to set.
In terms of getting to Adrere Amellal, there are only two options. The first is to charter a private plane from Cairo, but this has a costly price tag attached; the second is to drive. With the journey time by road from Cairo approximately 10 hours, driving is not for the faint-hearted, but we chose to see it as an adventure, and I would urge anyone not to be deterred by the long travel time. It is this isolation away from the rest of bustling Egypt that makes Siwa – and Adrere Amellal – so magical and I can confidently say I would undertake the journey again to visit Siwa once more.