Though most of Siwa Oasis is freely accessible, you need a 24-hour permit from Military Intelligence to visit Bir Wahed, Shiatta and Qara Oasis, or to travel the road to Bahariya. In each case there’s a fee of £E40 per person, and you must supply a photocopy of your passport details the day before (two days before Fri & Sat). Applications can be processed by local safari operators or through the helpful Native Siwan Association, and any problems can usually be resolved with the help of Mahdi al-Hweiti at the tourist office. Multi-day permits (for the Qattara Depression or overnight stays in the oases between Siwa and Bahariya) are harder to obtain and need to be submitted through a fully licensed safari operator at least a month in advance.
Jeep safaris are the rule in Siwa, but camel-trekking is also possible. Wherever you plan to go, it pays to shop around. Siwa’s tourist office can often arrange trips more cheaply than safari operators based at hotels, shops or restaurants. Among those worth asking are the Keylany and Palm Trees hotels and Ali Ashwaraf (t 010 0304 1191) who hangs out at the handicrafts shop next door to Abdou’s. Camel-trekking is also available (to guests only) at Adrère Amellal and the Taziry Ecolodge. The Safari Adventure Shop (t 010 0203 0215, e [email protected]) near Siwa’s bank has a wide range of equipment for rent, from sleeping bags to dune-surfing boards and GPS handsets (deposit required).