Ecolodge

Adrere Amellal Ecolodge

[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.

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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

[T]he 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.

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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

[A]ll 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.

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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

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 farmEvery 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
  • Shopping/markets
  • Sand boarding
  • Massage

Facilities

  • Dining: All meals are included, and served at different places each evening. Drinks are included too; the winter bar has an open fire, great art and sofas galore
  • Communal areas: Open courtyards all over the hotel come with cushioned sofas and open fireplaces. There are also cushioned sitting areas throughout the hotel, built into the side of the mountain. You’ll find deck chairs and sun loungers on communal roof terraces, good by day for a little sun, better by night for a million stars. There’s also a small library down by the lake, which is stocked with good books; a great place to escape the sun
  • Internet Access: None
  • Swimming Pool: A large swimming pool in the middle of a palm grove has cushioned loungers and vast views of the mountain
  • Spa Treatments: In-room massages available
  • Weddings and Celebrations: Adrere Amellal would make a fabulous destination for a wedding or small celebration
  • Max. Wedding Guests: 100
  • Meetings/Functions: Not suitable
  • Disabled Access: Not suitable
  • Pets: Not suitable
  • Languages Spoken: English, Arabic

Also…

  • No cell-phone use outside the bedrooms; this place is at one with its natural surroundings
  • Laundry service is available

Environmental Policy

The lodge was built from local materials (palm wood, mud- and salt bricks) as part of a local sustainable-development plan. There’s no electricity whatsoever, the swimming pool is fed by a natural spring, and all food is homegrown / homemade or local.

When 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.

Author’s 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.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Terrace
  • Guest lounge
  • Library
  • Internet access
  • Outdoor pool
  • In room treatments available
  • Available for exclusive use
  • Airport Transfers

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), Teenagers (over 12 years)

Press Reviews

MSN Travel, April 2013
„Blending imperceptibly into the mountains of the Siwa Desert, Adrere Amellal could at first be mistaken for a mirage. Its carbon footprint is almost as faint: with no electricity (read: nowhere to charge your phone), its traditional mud buildings are naturally ventilated and at night the resort is lit with oil lamps and hundreds of beeswax candles. The food is locally sourced or grown organically, and you can lunch in the shade of palms beside the natural spring-fed pool.”

Conde Nast Traveller (UK), Gold Standard Hotels, February 2013
„Unless you have a private jet, it takes a day to reach Siwa Oasis, by road from Cairo via the Mediterranean coast or across desert tracks. Sixteen kilometres beyond Siwa town, Adrere Amellal sits beneath a white, flat-topped hill facing a salt lake and the rolling dunes of the Great Sand Sea. The buildings are in traditional Siwan style, made of salt-rich mud; the furniture is made from dried palm fronds or solid blocks of salt; and the candles that light the rooms at night are pure beeswax. One of the biggest pleasure is the staff, who serve lunchtime hibiscus risottos under the palms, sunset tea in the dunes and date soufflés on the roof or in a private chamber. Siwan time is slow, a seductive tempo in which you drift in the spring-fed pool, or are driven to the ancient ruins.”

Conde Nast Traveller (UK), January 2011
„I spent three nights in Siwa, staying at Adrère Amellal, a hotel that has redefined the meaning of luxury in Egypt. Its mud-brick rooms are extremely simple, the furniture made of palm fronds, the mattresses rammed cotton. There is no marble, no black-suited staff, no air conditioning, no electricity. The luxury lies in the uncluttered enjoyment of simple things: being served delicious meals under the palms; swimming in a pool that is also a natural spring; riding horses around the lake; being driven into the dunes to watch the sunset; spending evenings in the light of spluttering beeswax candles. When the candles burn out, all is darkness.”

Conde Nast Traveler (US), August 2010
„Adrère Amellal, built of mud and salt crystals, sits at the foot of a flat-topped white mountain considered holy by the local people. In an immense „ballroom” (a bowl between tall dunes), dinner is served at magnificent tables set with crystal and argenterie. Later, Siwan staff in turbans and tunics escort you into the desert. They don’t use flashlights; you walk up a dune in the pitch black. On the other side are real beds made of palm reeds, with proper quilts and pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets. But if you fall asleep, you’ll miss the magic of absolute silence.”

Travel + Leisure
„A beacon of conservation, this Berber-style hotel on the Siwa Oasis was constructed as part of a local sustainable-development plan. The fortress-like compound of 40 rooms is made of kershef, a heat-resistant mixture of rock salt and clay, and has stylish palm-beam roofs, beeswax candles, and stone floors covered in locally woven rugs.”

Location
Adrere Amellal is located 16km outside the oasis town of Siwa, which is on the edge of the Great Sand Sea in Egypt. It’s 800km from Cairo (7-10 hours west depending on how fast your driver goes) or 300km south of Mersa Matruh on the Mediterranean coast.

By Air:
Mersa Matruh is the closest airport, but only has occasional charter flights, so most people fly into Cairo International and then travel overland (rather dauntingly 800km away!) Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving this airport.

From the Airport
This might sound profligate, but a private transfer from Cairo airport probably makes sense – as it’s a pretty good rate for such a long journey. They’ll meet you off your flight, you can stop at El Alamein, you won’t have to pay for a hotel in Cairo. Enquire when booking. Another option is to hire an air-conditioned luxury minibus with a driver (enquire at your Cairo hotel; if there are more than 5 of you it may be more economical than getting the bus, and obviously more convenient). The final option is to take the overnight bus – this is what expats living in Siwa do. Someone from the hotel will meet you in Siwa.

By Bus:
You can catch a bus from Giza, Almaza or Torgoman bus stations in Cairo, with an easy change in Mersa Matruh. Torgoman is near the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It’s also easy to take a bus here from Alexandria and Bahariyya; enquire when booking. Someone from the hotel will meet you in Siwa.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

Airports:

  • Mersa Matruh 300.0km MUH
  • Cairo International 800.0km CAI

Other:

  • beach: 300.0 km
  • shop: 15.0 km
  • restaurant: 15.0 km

  • Single Room  287  GBP

    • 1 single bed | 1 guest plus
    • Description: Single room with salt-rock walls; ensuite bathroom with shower
    • Number of Room Type: 10
    • Max occupancy: 1 adult + 1 child
    • Room Features: fireplace.
  • Double Room 378  GBP

    • 1 kingsize bed or 2 single beds | 2 guests plus
    • Description: Kingsize double or twin room with salt-rock walls; ensuite bathroom with shower
    • Number of Room Type: 22
    • Max occupancy: 2 adults + 1 child
    • Room Features: fireplace.
  • Special Desert Room 499 GBP

    • 1 kingsize bed | 2 guests plus
    • Description: Larger room with salt-rock walls and ensuite bathroom with shower. Two rooms can accommodate a child.
    • Number of Room Type: 7
    • Max occupancy: 2 adults + 1 child
    • Room Features: fireplace.
  • Royal Desert Room 887 GBP

    • 1 kingsize bed | 3 guests plus
    • Description: Largest room with salt-rock walls and ensuite bathroom with shower and bathtub
    • Number of Room Type: 1
    • Extra beds (available on request): 1 rollaway bed
    • Max occupancy: 4 adults + 1 child
    • Room Features: fireplace.

 

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