12 November to 8 December
When you put your back to the green of the Nile River Delta and drive west you enter the endless golden swells of the Great Sand Sea. This is the mouth of the world’s emptiest place, the Sahara Desert. And somewhere out there, lost in the millions of empty square kilometers, lies the Oasis of Siwa.
Home to humans for 12 thousand years, this desert outpost is living history. With hundreds of hot springs, cold springs, mineral pools and even lakes, Siwa has been a watering hole and crossroads for millenia of changemakers. In this vast sea of golden sand Siwan is a garden, simply bursting with life, colour and history. And this November we will bring a group of families together for a month in this magical place.
Siwa is unique, a true oasis of green in the middle of sand. This microcosm is a haven for transitory creatures, birds, hyena, gazelle, even cheetah. The people here have a fascinating history of self-sufficiency, and a culture that has been remarkably preserved across generations. The Siwans are pioneers of food sovereignty and continue to practice ancient agricultural techniques, sowing and reaping primarily by hand. It wasn’t until the first paved road in the 1980’s that they were truly connected to the rest of Egypt. Siwans speak their own language, and have maintained a way of life that guards tradition, with change coming little by little.
The town arranges itself around the hundreds of hot and cold springs, with date palms, gardens, pharonic ruins and fascinating mud architecture seemingly everywhere. The temple on the edge of town was home to the Oracle of Amun, whose whispers inspired Alexander the Great’s eastern conquests, who was visited by Plato, and who legend says buried a 50,000-strong army of Persian warriors who were marching on the oasis in a great sand storm.
Temples and tombs are everywhere. Siwa is a long ways from Cairo, and mysteries are still being unearthed regularly here, with no gift shop or package tour to distract you. This is the Egypt of folklore, still hidden, still out of time, unfolding slowly for the patient and the brave.
The Berber are famously hospitable, but after millenia of practice in welcoming strangers who’ve wandered in from the dunes the Siwans have developed a new level of desert hospitality. While a trip through the souk in Cairo can make you feel like you’ve been spit out the back end of a lawnmower, Siwa brings the opposite. People here are warm and inviting, helpful, yet highly respectful and considerate. The opportunity to live among them for a month will be life-changing.
Our Long Gathering in Siwa begins in Cairo, where we will have a driver collect you for the overnight drive into the desert. The next four weeks will be spent exploring the culture, history and topography of the Oasis. Mornings are slow in the oasis, so our sessions will begin after lunch and end at 5:30pm, Monday through Thursday. We have incredible local learning guides who will lead the kids through hands-on experiences, introductions to mentors and experts, workshops and deep dives. As we develop our little community and integrate into the oasis over the course of the month there will be plenty of opportunity to explore together, to share a cold glass and a long conversation.
Here are some of the ways we may spend our time:
Studying the ancient ruins with a local Egyptologist.
An examination of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Weaving palm-frond baskets with the guard at an ancient temple.
Chemistry and natural-soap making with an exiled Libyan nuclear scientist.
Desert star-study with an astronomer.
Caring for the animals of the oasis with local farmers.
Berber music with local musicians.
Learning the traditional farming techniques that have kept this oasis flourishing.
Trekking in the desert, sunsets and campfires on the tops of the dunes.
Exploring ancient desert tombs.
Soaking in hot springs and mineral pools.
Siwa Oasis, Egypt. 800km west of Cairo
12 November to 8 December, 2023
2400€ per child
1200€ per adult
The program carries a level of physical and intellectual rigour that is best suited for children ages 7 and older. For families with younger children please reach out to ask about your particular scenario.
Transportation from Cairo or Alexandria to Siwa and back.
Kids learning program, 4 days per week.
Welcome dinner for the whole family.
Weekly family excursion, hosted by us.
Our Field Guide to Egypt.
Our support before and during your travels.
Our assistance finding accommodation for you and your family. Our hosts in Siwa have a number of properties to rent, from an ancient restoration to a mud-walled castle. We can help place you in the right one for your family.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
All meals except where noted
Any extra activities or events
Who is This For?
This is for those who dreamt of mystical and magical places, of secrets still uncovered, of lost cities and ancient ruins. This is for those who watched Indiana Jones and bought the hat. This is for those who can manage a bit of rough, who jump at the chance to ride in the back with the goats
The desert has always been where mystics go for guidance and healing. The oracle may be gone, but if you can still hear its voice then this is for you. As always, our trips are about quality over quantity, humility, curiosity, an eagerness to learn.
Our hosts in Siwa
Camilla and Daniel
For the last 17 years Camilla has called Siwa home. A naturopath and farmer, Camilla plays an important role in the local community, and carries the deep connections that only come with long residency and true integration. Her three children were born here in the oasis.
Daniel, Camilla’s partner, is a storyteller, a farmer, a father, and that friend whose conversations let you know that truly ANYTHING is possible. We have been connected to Daniel since the early days of our travel and he’s one of those people we call when we have trouble finding our north star. As Daniel knows, the stars are clearer out in the desert.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space.