Originally from Marsa Matruh, Mahmoud Sedky works in the tourism business based in Siwa Oasis, Egypt. He has extensive experience in planning trips for tourists to visit not only Siwa, but the Nile and many other places. His tourism agency, “Bedouin,” partnered with Gazef, has been running for 15 years. People from all around the world have visited Siwa Oasis. In the future, they plan on expanding the tourist experience with desert rallies, kite surfing, and camel rides.
Sedky has been in contact with Tinariwen’s office manager to plan a concert in Siwa and is looking for Red Bull to sponsor it. He is friends with Imarhan, Tinariwen and Bombino’s agent, and is hoping to get them all to do music events in Siwa. The bands have already thought about Egypt, but have yet to perform there. Sedky believes Siwa will be the perfect place for them. He is a big fan of Tinariwen himself, and particularly appreciates Ibrahim Ag Alhabib’s life story. Bedouin is naming both the tourist promotion and the hotel they are currently designing “Tenere Lake View Resort”. “Tenere” is the Tamashek word for desert, unrelated to Siwa, but Sedky says that since “desert-lovers” are often allured by the advertisement of Tuareg culture, the word could attract this crowd to visit Siwa.
It’s important to know a bit about the Siwa Oasis beyond what is imagined in a tourist’s fantasy. It’s an urban oasis town 50 km east of the Libyan border, in the Western Desert of Egypt. Siwa Oasis is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements with about 33,000 people, most of whom are Berber who speak the Berber language called Siwi (Jlan n isiwan). Sedky himself has learned how to speak Siwi from all his time there.
The name Siwa first appeared in the 15th century; the etymology of the word is unclear. Some scholars link it to the Siwi word asiwan, a type of bird of prey.
In the 12th century, Al-Idrisi mentions it as being inhabited mainly by Berbers, with an Arab minority; a century before Al-Bakri stated that only Berbers lived there. The Egyptian historian Al-Maqrizi traveled to Siwa in the 15th century and described how the language spoken there is similar to the language of the Zenata.
The traditional culture of Siwa shows many features unusual in Egypt, some reflecting its longstanding links with the Maghreb and the fact that the inhabitants are of Berber origin. Until a tarmac road was built to the Mediterranean coast in the 1980s, Siwa’s only links with the outside world were by arduous camel tracks through the desert. These were used to export dates and olives and bring in trade goods on the route that linked the Maghreb to Cairo and hence to Mecca.
As a result of this isolation, the Berber inhabitants of the Oasis developed a unique culture manifested in its crafts of basketry, pottery, silver-work, embroidery and style of dress.
The jewelry, which is made by local silversmiths, comprises silver necklaces, earrings, bangles, hair ornaments, pendants and many rings.
Agriculture is the main activity of modern Siwa, particularly the cultivation of dates and olives. Tourism has in recent decades become a vital source of income. Much attention has been given to creating hotels that use local materials and display local styles, which brings us to Bedouin.
Medical tourism and agriculture
Bedouin’s head project is medical tourism and agriculture in Siwa Oasis. Sedky was at an event for medical tourism in Cairo on Sunday, September 22. His team met with the Ministry of Tourism to propose their plans and he says they loved it. What is medical tourism?
“Medical Tourism is where people who live in one country travel to another country to receive medical, dental and surgical care while at the same time receiving equal to or greater care than they would have in their own country, and are traveling for medical care because of affordability, better access to care or a higher level of quality of care. “Domestic Medical Tourism” is where people who live in one country travel to another city, region or state to receive medical, dental and surgical care while at the same time receiving equal to or greater care than they would have in their own home city, and are traveling for medical care because of affordability, better access to care or a higher level of quality of care.”
Sedky and his team are working to develop services in Siwa Oasis to treat skin diseases and rheumatism. These serves include salt lake baths, sand baths, salt massages, mud masks, oil massages, and salt caves.
The negatively charged ionized salt and trace minerals that are present in the cave’s atmosphere are said to naturally draw toxins and impurities out of the body, reduce inflammation, and improve respiratory ailments like asthma by clearing the lungs.
Thought to have similar effects to a sauna, in that it cleanses the body and helps to remove toxins through sweating, the sand bath has the added benefit of the weight of the hot sand pressing down on the body to help loosen muscles too. The hot sand soothes the body without causing burns.
It is said that a sand bath provides relief for people suffering from a range of muscular disorders as well as helping to ease the symptoms and heal various skin conditions too. People suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, acne, and psoriasis, among other conditions, may find a sand bath treatment to be particularly beneficial.
Sand baths are part of an ancient healing tradition that helps reduce pain. Sand warms the body uniformly, helping relieve musculoskeletal and arthritic pain. Like a sauna or steam room, the heat also causes you to sweat, detoxifying the body and the moisture is wicked away by the sand.
Mud masks remove impurities from the skin and leave it looking clearer and healthier. They can help unclog pores, control oil and improve skin’s overall appearance. Because mud masks don’t clog your pores themselves, they’re a good solution for drawing out anything unwanted and improving skin’s overall texture and tone.
Oil massages improve blood circulation, increases flexibility, improves mood and can beat depression, beats body pain, gets rid of dead skin and dirt effectively, helps nerve health, maintains health, improves heart health, keeps stomach healthy, beats the symptoms of cold, can help improve eyesight and relieve eye strain, keeps skin healthy, gets rid of stretch marks, helps get rid of toxins in the body, aids in better and deeper sleep at night.
In terms of agriculture development, Bedouin will be producing and packaging for sale organic olive oil, mint, lemon grass, basil, olive oil soup, and olive spread. Sedky supplies work to local Siwans in this agriculture department.
Sedky’s favorite part of Siwa is inevitably the desert, as well as his garden there. He wishes to visit Tassili N’Ajjer in the south of Algeria, Merzouga in Morocco, and Azawad (north of Mali).