The Hot Sand Baths of Siwa

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Between July to September, during the hottest months of the year when temperature hovers around 37 degrees in the shade, people from all over Egypt and elsewhere flock to the desert oasis town of Siwa in the Libyan desert in western Egypt to take turns at being immersed in scalding hot sand for up to 15 minutes at a time. Local doctors, as well as those who underwent the treatment, claim that just three to five days of regular sand bathing can cure sufferers from rheumatism and arthritis, and even infertility or impotence.

Sand bathing is a traditional treatment developed by the Berbers of this isolated settlement near Dakrror Mountain, about 50 km east of the Libyan border, and 560 km from Cairo.


A patient buried in the hot sand looks out from under a shade that protects his face from the sun in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters

The treatment beings around midday when the sun is at its highest position in the sky and the air is as hot as it can get. Patients are taken to a designated spot in the desert where they take off their clothes before an experienced Siwan buries them in a sand pit. After ten to fifteen minutes they are dug out and quickly moved to a nearby tent which has been exposed to the sun so they act like saunas. After the desert treatment, patients are taken to a house to cool down and change into fresh clothes before dinner.

The treatment last between three to five days during which they are not allowed to shower or allow cold air onto their skin. They also take only hot drinks and hot food. On the last day of the treatment, patients get a relaxing massage with oil and vinegar to help close the open pores.

The treatment costs about 300 to 400 Egyptian pounds ($38 to $51) per day, which includes accommodation and food. Before the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, many foreign tourists came to experience sand bathing, but the recent political turmoil and attacks by Islamist militants have kept many tourists away from Egypt.


Photo credit: Reuters


Photo credit: Reuters


Photo credit: Reuters


A worker gives a massage to a patient buried in sand by pressing on his shoulders with his feet in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


Workers help to bury a patient in the sand during his sand bath in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


A patient grimaces as a worker covers his body in hot sand in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


A worker helps patients, who are wrappd in a blanket, leave a “sauna” tent after their sand baths in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


A worker helps a patient covered with a blanket to go to a sauna-like tent after he was removed from the hot sands where he was buried in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


Patients relax in a tent that acts as a sauna after their sand bath in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


Patients drink herbal tea inside a tent used as a sauna as they relax after their sand bath in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


A patient sits in a car wrapped in a blanket after his sand bath treatment in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters


Patients relax after finishing their sand bath treatment in a rest area where they spend the night in Siwa, Egypt. Photo credit: Reuters

Sources: Reuters / Community Times / Lonely Planet Egypt / Avax News

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