The Oasis Panorama Hotel at Bawiti, Bahariya Oasis
by Jimmy Dunn
There are places, such as on the Red Sea, Luxor, Aswan and even Cairo where people travel simply to soak up some sun and enjoy themselves in a fine hotel. Europeans in particular have been traveling to Luxor to avoid the harsh, northern climates since at least the Victorian Age, and the grand hotels in many of these locations attest to their continuing popularity.
In other, more remote areas of Egypt, such as the interior of the Sinai, as well as the the Eastern Desert and the Western Oasis, accommodations are often more rudimentary, though consistently improving. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, these areas have not been fully developed for tourists. Many of the hotels are relatively new, and in typical Egyptian fashion, are being steadily improved as funds become available. Such hotels are usually built with few amenities to begin with, but revenues earned from guests are poured back into the project until the hotel is fully equipped with phone systems, air conditioning, swimming pools and other upgrades.
However, at the same time, not many of the guests who visit these remote locations do so to laze about a hotel. They usually come to these locations to visit specific monuments or areas such as the deserts, and in many situations, opt for no formal accommodations at all, camping out instead. At best, they spend very little time in a hotel room.
The Oasis Panorama Hotel in Bawiti at the Bahariya Oasis is itself one of the very basic hotels typical of such a remote location. Yet compared to a number of other possible accommodations in this Oasis, it could almost be considered refined, and the hotel's management is apparently dedicated to upgrading the facility.
The hotel itself is relatively new, and consists of a two story accommodations wing, and another section with the hotel office and reception area, a small store and a fair sized restaurant, all situated behind a large security gate. Beside the hotel proper is a pavilion for folkloric entertainment. We might also note the large collection of interesting rock specimens from the various deserts around the Oasis that are scattered about, mostly on the low walls in front of the hotel office and restaurant. Even for those who have never been rock hounds, these unusual examples will surely raise a few eyebrows.
Behind the hotel are hills with climbing paths from which one may find a true panoramic view of the Oasis, though the hotel itself sits on a rise and offers a fairly good view of Bawiti, and hence the hotel's name.
The hotel is designed in a pleasant manner not unlike many western motels with a large center courtyard. The rooms are well done, with unexpected European fixtures (one owner of the hotel is Dutch). Currently, the rooms have ceiling fans, comfortable modern beds, and private baths (with showers) that have hot and cold water. Though the rooms do not have air conditioning, at night the desert tends to be chilly even during the summer, and this is probably about the only time that most people will utilize the accommodations. Some rooms also currently have color televisions, though only local channels are received. Plans are currently underway to provide satellite cable coverage for the rooms. The satellite receiver has already been installed, and one may catch up on their favorite programs in the hotel lobby if required.
One of the Hotel's Rooms
The well equipped restaurant serves up plentiful meals that, while basic, are nevertheless very good. Apparently, if their are many guests as sometimes happens when a larger safari starts out into the desert areas, a buffet is also served.
The small store carries basics such as water, cokes, candies, local souvenirs and other supplies, though bring your own suntan lotion for not only is none to be found in this store, but anywhere else in the Oasis. However, while the hotel has no bar, beer seems to be a staple here, and due probably to the Dutch owner, German beer specifically seems to be almost more readily available than in Cairo.
A View of the Panorama's Small Store
As with many hotels such as this one, friendly management and personnel augment the lack of upscale amenities. This is a relatively small, intimate hotel, and as such, the people who work here immediately recognize every guest, and seem to make a sincere effort to accommodate their every need. One may really not sit anywhere on the hotel grounds without being offered tea, coffee, or a bite to eat, and the hotel staff can arrange local tours, or as seems to be their specialty, desert tours by camel or 4 x 4.
In fact, the hotel, particularly under the direction of the Dutch owner, offers several unusual desert treks, including what might be described as mildly spiritual excursions. But more importantly, the treks are well managed with safety (regarding the desert environment) foremost in mind. Treks from the hotel always have backup facilities. Even with camel treks, multiple 4 x 4s are always nearby, readily available with spares even in the event of a ruined tire on the sharp desert rocks or other mechanical failure. This desert landscape is a wonderful adventure, but the personnel who run the tours are keenly aware that it can become something else entirely if one becomes stranded. They take every measure to make sure that never happens.
One of the Hotel's Well Equipped 4 x 4s
There is apparently no real banking system available in the Bahariya Oasis (though there is a bank). Many local residents actually use the white bricks imported from Cairo and used for modern construction in the Oasis as a form of barter, and even as a system of savings. Hence, hotels such as the Oasis Panorama are improved as earnings are poured back into the facility. With the growing popularity of this Oasis, we might expect such improvements fairly soon. Along with upgrading the television situation, the ownership also plans on room air conditioning, and even a swimming pool in the near future. We presume that a room phone system will also be implemented, though at the moment calls can be made form the hotel office.
one of the unusual desert rocks that line the hotel's walls
In summation, many people who visit the Bahariya Oasis will spend at least some of their time camped out in the desert areas, and the Panorama Hotel offers a relaxing atmosphere with comfortable beds and a hot shower, small convinces that become essential after a desert trek. The facility is clean, neat and well kept with almost a family attitude towards their guests. The ownership of the hotel, consisting of a Dutch lady and a locally prominent Egyptian, creates the best of both worlds, with efficient European oversight combined with an intimate knowledge of this Oasis. Indeed, this is a most unusual area for the adventurous traveler to explore, for here, new archaeological discoveries seem to be constant and the rich variations in the desert landscape appear to never end.
Oasis Panorama Hotel
Road 10, Bawiti
Bahariya Oassis, Egypt
Phone: +20 (0)2 8 47 33 54(2700) or +20 (0)2 8 47 28 94
Mobile Phone: +31 (0)6 51 840 656
Fax: +20 (0)2 8 47 38 96