The natural design of Juba coffee shop at Cleopatra Spring in Siwa- Egypt Today
CAIRO – 7 June 2017: Siwa, the serene oasis of Egypt’s Western Desert, is increasingly becoming a place where people stayand do business, rather than just visit.
Egyptian entrepreneur Walid Rahmy first came to Siwa in 2006. He fell in love with it at first sight and did not want to return to the city.
“When I first visited Cleopatra spring, I was immediately charmed by the place… I thought of opening a coffee shop at Cleopatra spring to provide a place for people who swim in it and need to rest and chill out for a while as they have something to eat or drink and listen to music,” Rahmy told Egypt Today.
Special smoothies in the coffee shop in Siwa- Egypt Today
Siwans, who have their own variation of the Amazigh language besides Arabic, call Cleopatra spring “Juba,” a name believed to be derived from the word “Jupiter.”
The spring’s sulfuric water has several benefits for people with skin conditions and arthritis, in addition to alleviating other ailments. The flow rate of the spring is also enough to irrigate an average of 500 acres around the place.
“At first, there was no electricity in the place,” Rahmy said. “I used generators and solar panels, but they were not sufficient to run an entire coffee shop with fridges and a kitchen.”
A view of the coffee shop in Siwa- Egypt Today
There was no running water either, but fortunately, the authorities later provided electricity and tap water at Cleopatra spring.
Omaima, one of the coffee shop’s staff - Egypt Today
Luckily, locals in Siwa are known for their friendliness and helpfulness. They facilitate any proposed projects in their ancient oasis. The owner of the land that Rahmy rented for his café let him launch his project even though he did not have enough cash at the beginning.
The Arabic word for oasis, “waha,” is one of the many words derived from ancient Egyptian languages. In all languages and cultures, an oasis is a fertile place with water resources in the middle of the desert. That is how Rahmy decided to make his own organic farm in Siwa.
Walid Rahmy working in his farm-Egypt Today
Today, Rahmy has his own brand of organic herbs and olive oil, which is sold all in big shops in Cairo and Alexandria, and here in Siwa of course.
“In the café, we provide a very special ambiance; with everything in the place made of primitive resources… at night, we have our special slow cooked dinner,” Rahmy said, emphasizing the “relaxing rhythm of life” in Siwa, where he works on his farm in the morning and then goes to the coffee shop.
Olives collected at Rahmy’s farm – Egypt Today
The olive trees grown in the farm are native to Siwa, a crossbreed of Roman and Palestinian stock, according to Rahmy.
However, the tree is not widely grown in the oasis due to the hardship of trimming this mixed breed, he claimed. He proudly said he harvests the olive while it is still green, and although it does not produce large quantities of oil, it makes the best quality. Meanwhile, the packaging of the products is made by local women and of natural materials.
Although there are many market niches in Siwa, the oasis is not just about the business. Safety is the first thing Rahmy cited about Siwa, as well as the honesty of the locals.
“Siwa is a very safe place, you can leave your stuff anywhere and come back to find it where you left it, and if I lost something, people would find me and return it to me. There is also a lot of greenery, it is quiet, the desert is very nice, and there are a lot of activities you can do, such as safari, and camping overnight in the desert.”