ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “algae

CLEOPATRA’S SPRING, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

2006.06.02.

With a constant temperature of 29 degrees Celsius, the Ain Juba or Cleopatra’s Spring is a popular tourist attraction near Siwa Oasis. While some say Cleopatra swam in the pool during her visit to the oasis, many other historians dispute about this legend and insist that the spring has nothing to do with the famous Queen of Egypt. The spring is nonetheless ancient and well known in times of antiquity. Referred as the Fountain of the Sun by Herodotus, legend has it that Alexander the Great followed a group of birds in the desert and reached the famous spring during his conquest of Persia. From history to the present, the spring remains as a reliable treat of a cool refreshing dip for tired travellers.

Many tourists reach the pool as part of a local tour going out to the Great Sand Sea, it can also be reached by cycling on the road to the Temple of the Oracle. For me, I have done both, first as part of a local tour on the way to stay a night in the desert, and second time by bicycle on my way to the ruined temple. On my first time, I spent most of my time chatting with the friendly pool caretaker in the pool hut. I didn’t notice any bather during my two visits. Given the fact that swimmers were advised to bath with a t-shirt on in respect to local customs, I didn’t get into the famous water myself given I didn’t have an extra t-shirt with me on both occasions.

I joined a Jeep tour out to the Great Sand Sea. Along the way, we passed by a salt flat and Cleopatra’s Spring.
Salt flats are common in deserts around the world where water from former lakes have been evaporated, leaving behind salt and minerals on the ground.
Known as Qattara Depression, the area west of Siwa is the second lowest point in Africa. Covered with salt flats, salt marshes and sand dunes, dangerous quagmires are not uncommon in the depression. During WWII, Qattara Depression was considered impassable for military vehicles and tanks due to the danger of quagmires.
There are a number of springs in the area of Siwa Oasis, including Cleopatra’s Spring, Ain Tamusi (Spring of the Bridge), Ain Arais, Fatnas Spring, Ain Qurayshat, Bir Wahed, etc.
Trapped in subterranean chambers, there is actually plenty of spring water below the Western Desert. At a level below the sea, subterranean spring water is much easier to access in the Qattara Depression.
Well maintained by caretakers, the Cleopatra’s Spring is frequented by locals and tourists.
The main pool at Cleopatra’s Spring is circumscribed by a retaining stone wall.
Resting huts and tea houses dot around the pool.
Spring water in Siwa is highly salinized. There is a significant amount of ulvacean green algae in the spring water.