Siwa Oasis

comments off

Siwa Oasis located 560km from Cairo , is in a deep depression that reaches below sea level18 m. All over this old, historical oasis, you find natural wells where you can spot the bubbles coming up from15 to 20 meters underneath you, many of these wells are big enough for bathing, and the local won`t mind you doind that.The oasis was called Ammonium in ancient times. Its modern name Siwa .The word Siwa comes from the Arabic wahat siwah,meaning(Proctector of the Egyptian Sun god Amun-Ra, first attested in the 15th century, is of uncertain origin.

The Siwan people have thier own culture and customs and they speak Arabic and own Berber (Amazigh) language. The modern town of Siwa is set among thick palm groves,walled gardens and olives orchards, with numerous freshwater spring and salt lakes.

“The oasis of Siwa … Cannot be said to have fallen from its high estate … only it has stood still while the world went on … ”                                                                                     Wilfred Jennings-Bramly.

 A journey to Siwa in September and October 1896.  Peace, relaxation, serenity, tranquility and immaterial life are all in one world but this world is small and called the world of Siwa Oasis. Siwa is one of the world’s last remaining pristine oases, home to spectacular natural landscapes, ancient historical ruins and unique cultural traditions.  Famed as the location of the Oracle of Amon, whom Alexander the Great consulted before continuing his Persian conquest, Siwa exists today much as it always has.  Majestic rock formations, lush groves and brilliant salt lakes that have nurtured and inspired its people since they settled here 12,000 years ago continue to enchant all who set foot in this secluded idyll in Egypt’s Western Desert. Thousands of years of isolation in a vast and unforgiving desert have allowed the Siwan community to develop unique cultural traditions, building techniques, styles of embroidery and systems of agricultural production that are remarkable for their beauty and harmony with the natural environment.

The oasis of Siwa was famed in a antiquity for its Oracle of Amun, consulted by Alexander the Great. Today, Siwa is know for its fine dates and its unique way of life.In this already classic work, renowned archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry reviews Siwa`s past and present. Beginning with a survey of the deserts and oases of Egypt.

 Siwa is a most famous temple of Amun, now more known as the Temple of the Oracle because of Alexander`s  visit when he conquered Egypt. It is actually one of two temples dedicated to Amun at Siwa. It sits atop a flat rock, and is a spectacular sight. Built during the 26thdynasty,this temple and Oracle flourished well into the Greek and Roman periods. The temple can still be seen on the hill of Aghurmi, which is 4 kilometers from the town of Siwa. 

There are so few tourists in Siwa , that you always notice if somebody leaves. This oasis,300km from the nearest settlement, that remains a secret to most.

When in Siwa, enjoy the lack of luxury, you can eat in simple, but fair restaurants, that gives away food at criminally low prices. You stay in hotels that are clean but basic, you travel around the place on bikes with hard seats and one gear only.

Gebel Al Mawta, this small hill, at the northern end of Siwa Town, is honeycombed with rock tombs peppered with wall paintings. its name, Gebel al Mawta, means ‘Mountian of the dead’ and most of the tombs here date back to the 26th dynasty, Ptolemaic and Roman times. Only 1km from the centre of the town, the tombs were used by the Siwans as shelters when the Italians bombed the oasis during WW2.

The best paintings are in the tomb of Si Amun, where beautifully coloured reliefs portray the dead man thought to be a wealthy greek landowner or merchant making offerings and praying to egyptian gods. Also interesting are the unfinished Tomb of Mesu Isis, with a beautiful depiction of cobras in red and blue above the entrance, the Tomb of Niperpathot, with inscriptions and crude drawings in the same reddish ink you can see on modern Siwan pottery , and finally the Tomb of the Crocodile representing the god Sobek

Bir Wahed, A favourite Siwa excursion is the freshwater lake at Bir Wahed, 15km away on the edge of the Great Sand Sea.Once over the top of a dune, you come to a hot spring, the size of a large Jacuzzi, where sulphurous water bubbles in a pool and runs off to irrigate a garden. Cooling down in the lake then watching the sun setting over the dunes while soaking in a hot spring is a surreal experience.

The thorns in this rose are the mosquitoes that bite at sunset and the fact that a permit is necessary to visit Bir Wahed. Because its far from town, women can wear bathing suits here without offending locals. Bir Wahed can only be reached by 4WD, so if you dont have your own, you will need to hire a guide and car.

The 26th dynasty Temple of the Oracle sits in the northwest corner of the ruins of Aghurmi village. Built in the 6th century BC, probably on top of an earlier temple, it was dedicated to Amun (occasionally referred to as Zeus or Jupiter Ammon) and was a powerful symbol of the town’s wealth. One of the most revered orales in the ancient Mediterranean, its power was such that some rulers sought its advice while others sent armies to destroy it. 

Although treasure hunters have been at work here and the buttressed temple was poorly restored in the 1970s, it remains an evocative site, steeped in history. Surrounded by the ruins of Aghurmi, it has awesome views over the Siwan oasis palm-tops.

Bilad ar-Rum just north of Kharmisah, around 17km northwest of Siwa town, the City of the Romans has about 100 tombs cut into the rock of the nearby hills and the ruins of a stone temple, among the spots rumoured to be the final resting place of Alexander the Great. Nearby is Maraqi, where Liana Souvaltzi, a Greek archaeologist, claimed in 1995 to have found Alexander’s tomb. Her findings proved controversial and the Egyptian authorities revoked her permit and closed the site.