Siwa Oasis

Located 300 km south-west of Marsa-Matrouh. It is the northernmost of the five great oases of the Libyan desert. Inhabited by descendants of the Berbers, the Siwis. In fact, the oasis stands apart in Egypt. Here, we speak Siwie, a dialect completely different from the Arabic spoken throughout Egypt. 

Siwa Oasis is an oasis in the west of Egypt, close to the Libyan border. Although it is on the direct edge of the Libyan desert plateau, 70 km from the border and the Qattara depression. Installed on a water table that emerges at the bottom of a water table.

560 km from Cairo. Although the oasis of Siwa is located 300 km southwest of Marsa-Matrouh. It is the northernmost of the Egyptian oases. It is the northernmost of the five great oases of the Libyan desert. Inhabited by 33,000 inhabitants of descendants of the Berbers, the Siwi. We speak a dialect completely different from the Arabic spoken throughout Egypt!                                                   

When you arrive in Siwa. You will discover a heavenly place. Springs, salt lakes and endless olive groves and palm groves.

Two large salt lakes are fed by agricultural drainage water. As well as two old earthen fortresses built on inselbergs. Shali Siwa and Shali Agourmi are now in ruins.

This oasis is one of the most picturesque places in Egypt. Which seduces travelers in search of tranquility and natural beauty. Also landscapes and the shade of its fruit trees in the desert.

The visit of Alexander the Great

After Alexander the Great entered Egypt and established the city of Alexandria. Then he decided to visit the Temple of Amun at Siwa. Who gained great fame after the Cambyses army incident. In the winter of 331 BCE Alexander arrived at the Temple of Amun at Siwa.

And the high priest took him to the Holy of Holies. A dark room which only the high priest and the king have entered. And he did not allow any of his assistants to accompany him. When Alexander left the temple. He seemed relieved, and he refused to reveal what had happened inside. And all he said to his friends: "I heard what my heart loves

Local art and customs

The arrival of the road in 1980 and television exposed the oasis of Siwa to the styles and fashions of the outside world. And the traditional silver ornaments gradually replaced by gold. The embroideries and women's costumes, however, still testify to old styles and traditions.  

The shawl worn by the women is brought from outside the oasis. More precisely from the city of kerdasa in the governorate of Giza.                                  

festivals

The festival of Siyaha the inhabitants of the Siwa Oasis is a special festival (the harvest festival). Which they celebrate on the full moon in the sky in October every year. In honor of the city's saint, Sidi Sulayman, is unique to Siwa. (The name is often misunderstood as a reference to "tourism". But in fact it predates tourism.

 Although on this occasion men gather on the mountain 'Gabal Al – Dakrour', to eat together. Also sing songs of thanks to God and reconcile with each other. In addition, all Siwi houses cooperate in the preparation and cooking of hearty meals.

 While at that time the inhabitants eat Fattah (Rice, toast and meat). After the noon prayer all the young Siwis gather to prepare the banquet. So no one is allowed to eat until the caller announces they are going to start eating so they can all eat together.

The women stay in the village and celebrate by dancing, singing and drumming.

 Food for the festival is purchased collectively, with funds raised by the oasis mosques. The celebrations last 3 days, and in the early morning of the fourth day. The men form a large march. While holding flags and singing spiritual songs.

The march starts from Gabal El – Dakrour and ends at Sidi Solayman Square – in the center of Siwa. Declaring the end of festivals. Also the beginning of a new year without hatred or resentment, and with love, respect and reconciliation.

Traditionally, children also celebrate the big holiday by lighting torches. Plus singing and swapping sweets. The adults' celebration was limited to the preparation of a large meal.

economy

Agriculture is the main activity of modern Siwa Oasis. In particular the cultivation of dates and olives. In fact, it is essentially an irrigated oasis agriculture with gardening in the palm grove.

Also market gardening and arboriculture mainly focused on the cultivation of dates and olives. Which are partly valued in oil. Also Handicrafts, such as basketry.

In recent decades, tourism has become a vital source of income. Great attention given to creating hotels that use local materials and display local styles. One of the main attractions is the use of eco-friendly materials in hotel design.

The oasis of Siwa is also famous for its medical tourism. Because its sand provides natural elements that are suitable for alternative medicine. The 4×4 safari is one of the favorite trips for visitors to the Oasis.

Some statistics indicate that Siwa receives around 30,000 tourists per year from Egyptians and foreigners. A number of foreign and Arab sites have ranked it among the 9 most isolated places on the planet.

Photo-2-Oasis-de-Siwa

The architecture of Siwa

Has a special and distinctive character, as traditional houses are built with kruchif stone. Which consists of salt and soft sand mixed with clay. The doors and windows are made of olive and palm trees. Also clay is used to glue the stones, after mixing them with sand. In fact these houses are in harmony with the atmosphere of the oasis.

In winter it is hot and in summer it is humid. However, recently the rate of concrete construction in the oasis has increased. This led to the decline of traditional construction. Due to the need for annual building maintenance due to the high water level.

Local crafts and art  

 The arts of embroidery and handcrafted pottery are among the most distinguished traditional crafts of the oasis. The art of embroidery in the oasis has a special character. While it is based on its manufacture by the women of the oasis. And it is characterized by designs for bridal wear.

Also everyday clothes for women and men, and furniture, rugs and kilims. The embroidery uses the five colors green, red, yellow, blue and black. Although the local patterns preserve the heritage inherited for thousands of years.

As well as tajine dishes and the traditional pyramid-shaped pots, nicely decorated.

The metal flute is considered the hero of Siwi music. And collective singing as the master of folk singing. Which is a ritual song associated with seasons and occasions such as marriage. Births and Harvest. Chanting in Siwa is not Tarabiyya. But most song topics are about estrangement, abandonment, love and wisdom

The traditions

One of the traditions of marriage in Siwa that girls are betrothed since childhood at the age of nine. And until the bride has reached the age of marriage, the young man has no right to see his bride. Except on public holidays only and in the presence of his father or his brother. The wedding ceremony spans 3 days and the bride is adorned with 99 braids.

 Each braid bearing one of the most beautiful names of God. Putting olive oil on her hair and coloring it with henna. The dress, characterized by ornaments, headdresses, belts, wrought iron veils. And masks filled with silver or gold coins. The bride wears seven different dresses on top of each other.

Childbirth times also have their own rituals. And if the delivery is difficult, the husband and his neighbors fire shots next to his wife to expel the jinns (evil spirits) and hasten the delivery. Then when the children are born.

The women collect their jewelry in a bowl of water and lift it up, then they drop it on the ground. To create blessing for the child, believing it to expel evil spirits. Then when the mother gives birth to Her newborn baby she lies on a kilim on the ground. For a week or ten days. and eat salted fish, as an inherited tradition.

Language is the Amazigh language or the Berber language. Every child speaks it due to birth and upbringing. Then learns the Arabic language during the study stages, in addition to their modern Egyptian dialect.

Water sources (Ains)

Despite its location in the middle of the desert. Fresh water is poured into it from 200 wells flowing 90,000 cubic meters daily.  

Ain Cleopatra: It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Siwa. Also known as Ain Juba or Ain Shams. Which is a stone bath filled with natural hot spring water. And some claim it is named after the Egyptian queen who swam alone during her visit to Siwa.

Ain Fatnas: It is about 6 km west of Siwa, and it is located on the island of Fatnas overlooking the salt lake and surrounded by palm trees and desert landscapes.

Source 1: Also called “the source of the Great Sea. It is a hot sulfur spring 10 km from the oasis near the Libyan border in the heart of the Great Sea of Sand.

The Temple of Amun (The Temple of the Oracle) Also called the Temple of Alexander, is one of the most important monuments of Siwa Oasis. Built in Pharaonic times to spread the religion of Amun among neighboring tribes and peoples. Due to Siwa's location as a crossroads of trade routes. The temple is famous for the visit of Alexander the Great after he conquered Egypt in 331 BC. JC

It stands northwest of the rock of Aghourmi, the ancient capital of the oasis. His oracle played a fundamental role in the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great. Who went to Siwa in order to legitimize his power by the oracle of Amon.

The Umm Ubaidah Temple is the second Temple of Amun in the oasis and is located near the Temple of the Apocalypse. Built by Egyptian Pharaoh Nectanabo II or Nakhtanebo II of the Thirtieth Dynasty. In which an image presents the pharaoh kneeling before the god Amun.

Shali Fortress which dominates the center of Shali town. The foundation of the city of Shali dates back to 1203, and its name means the city in the Siwi language. The city had only one gate to check its defenses. And it was called “Anshal” meaning the city gate.

On the north side of the city wall there is the old mosque, and a second gate was opened for the city on the south side called 'Atat' meaning the new gate, and it was used for those who prefer to avoid passing by Al-Ajwad are the heads of families, and only the people of Siwa knew the location of this gate, so they secretly used it to exit or enter the city under siege.

And because Syriac customs prevented women from going out except within the narrowest limits and without mingling with men, a third gate called "Qaduha" was opened, and women were not allowed to leave except to use this door only. Clay archival stone has been used in the construction of townhouses, quarried from soil saturated with salt, because when it dries it becomes hard like cement.

In 1820 the forces of Muhammad Ali Pasha conquered Siwa and brought it under government authority so that the city enjoyed security and protection, and in 1826 the Council of Al-Ajwad allowed people to build their homes outside the city walls. In 1926, a large number of houses in the city collapsed and the rest were cracked due to torrential rains. Residents have deserted Shali and built new houses on the roof of the mountain

Mausoleum Sidi Slimane the imam of the Siwis and the most famous figure of the Oasis. The people of the Oasis say that Sidi Suleiman was a very pious and pious judge, and it is said about him that in the past he gathered the people of the oasis in the mosque and begged them to God in order to Prevent from attacking the Raid Campaign attacks on the oasis.

With extreme thirst he struck the ground with his stick, and a spring of water exploded, and it is said that his mother, before giving birth to him, liked to eat fish, so his dove stood on her nets and left him a fish, and this is the reason for the widespread habit in Siwa until now where the mother of the newborn eats fish, especially if the newborn is a male.

mountain of the dead It is a mountain that includes a group of ancient tombs dating from the period between the fourth and third centuries BC, which were reused in Greek and Roman times. The mountain is about 2 km from Siwa, and graves have been discovered there as a result of the Siwa people fleeing to the mountain during raids in World War II.

Dakrour mountain is located 3 km south of the oasis of Siwa, and it has two peaks called “Nadera and Nazareth”. At the top of Nazareth there is a cave carved into the rock called “Tanasur”. And below is a monument called “The House of the Sultan” made of clean limestone.

The mountain is famous for its hot sand, which has healing properties, and it contains the red pigment used in making Siwi pottery. Egyptian and foreign visitors flock to the mountain during the summer to enjoy the hot sand baths, which are characterized by their ability to treat rheumatic diseases, joint pain, spine and skin diseases.

Siwi House Museum The museum created in cooperation with the Canadian government. In the city council park on an area of three acres. In the traditional Siwi style, using mud bricks and palm tree trunks. It combines the history of Siwi life and its development in different stages of time.

It also contains many collections that express the authentic Siwi heritage. Combined with the personal efforts of the inhabitants of the oasis, such as silver jewelry, musical instruments. As well as wedding costumes, baskets, pottery and agricultural tools.

The museum is not subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. But it is overseen by Siwa City Council. Technical supervision is provided by a committee made up of tribal sheikhs and a number of members of the Siwa Resident University. And the museum spends on itself thanks to the entrance fee imposed on visitors.

The discovery of the oasis of Siwa and its surroundings, is one of our trips off the beaten track:  Siwa Oasis Trip