Siwa stretches for more than 50 kilometers from the East to the West. The small oasis of Zaytoon is located at its far eastern side and there is "Al Maraqy" on its western side. The length of Siwa, from south to north is 8 kilometers.
Many small attached oasis are linked to Siwa like Garet Om Al Saghir, Al Qattra, Al Bahrian, Satra, and Al Arg from the East side, and Al Lig, Al Maraqy, Om Esha, Dahabeuya, om Al Ghazlan, and Shyata from the west side.
The level of the land in Siwa is 18 meters below sea level and Siwa contains six lakes, 200 water springs, 1200 water wells and 20 thousand acre of cultivated land. The main city in the oasis is the city of Siwa as it hosts more than 8000 people.
The climate of Siwa
The climate of Siwa is considered to be continental being very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer and moderate in the spring and autumn. The best timing to visit Siwa is in the spring or the autumn when the weather is nice and there are a lot of festivals and celebration in the city.
The History of Siwa
After Alexander the great conquered Egypt and took control of the county, he started building his amazing city of Alexandria. When he was in process of building his new city, he thought that he wanted to visit the worldwide famous temple of the oracle of Amun which is located near Siwa.
In 331 AD Alexander the great and some of his companions and army troops left Alexandria and moved in the direction of Marsa Matruh and then to the north in the convoys' way called "Sekket Al Sultan", or the Sultan way. After some days passing by, the water that they had was over and most of the people in the convoy felt horrified. However, on the other day, the sky rained very heavily in this area where it rains very rarely.
However, after a few days, a sand storm from the south took place and Alexander and his convoy lost their way in the desert. Suddenly, two birds appeared in front of them in the desert and Alexander ordered his men to follow these birds saying" these are messengers form Amun".
They factually, afterwards, found their way to the temple of Amun whose priests as well as the inhabitants of Siwa, didn't know that Alexander was visiting, so when they saw him coming, they went to welcome him immediately.
The high priest of the temple of Amun gave the chance to Alexander to go inside the inner room of the temple by himself and consult Amun in his matters and ask him all the questions he had. After Alexander was out of the temple, he seemed happy and satisfied. When his companions asked him about the reason behind his happiness, he said that he will not inform anyone except his mother.
Many historians said that Persian king, Cambyses, wanted to go to Siwa to punish the priests of the temple of Amun because they predicted that his life and achievements will all end painfully in Egypt and the expectations of the priests of Amun turned out to be true after all. When Cambyses took the way going to Siwa, a Sandstorm took place and it destroyed Cambyses and all his army which gave more importance to the temple of the oracle of Amun in Siwa. A lot of history scholar and adventurers dream till today to find any track of Cambyses or his army that consisted of more than fifty thousand men who all disappeared in the Eastern desert of Egypt.
It was said that the most ancient human foot steps were discovered in Siwa in 2007. These footsteps go back to three million years.
The language and the original people of Siwa
The people living in Siwa speak a different language other than the Arabic, or the Egyptian Arabic accent this is because the people in Siwa belong to the Berbers who are the original peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are largely distributed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa oasis, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River.
The people who live in Siwa speak the Siwian language which is one of the variations of the Berbers language. Furthermore, some of the inhabitants belong to the Toucouleurs (or Haalpulaar'en) who is agricultural tribes who live primarily in West Africa and have affected the culture of Siwa tremendously since ancient times.
Due to the ethnic diversity of Siwa, the oasis has always been linked to the culture of the tribes who live in the Great Desert in the North West of Africa. The Siwa Oasis, along with the other oasis of Egypt and North Africa had formed a center for camel convoys that used to travel between Morocco and the Nile Valley. Siwa was also influenced by the Senousi culture, until Mohamed Ali took control over Egypt and sent his army troops to regain the Egyptian authority over Siwa once again.
The inhabitants of Siwa still adhere to their old conservative habits and customs. The women of Siwa rarely go out of their homes and if they do they have to cover their faces with the famous traditional Siwa veil which covers the whole face of the woman only with a small opening at the end for their eyes. Moreover, only young unmarried ladies who are less than 17 years old are allowed to go out while married women rarely leave their houses. On the other hand, the men in Siwa wear the white Galabeya even the governmental employees have to wear this traditional dress code.
Other than the problem of desertification, that faces the entire oasis in the Great Desert of Africa, Siwa faces a critical water problem. This is due to the large consumption of underground water that increased immensely not giving enough time to these water wells to be renewed. The reason behind this increasing consumption of water in Siwa is the huge investment in the cultivation of land. This is beside the five mineral water factories that operate in Siwa in filling mineral water.
Another problem that faces Siwa nowadays is the disposal of wastewater which reached to be more than 47 thousand Acre during the year 2009. This matter threatens the cultivating of dates and olives, the most famous Siwan plantations. All the sectors in Siwa has to participate together in order to solve this problem by either demolishing small random water wells or by disposing the wastewater outside the Siwa.
Therapeutic tourism in Siwa
Siwa is famous for its hot white sand that has some properties that make it able to cure a lot of rheumatismtic dieses, Arthritis and spinal pain. Regarding the hot water wells in Siwa, the most important among them are: Cleopatra Bath, Arayes, Moulol, and Hamawat.
The water in these wells is divided into two types: normal hot water and sulfurous hot water which is used internationally in curing many skin dieses. It is also used in curing some respiratory system problems.
Dakrour Mountain in Siwa contains some radiations that help in curing rheumatism, polio, Psoriasis, and digestive system illnesses. Tourists from all over the world come to this mountain in July and August every year to be cured from many health problems.
Sites and monuments in Siwa
The city of Shaly
Shaly is the old city and fortress in the middle of the city of Siwa Oasis. The word Shaly means the city or the town in the Siwian language. Shaly consists of a high a plateau with two tops one at the Eastern edge and the other at the Western edge. On top of this plateau, a lot of houses were built in the "Karshif" style, the ancient construction style in Siwa. In the past, there was a high wall surrounding the city of Shaly to protect it against any outside attacks and this wall had only one opening. The streets of Shaly are narrow and the doors of the houses are very small. The city was designed that way to protect it from the attacks of the Berber and the Bedouins who live in the desert.
The fortress in the city was built out of mud bricks and it was constructed in 12th or 13th century to protect the city when there was a situation of chaos in Roman period and tribes in the western desert used to attack one another in order to get food and drink.
Aghurmi and the temple of the oracle
The plateau of Aghurmi is where the famous temple of the oracle is located and it is 30 meters above sea level. The plateau has the shape of a horseshoe with the Eastern, Western, and Northern parts being quite higher than the Southern part.
The temple of the oracle was built during the 26th Dynasty. However, the Oracle's origin is said to be much older. The most glorious years of this temple was during the reign of the Greeks and the Romans.
What remains of this temple today is one of its ancient walls that contain beautiful drawings and carvings that tell us about the story of the temple with portraits of the god Amun and another of the god Amun Ra. This temple is famous for the visit of Alexander the great and he was able enthroned to be the son of Amun.
Gebel Al Mawta (The Mountain of the Dead)
Gebel Al Mawta is located one kilometer outside the city of Siwa and it is a Conical hill with a height of 50 meters. The mountain has a Calcareous soil and it contains many tombs in the shape of a bee hive Carved in stone in the form of the ranks of regular and successive layers. Each tomb has consists of a rectangular corridor that leads to a wide yard with many openings afterwards to place the dead bodies.
The mountain has many tombs, the most important among them are: the tomb of the Crocodile, the tomb of Miso-Isis, and the tomb of Si Amun (or the man of Amun) which is the most beautiful tomb in the mountain. It goes back to the 3rd century BC and it contains remarkable motifs of the god Nut. Most of the tombs of this mountain were robbed during different stages in time. So little remains today for visitors to view
The Cleopatra bath or well is located on the path that leads to the Temple of Amun. It is a water stone pool fed by natural spring water and it is considered the best pool in the area.
Hotels in Siwa:
1- Siwa Shali Resort (3 stars)
2- Siwa Paradise (3 stars)
3- Siwa Dream Lodge
4- Taghaghien Island Resort
5- Hotel Kelany
6- Carols Swan Club