Until very recently, Siwa was Egypt’s most inaccessible oasis despite it being one of the most interesting. Until around the middle of the 20th Century, Siwa wasn’t even governed by Egypt, and the town was mostly occupied by the Berber community, as it had been for the past 13 centuries. Even today, Siwans continue to have their own culture and even speak their own language – Siwi.
Siwa’s rich history includes a visit from Alexander the Great in 331 BC; he came here to consult the Oracle of Amun. Many archaeologists also believe that Siwa may be the final resting place of Alexander the Great, although there is no real archaeological evidence to support this theory. Later the King of Persia attempted to destroy the Oracle by sending an army of 50,000 men. The entire army was lost in the desert.
Siwa is now famous for its olives, dates and springs. The area boasts over 70,000 olive trees, 300,000 date trees and has around 1000 springs which are said to have medicinal properties.
Although Siwa is now part of the tourist trail in Egypt, visitors to the oasis should bare in mind that Siwa is still extremely traditional. Girls from the area are often married by the age of 14, after which they wear only completely covering clothes and have little to do with anyone apart from their immediate family. When visiting the area you may see woman in the traditional costumes and silver jewellery.
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Ms. Adele Samuel (Istanbul to Cairo - overland expedition)
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