Siwa Oasis

From Academic Kids

The Siwa Oasis is an oasis in Egypt, located between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert. About 80 km in length and 20 km wide, it is one of Egypt's most isolated settlements and is located approximately 50 km east of Libyan border, and some 560 km from Cairo. It is home to about 23,000 people, the majority of whom are ethnic Berbers who speak a distinct language known as Siwi. Agriculture is the main activity, primarily the growing of dates and olives.

Although the oasis is known to have been settled since at least the 10th millennium BC, there is no evidence of any connection with ancient Egypt until the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was established. Greek settlers at Cyrene made contact with the oasis around the same time (7th century BC), and soon the oracle of Ammon became famous; the oracle is said to have confirmed Alexander the Great as both a divine personnage and the legitimate Pharaoh of Egypt during a visit made prior to his campaign of conquest in Persia. The Romans later used Siwa as a place of banishment. Evidence of Christianity at Siwa is dubious, but in 708 the Siwans resisted an Islamic army, and probably did not convert until 12th century. A report of 1203 mentions only seven families totalling 40 men living at the oasis, but later the population grew to 600.

The first European to visit in modern times was W. G. Browne, who came in 1792 to see the ancient temple of the oracle. The oasis was officially added to Egypt by Muhammad Ali in 1819, but his rule was tenuous and marked by several revolts. Siwa was the site of some fighting during World War I, and during World War II; the British Army's Long Range Desert Group was based here.

The ancient fortress of Siwa, built of natural rock salt, mud brick and palm logs and known as the Shali, although now mostly abandoned, remains a prominent feature, towering five storeys above the modern town. Other local historic sites of interest include the remains of the oracle temple, Gebel al Mawta (the Mountain of the Dead) – a Roman-era necropolis featuring dozens of rock-cut tombs, "Cleopatra's Bath" a natural sulphur spring, and Fatnas Island.

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the old town of Aghurmi
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the old town of Shali illuminated by night
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architecture with "karshif" (salt mud) in Shali
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salt lake and sabkha of Abu Shuruf
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famous palm tree on fatnas island

External Links

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