Egypt Picture - Siwa Oasis

Siwa Oasis

Siwa Oasis


John Hawes


Siwa Oasis


This photo was taken in December 2004 from the Temple of the Oracle of Amun.

In many respects, the Siwa Oasis has little in common with the other Western Oases. The Siwan people are mostly Berbers, the true Western Desert indigenous people, who once roamed the North African coast between Tunisia and Morocco. They inhabited the area as early as 10,000 BC, first moving towards the coast, but later inland as other conquering invaders arrived. Hence, Siwa is more North African sometimes then Egyptian and their language, traditions, rites, dress, decorations and tools differ from those of the other Western Oasis.

It was the Greeks who made the Siwa Oasis notable. After having established themselves in Cyrene (in modern Libya) they discovered and popularized the Oracle of Amun located in the Siwa Oasis, and at least one of the greatest stories told of the Oasis concerns the visit by Alexander the Great to the Oracle. Almost immediately after taking Egypt from the Persians and establishing Alexandria, Alexander the Great headed for the Siwa Oasis to consult the now famous Oracle of Amun. This trip, made with a few comrades, is well documented. He was not the first to experience problems in the desert, as whole armies before him had been lost in the sand. The caravan got lost, ran out of water and was even caught up in an unusual rainstorm. However, upon arrival at the Oasis and the Oracle of Amun, Alexander was pronounced a god, an endorsement required for legitimate rule of the country.

Cleopatra VII may have also visited this Oasis to consult with the Oracle, as well as perhaps bathe in the spring that now bears her name. However, by the Roman period, Augustus sent political prisoners to the Siwa so it too, like the other desert oasis, became a place of banishment.

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