Siwa shali in 1820, from a drawing by Von Minutoli Women’s Health Center Created for the women of Siwa in 1999 by Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the Egyptian president, this center offers health services.
It sits atop one of the spurs of the Shali mountain, Adrerar en Shalnath, and is crafted in an environmentally friendly manner in keeping with Siwan traditions.
Here the women, if they can climb the hill,
are offered classes in traditional crafts, literacy, and computers, and they enjoy the services of a small clinic. Unfortunately, Siwans lament that the doctors are men and so the married women of Siwa do not use the facility.siwa shali
° bike, donkey cart, walk, 2×2
° 2-3 hours
7 kms to Great Sand Sea
craft shop Birks
Temple of Amu
Town of SHALI
Friends of Siwa shali Association (FSA) As with all the oases, Siwa shali has a group of concerned admirers who are hoping to help the oasis retain its traditions and its appearance.
This is not an easy task. Siwa shali ’s association is brimming with upper echelon officials and well-connected businessmen.
Among the association’s tasks is to aid government agencies in improving the infrastructure of the oasis and documenting antiquities without destroying the environment.
The main problem is that Siwa shali will soon be saturated with hotels, restaurants, and other tourism projects.
The number of tourists has been steadily rising. Over 15,000 tourists visited Siwa shali in 2004.
Loop the Loop from Shali to Shali
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° all day
Gebel al-Dakrur (Takrur)
Gebel al-Dakrur, just a few miles south of Shali, is visible from all points in the oasis and its three peaks serve as a good land- mark when traveling east or west.
The view from the summit of this mountain is outstanding.
When approaching the mountain, which is called Daran Breek in Siwan (St.John’s Edrar Abou Bryk and Hoskins’ Drar Abou Beryk), one passes through an avenue of eucalyptus trees.
The first peak on the right is Gebel Nasra. There is a strong echo in the small valley between Gebel Nasra and the second peak of Gebel al-Dakrur, and the Siwans often go here and sing. On the summit of Gebel Nasra, in a tiny crevice in the mountain, is a large vein of red clay that is used by Siwans to make the decorations on their incense burners and other pottery.
It is the only place in the oasis where this color exists.
The crevice is so tiny that the workers must send a small boy into the interior to collect the raw material.
The second, or middle, peak is called Gebel Tunefefan, Mountain of the Pillars, named after three caves located on its slopes.
which are three of many that dot the mountain, have been in use since classical times, some as tombs, others as living quarters.
They are the only caves on the mountain adorned with pillars. In the 1970s, a 3-meter (10-ft) thick, 20-million-year-old vein of alabaster was
discovered near the summit of Gebel Dakrur.
believe that Gebel al-Dakrur is haunted and that on still nights the afrit Can’ be heard singing in the nearby gardens.
They also believe that the entrance
to the lost emerald mines of Siwa shali is located within one of the caves of the mountain, but that it is guarded by a jinn Hlld is invisible unless the person on the quest drinks from a spring in the dunes of the southern escarpment.
Seventeenth- Cemuiy travelers maintained that an Underground passage leads from this mountain to the ruins of Umm Ubayd and the Temnle nf ,limiter Amurl.
From halfway up the slopes of Gebel al-Dakrur, one gets a marvelous view of the oasis laid out like a giant fairyland.
The palm gardens form a feathery carpet of green from which the odd-shaped mountains protrude like castles and lakes shimmer like silver carpets.
It is a good place for orientation. From the left, the sites include Qasr Hasstma, Gebel Bayda, Shali, Gebel al-Mawta, Aghurmi, and the lake.
There are three doctors at Dakrur famous for their sand cures, a treatment developed for rheumatism and arthritis. Sand baths are taken during the hottest months of the year, July through September.
Patients from as far away as Sweden and Germany make the joumey to Siwa for the cures, staying at one of the three clinics at the base of the mountain.
Early each morning workers dig shallow holes in the sand along the slopes to allow the sun to heat the area. At midday, when the sun is most intense, the patient lies in the hollow and is covered with additional hot sand. Less sand is piled in the area around the heart.
Here the patient remains for live to thirty minutes, depending on the prescribed treatment. Then the patient is removed to a nearby tent, wrapped in hot blankets, and asked to drink herbal teas and chicken
soup. The treatment continues for five to seven days during which time the patient is forbidden to bathe or drink anything cold. Some experts believe that the sand for such cures is special: filled with radiation,
so only specific places can be chosen for the cures. While the rest of the oasis has modernized and caters to the tourist, the sand cures have not.
The hotel is shabby, the area neglected.siwa shali
Festival of Siyaha
On the Festival of Siyaha, Festival oi Tourism, which always takes place at the full moon in October, the Siwans gather a Gebel al-Dakrur for a great celebration.
I sheikh from Sidi Barrani on the Northern Coast comes to assist in the festivities am The people of siwa shali have recorded the history of their oasis in a document known as the Siwan Manuscript.
It incorporates Siwan oral history from as early as the Arab invasion of Egypt in 649 and includes family lineage, traditions, and customs interspersed with daily events in the oasis.
The Siwans once denied the existence of this manuscript, but today they acknowledge that it does exist.
This history, like similar documents in other oases, was maintained by a sheikh. In Siwa, the family of Sheikh Musallim recorded the events until 1960, when the practice was discontinued. Ahmed Fakhry was one ofthe few outsiders to see the manuscript. He acknowledged that Shali, the name Siwans give to their city, was founded in 1203.
The Fortress at Siwa Shali
Built on a hill inside a protective wall originally breached by a single gate, Bab Inshal, Gate of the Entrance, this maze of mud-brick buildings that comprises the fortress served the people of the oasis for nearly eight centuries.
A second gate, Bab Atrat, New Entrance, was added in the 1300s, and a third gate, Bab Qaddumah, was added later (White said that in 1898, there were as many as fourteen or fifteen gates).
The inhabitants had to live in narrow quarters, sharing space with their animals, which were herded into the fortress each evening.
Since space was at a premium and the only place to build was up, large families often had homes of three, four, and five stories.
The Easterners and Westerners lived side by side in the small quarters, each within a self-contained community.
There was a well within the fortress and legend maintains there was a tunnel cut into the sides of the well that led to the mosque in the square below. This tunnel was large enough to contain small houses.
Also, according to legend, somewhere within the walls was a second subterranean passage that connected Shali with Gebel 31-Mawta and a third underground passage that linked Aghurmi with Umm Ubayd.
The huge chunks of salt
so prevalent in Siwa were used in the construction of the fortress, as they helped to strengthen the walls. Rain has unfortunately proved to be more destructive to the fortress than any human invaders, for when rain falls, it dissolves the salt. Fakhry noted a three-day rain in 1928, after which the fortress was abandoned.
Further noted a one-day rain in December 1930, and another in January 1970.
In each instance, part of the fortress collapsed as huge holes appeared in the mud brick, weakening the walls and rooftops.
In 1982, Siwa was hit by a two- day storm.
It was devastating not only to the fortress but also to the entire oasis.
People were forced to evacuate their homes and lost many of their possessions to floods. Walls collapsed, killing families trapped inside.
In 1928, Walter Cline recorded that the first family to move out of the fortress and build a home on the flat land was from the Msellim family around 1880.
The man had been wounded in a Bedouin raid and could no longer climb up into the fortress to his home.
Descendants of the family still lived in those homes on Cline’s visit.
Cline also stated that the district Manshiah, southeast of the fortress, was inhabited by prostitutes who serviced the Bedouin who came to haul dates away.
Today the fortress is dangerous and uninhabited.
Only a shadow of what it once was, rumors emerge yearly that it will be rebuilt. Until then, a replica of the fortress as it appeared in the nineteenth century stands in front of it and the ruins still remain a majestic sight.
Walk around the exterior to see the walls.
Enter the gate and roam the narrow passageways. But be Careful, for some of the paths are hollow underfoot and one could fall into a hole.
You can hear the hollow sound as you walk.
Where once the fortress dominated the landscape for miles around, today its height has diminished.
It is blocked by ugly modern buildings in the square below, and with each rain it is slowly dissolving. However, at night lights now focus on the fortress and it glows golden, basking in its own self-image.
The Shali fortress
is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Market The market fills most of the space in the square in front of the old fortress.
The older stands with roofs of rushes and pillars of dried mud called dululas, sun shelters, barely exist anymore.
Those that continue to stand are being pushed out by new kiosks operated by tour companies and craft shops.
Although it is busy all week, Friday is market day, when people come to Shali from the surrounding area.
It is in the market that one finds the restaurants that cater to tourists.
Siwa shali House
-Hours: 10 a.m.-12 p.m., closed Friday and Saturday.
It took the Siwans a while, but once they decided on a museum, they created a wonderful one. It is situated in a traditional Siwan two-story home and the interior is filled with the crafts that have become renowned throughout the world. You enter through a garden. The lower floor is a changing exhibit. There are four rooms on the upper floor. On the left, the two rooms have jewelry, musical instruments, wedding dresses, baskets, and pottery. On the right, the back room is a traditional Siwan guest room, somewhat upscale, while the front room, without a roof, is the bath and kitchen of a typical home.
The facility is manned by volunteers like Abu Bakr Ismail.
Mosque Located in the center of a huge square from which roads radiate in all directions, the mosque is dedicated to Sidi Suliman, a holy man who was one of the chief judges of Siwa.
During the saint’s lifetime, Siwa was invaded by a Tebu warring party and, tradition maintains, through his prayers, it was swallowed up in the desert. (Sounds like Cambyses’ ill-fated fellows.)
families, men and children only, come with food and bedding and spend three days on the mountain in celebration of the harvest. Despite the fact that Siwan women are still not permitted to attend the festival, foreign women are welcome.
Qasr Hassuna, historically one of the most interesting areas in Siwa, is unfortunately a military zone and therefore off-limits.
Two of the caves of Qasr Hassuna were used by the Grand Sanusi when he came to Siwa shali in l838. lt was from his base there that he lived and spread his message to the people of Siwa shali over an eight-month period.
While doing so, he hand-carved a mihrab (prayer niche) into the rock of one of the caves. Bayle St. John called it Sid Hamet.
Years later, when the Sanusi were losing their empire to the Italians and British and had been conupted into a military force, Sayyid Ahmad retired to Qasr Hassuna with a large entourage that included his harem.
This is when the Sanusi lost the respect of the Siwans, for Ahmad, out of funds and on the run, resorted to extortion and forced conscription to keep his empire from collapsing.
In less than a month he was on his way to Dakhla Oasis where, equally unwelcome, he remained two months until the British forced him out and he returned to Siwa shali and Qasr Hassuna.
These were the last days of the greatest religious order of the North African deserts.Nearly a year later, the British, at the Siwans’ request, arrived at Siwa and attacked the Sanusi forces at Naqb Qirba.
Consisting of 1,300 men, the Sanusi resistance disintegrated within a few days and Sayyid Ahmad fled to Jaghbub Oasis (and then on to Turkey). The British occupied Siwa, establishing their headquarters at Qasr Hassuna. It was here that King Fuad built his resthouse in 1928. Cave Near the hill is a limestone rock that contains a cave and a tunnel. Belgrave attempted to explore the tunnel when he was at Siwa shali .
He relates the following story told him by the sheikhs: Years ago, in the time of their grandfathers, Sheikh Hassuna, the owner of the qasr-castle-discovered, as I had, the tunnel in the rock.
He naturally supposed that it was the entrance to a place of hidden treasure, but he did not like the idea of going downthe shaft himself, and he could find nobody else who would.
There was at this time a very venerated Fiki in Siwa, and eventually Sheikh Hassuna persuaded him to make the first descent, in order that he might exorcise the jinns and make it safe for the sheikh to secure the treasure.
The Fiki was lowered at the end of a rope, with a torch, a Quran, and a supply of incense.
A few seconds afterward the people who were in the tunnel and looking into the pit were startled by a rushing of wings and a great cloud of black smoke, which was the jinns escaping from the place. When they hauled up the Fiki he told them the following tale.
At the bottom of the pit there was a vast chamber hewn out of stone, and at one end of it there was an iron door.
When the Fiki began to read from the Quran the door swung open and two terrible jinns passed out of it, escaped up the shaft, and another jinn, a female, with huge wings, appeared
and ordered him to depart and to warn all others never to visit the place again.
Belgrave was fascinated and found a Sudanese Fiki who was living in Siwa shali at the time.
The two of them descended into the tunnel.
They found the shaft was 7.6 meters (25 ft) deep, widening as it descended, and at the bottom there was 8 hewn room heavily covered in rubble.
At one end of the room Belgrave did not find a door, but a shaft blocked with stones.
He had his men labor for several days clearing the stones, but eventually abandoned the work, disheartened by the lack of progress being made.
Today Qasr Hassuna is a holy place and most Siwans will not enter it. It is best that strangers also stay away, for reverence runs high and disrespect can lead to unpleasantness.
Stadium- Siwa shali
Behind Qasr Hassuna the government has built an Olympic-size stadium with 15,000 seats, a swimming pool, and tennis courts.
Cleopatra’s Bath The springs of Siwa are famous through out the Western Desert. Most of them are surrounded by palm groves and some have interesting histories. And they have won-
derful bubbles. You can watch the bubbles race through the clear water from leisure in the rocks at the bottom of the pools, rising to tickle toes, belly, and nose on their way to the surface.
The ancient springs that are enclosed by large circular walls were built by the Romans. If the springs are not cleaned regularly, a thick algae gathers on the surface and green stalagmites form at the bottom of the sparkling clear pools.
Although there are dozens of springs in Siwa shali in which travelers can bathe, two are famous, not only for the pleasure of swimming in their bubbling waters but also for the history and events that have taken place around them.
The Spring of the Sun, or Cleopatra’s Bath, has been mentioned by travelers to Siwa since the days of Herodotus.
Legend maintains that Cleopatra swam here when she visited the oasis and so, it must be assumed, did Alexander the Great, Herodotus, and every other famous traveler.
The ancient travelers believed that the temperature of the water varied with the time of day, growing hotter at night and cooler during the day, but this has been disproved in modem times.
Dugald Campbell shared a wonderful Story of his visit to the spring.
One of his traveling companions had been wounded during the war and had a wooden leg. When he wanted to swim in the fountain, he began to unscrew the leg.
The Siwans had never seen such a thing and the procedure and its aftermath caused quite a stir not only at the fountain but also throughout the entire oasis. Today a small craft shop and coffee shop, both nicely built of natural materials, sit beside the pool and foreigners are encouraged to swim.
The abandoned village of Aghurmi (Gharmy of St. John, Agremieh of Home- mann, and Siwah-el-Sharjieh of Minutoli), the original settlement of Siwa Oasis, sits high on a sheer-sided rock.
Inhabited well into this century, the village was the home of the most important temple in Siwa shali , the Temple of the Oracle.
Today the houses of the modem village spread over the depression floor and the deserted rock where the ancient Oracle once attracted the greatest men of Greece and Rome is a sad ruin.
The village is still blessed with an aura of mystery.
Many strange events are reported to have occurred at the nearby cemetery.
There is, for example, a strange tale of the 1980s. A man’s mother died before he was bom and she was buried in the Aghurmi cemetery.Siwa shali
After her death and burial, the dead woman gave birth. The baby was nurtured at her breast within the dark confines of the grave for two months. One day a person passed the cemetery and heard a strange knocking.
Fleeing, he soon returned with help.
They dug up the grave of the woman and found the baby.
The mother, her eyes open, was crying, but once the child was safe, she closed her eyes to rest in peace.
The Siwans bury in a deep trench, placing the body inside followed by a split palm trunk. Leopoldo reported that if an old person dies, people eat roasted beans and peanuts at the grave as symbols oi longevity.
Temple of the Oracle
The road to Aghurmi passes through 2 majestic palm grove and ends around 2 bend where a Hat rock topped by the ruins of the Temple of the Oracle comes interview.
It is a spectacular sight. Built during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, the temple and its Oracle flourished well into the Greece and Roman periods (although the Oracle’§ origin is reputed to be much older).
There are many stories related to the founding of the temple. One tells of tw( black priestesses (another legend say: doves) from the Temple of Amun at Thebes (modern Luxor) who were banished to the desert. The first founded the Temple of Dodona in Greece, where she became the voice of the Oracle.
The second, after a time in Libya, came to Siwa where she became the Oracle’s sibyl. Another legend maintains the temple existed as early as 1385 BC and was built in honor of Ham, the son of Noah, by Danaus the Egyptian.
Yet another legend relates the founding of the temple to the Greek god Dionysus.
While lost in the Western Desert,
Dionysus was perishing of thirst when a ram appeared and guided him to the spring at Aghurmi.
In gratitude, Dionysus erected the temple. Oracles, manifestations of the gods, were highly revered in the ancient world.
Able to see into the future, they were consulted regilarly before important decisions were made. Their abodes were usually close to a natural phenomenon.
At Siwa, this was the spectacular Spring of the Sun.
Sibyls, priestesses who spoke the Oracle’s message, were believed to be endowed with prophetic powers.
They were often called upon to intercede with the gods.
There were ten sibyls throughout the world: Persia, Libya, Delphi (in Greece), Cumae (Greek town northwest of modern Naples, Italy), Samos (Aegean island), Cimmeria (in southern modern Ukraine), Erythrae (in modem Asia Minor),
(ancient Lazio, Italy), Marpessa (on the Hellespont), and Phrygia (west of Anatolia, now in modem Turkey).
Ancient sources, including Quintus Curtius and Diodorus, reported that the original form of the Oracle at Siwa shali was the bezel of a ring, which was embellished with gems, including the elusive Siwan emeralds.Siwa shali
Later the form became the head of a ram. Unlike the great complex at Karnak, wealth was not important; in fact, the Oracle strove to maintain its primitive simplicity.
A more modem explanation is asserted by K. P. Kuhlmarm, who has been working at Aghurmi for some time.
He concluded the Ammonian kings lived in a palace next to the temple and acted as high The Oracle at Siwa was held in such high favor in Greece that an Athenian galley was commissioned solely to convey envoys to Mersa Matruh, then called Ammonia, where they would begin their desert trek to the oasis.
In all likelihood, the Greeks leamed of the Oracle after they invaded the Northem Coast and established Cyrene (now in Libya) in 637 Bc.
Then the Oracle was absorbed into Greek religion and associated with Zeus.
The Oracle is reputed to have cursed`Andromeda, and she was tied to a rock to be devoured by a sea serpent.
Perseus stopped off to visit before he beheaded Medusa, and Hercules visited just before he fought Busiris.
It is believed that Alexander the Great
wished to consult the Siwan Oracle to seek confirmation that he was the son of Zeus, the Greek god of gods.
When he and his entourage arrived, a manifestation of the Oracle was paraded through the city accompanied by eighty priests.
After his visit to the Oracle, whenever his image appeared on coins, Alexander was shown with the horns of the ram, the symbol of Amun, the god of gods in Egypt. We know that Alexander consulted the Oracle at least one more time.
When his favorite, and some say lover, Hephaestion, was killed, Alexander sent a request to the Oracle asking if he could “pay him divine honors.” The Oracle said no then Alexander strated a Nile cruise.
Cambyses (see F arafra Oasis for details) wanted to destroy the Oracle and lost his army somewhere in the vast outreaches of the Western Desert, perhaps, as Pliny tells us, because the sacred stone at the temple was touched by sacrilegious hands.
This would cause a dreaded sandstorm to rage.
The Oracle of Siwa shali won its reputation
and its fame because of its mystical vision related to Cimon, the Athenian general.
Cimon stood at Cyprus in 449 BC awaiting word from the Oracle before attacking Egypt.
When his emissaries reached the Temple, the Oracle spoke, “Cimon 15 already with mel” When they returned I0 Cyprus, they discovered that Cimon had died as they were speaking to the Oracle Pindan the Greek nnet wrote a 006111 kept under the altar for six centuries. Eubotas, the famous Cyrene athlete, stopped by, too.
The Greek city of Sparta held the Oracle in special veneration and Lysander, the Spartan general, came to Siwa at least twice.
Hannibal is reported to have visited the Oracle.
The Elians were deeply influenced by the Oracle and kept a list of all their questions and the answers provided by the Oracle, which they engraved in stone on a temple wall.
Despite the fact that Hadrian may have renovated the temple, the Romans did not hold the Oracle in such high esteem. In 49 BC Cato asked about the freedom of Rome and, according to one source, the Oracle refused to answer.
A second source maintains that Cato had come to challenge the Oracle and break its power, so it was Cato who refused to speak, thus lowering the esteem of the Oracle.
By the time Strabo visited Siwa (during the days of Jesus Christ) he noted that the Oracle, no longer held in esteem, was in decline.
The ruins of the temple can be reached by climbing a well-marked path up the side of the rock. The temple does not occupy the entire area, for it was located within the village, which was only abandoned in 1926 after a heavy rainstorm.
Up until quite recently, some families actually lived in the temple.
The entrance to the site is through the village gate.
The ruins of the mosque stand over the gate, its minaret still dominating the skyline.
In front of the mosque is the ancient well with several niches that may lead to storage areas or subterranean passages.
As mentioned earlier, it is believed that a passage led from Aghurmi to the Temple of Umm Ubayd in the valley below.
The temple is in the northwest comer.
HS walls abut the cliff at the edge of the f9Ck_ and are in danger of falling into the Pf@C1pice below.
In fact, archaeologists haV€ buttressed the rock with steel girders to keep it from collapsing.
The area in front of the temple was cleared of its mud-brick h0l1Ses bv Ahmpa Parfum an iovn Th.. an interior of two large halls and a sanctuary.
The only inscriptions are in the sanctuary.
Simpson interpreted the text tt say, “Life itself, legs like silver, skin like gold, hair like sapphire, and homs lik emera1d.” There is much evidence of treasure hunters at work in the temple area. every other mountain in the oasis i believed to contain treasure, then of the Temple of the Oracle must be considered to have the greatest treasures of all Gerhard Rohlfs saw and described the temple in the 1870s.
At that time mucl that we see today was under the nibble o modern homes. It was archaeologis Georg Steindorff in l899~1900 wht determined once and for all that the siti actually was the place of the ancient Oracle.
The cella where the Oracle would speak had “been built into a farmstead and served as living-room and stable.”
The temple mount has been under excavation by the German Institute o Archaeology since 1992, when it was called upon to save the temple front falling off the mountain.
Temple of Umm Ubayd
The Temple of Umm Ubayd, tucked into the valley below the rock where the Temple of the Oracle stands, is a pathetic ruin.
Almost dedicated to Amun, it was joined to tht Temple of the Oracle by a causeway formed an integral part of the rituals relatel to the Oracle and the god. It was still standing when Browne visited Siwa in 1792. It destruction was partly due to an earthquaki in 1811, but mainly due to vandalism and treasure hunters. In 1840, the Turks had : go at it.
In 1896, the local govemor dynamited the temple for building material. We have drawings of this temple by various nineteenth-century visitors, and one Minutoli, who visited Siwa from October 26 to November 12, 1820, recorded in detail a large number of the inscriptions From his drawings it has been ascertained that the temple was constructed by Kin; Nectanebo II of the Thirtieth Dynasty. St John, who visited in 1847, .
Today, as one passes along the track leading from Shali to Aghurmi, the Temple of Umm Ubayd comes into view amid a glorious palm grove.
Its ruins are still interesting and a stop, prior to climbing the rock
of the Temple of the Oracle, is worthwhile.
Additional archaeologists to excavate at Aghurmi were Ahmed Fakhry in the early 1970s and a French expedition in the 1980s.
There is much work to be done on the two temples and the surrounding area at Aghurmi before we can frilly understand the significance of the area throughout the ages.
Fatnas at Sunset
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° all day
Fatnas N 29 11 574
Fatnas is a small island in Birket Siwa that appears on the local map as Fantasy Island. Perhaps the latter name is appropriate, as Fatnas truly seems to be enchanted, especially at sunset.
Joined to the mainland by a causeway, the island is overgrown with vegetation and the drive into the spring is like a jungle journey.
The causeway may have been built by Farag Kashif, the successor to Hassan Bey, during the reign of Muhammad Ali.
Farag Kashif forced the Siwans to work on the causeway, which was made wide enough for two camels to pass.siwa shali
The purpose, according to Belgrave, was to pass the salt bog at the edge of the lake and make the island accessible.
Deep in the orchard that covers the entire island, the spring sees little sun and the surface looks as black as ink. In truth,
The second famous spring in Siwa shali is Ain Tamusi, Spring of the Bride, where a young bride would come with her friends to bathe on the eve of her wedding.
Here she would take her silver virgin’s disc, the adrim, from around her neck and pass it to a younger sister.
A few years ago, brides still came to the spring accompanied by their soon-to-be-husbands and, instead of bathing in the waters, they arrived by car, merely drove around the spring, then zoomed away.
Today the tradition is no longer practiced.
it is crystal clear.
Around the perimeter of the island is a spectacular view of the lake with Gebel Bayda and Gebel Hamra forming the backdrop to the west and the sand-strewn escarpment serene across the lake to the south.
A walk in the gardens shows a variety of trees, including banana, date, and olive.
It is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the sunset, and local tours do exactly that.
A small tea shop offers karkadeh, a drink derived from the hibiscus flower. In Siwa, you have the choice of the traditional ruby red karkadeh or a yellow karkadeh, unique to Siwa.
In an attempt to curtail the rising water table in the oasis, a barrage was built around Fatnas and the water pumped out, leaving the island high and dry. But in January 2006, the water was back and the island was an island once again.