Is an oasis in Egypt, between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert, nearly 50 km (30 mi) east of the Libyan border, and 560 km (348 mi) from Cairo.
About 80 km (50 mi) in length and 20 km (12 mi) wide, Siwa Oasis is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements, with 23,000 people, mostly Berber speakers who speak a distinct language of the Berber family known as Siwi. Its fame lies primarily in its ancient role as the home to an oracle of Amon, the ruins of which are a popular tourist attraction which gave the oasis its ancient name Ammonium . Historically, it is part of Ancient Libya. Its modern name siwa , first attested in the 15th century (earlier Arab geographers termed it Santariyyah), is of uncertain origin. Basset links it to a Berber tribal name swh attested further west in the early Islamic period, while Ilahiane, following Chafik, links it to the Tashelhiyt Berber word asiwan, a type of bird of prey, and hence to Amon-Ra, one of whose symbols was the falcon.
Agriculture is the main activity of modern Siwi, particularly the cultivation of dates and olives. Handicrafts like basketry are also of regional importance.The isolation of the oasis caused the development of a unique culture which was shown in its pottery, costume, styles of embroidery and, most notably, in the silver jewellery worn by women to weddings and important occasions. These pieces were decorated with symbols which related to Siwa’s history and beliefs and attitudes.Tourism has in recent decades become a vital source of income. Much attention has been given to creating hotels that use local materials and play on local styles.
The oasis was called Ammonium in ancient times. Early Arab geographers termed it Santariyyah. Its modern name Siwa, first attested in the 15th century, is of uncertain origin. Basset links it to a Berber tribal name swh attested further west in the early Islamic period, while Ilahiane, following Chafik, links it to the Tashelhiyt Berber word asiwan, a type of bird of prey, and hence to Amon-Ra, one of whose symbols was the falcon .
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Although the oasis is known to have been settled since at least the 10th millennium BC, the earliest evidence of connection with ancient Egypt is the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was established. settlers at Cyrene made contact with the oasis around the same time (7th century BC), and the oracle temple of Amun, who, Herodotus was told, took the image here of a ram. Herodotus knew of a “fountain of the Sun” that ran coldest in the noontide heat.During his campaign to conquer the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great reached the oasis, supposedly by following birds across the desert.
The oracle, Alexander’s court historians alleged, confirmed him as both a divine personage and the legitimate Pharaoh of Egypt, though Alexander’s motives in making the excursion, following his founding of Alexandria, remain to some extent inscrutable and contested.