Wednesday, November 30, 2022: From Marsa Matruh to Siwa, Siwa House Museum, sunset at Fatnas Island Hot Springs
Hotel: Siwa Hotel, Night #1: BB, L, D.
Leaving Marsa Matruh, we arrive in Siwa in the early afternoon and have lunch in town. After checking into our hotel, we have some time to explore the town a bit and check out some of the small shops. Some people may be interested to visit the Siwa House Museum. It has artifacts of the ancient Siwa population with its traditions and local customs. There is an exhibit showing the special clothing worn by a woman in the last 7 days before her wedding.
We watch the sunset from the Fatnas Island. It is located on the edge of the oasis on the shore of Lake Siwa about 6 kilometers from the town center. There are hot springs here that are said to have healing properties and the views over the lake are spectacular. Afterwards we have a traditional Bedouin dinner.
Note: The desert can get cold at night and it could be quite chilly this time of year. The average temperatures during our stay here in Siwa are 43-77 F.
From Wikipedia: Siwa Oasis is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements with about 33,000 people, mostly Berbers, who developed a unique and isolated desert culture and a language called Siwi; they are also fluent in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic which is called “Masry” meaning Egyptian. Its fame derives primarily from its ancient role as the home to an oracle of Ammon, the ruins of which are a popular tourist attraction which gave the oasis its ancient name Oasis of Amun Ra.
Although the oasis is known to have been settled since at least the 10th millennium BC, the earliest evidence of any connection with Ancient Egypt is the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was established. Ancient Greek settlers at Cyrene made contact with the oasis around the same time (7th century BC), and the oracle temple of Amun (Greek: Zeus Ammon), who, Herodotus was told, took the image here of a ram. Herodotus knew of a “fountain of the Sun” that ran coldest in the noontime 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. During the Ptolemaic Kingdom, its Ancient Egyptian name was sḫ.t-ỉm3w, meaning “Field of Trees.”
The traditional culture of Siwa shows many unique elements, some reflecting its longstanding links with the isolated Oasis life and the fact that the inhabitants are Siwi Berbers. Until a tarmac road was built to the Mediterranean coast in the 1980s Siwa’s only links with the outside world were by arduous camel tracks through the desert. These were used to export dates and olives, bring trade goods, or carry pilgrims on the route which linked the Maghreb to Cairo and hence to Mecca.