Siwah Oasis From Marsa Matrul,i (Rte 45) a road leads SW to Siwah Oasis. As with Sinai, a visit to this area by car takes a lot of planning. Enough fuel for the return journey is a necessity and since there is the chance of a breakdown it is better for two vehicles to journey together. There is a twice-weekly bus from Marsa Maµui:i. The road runs across the desert through (57km) Abar al-Kanayis, (68km) Bir Fu’ad and (61km) Bir al-Nisf. Beyond it continues for 136km into Siwah Oasis (Wa:t:iat Siwah) and its chief town Siwah (Resthouse). The depression containing the oasis has its main axis running E to W; it is c 82km long with the greatest width of c 28km at the W end. There are several large lakes and many lesser bodies of standing water. Almost at the centre of the oasis is the town of Siwah. This oasis has always been renowned for its dates and these
are still the principal product of the area. At present Siwah is under military occupation and cannot be visited, but application should be made to travel agents in case the interdiction is suddenly ended. Although the eastern oases were controlled by the Ancient Egyptians, it is
unknown whether Siwah was also included. Even its early name is uncertain, it may have been Tha or Thay. There are no very early remains and it is not until the 26 Dyn. when it was called Sekhet-imit (Place of the Palm-Trees) that definite proof of Egyptian occupation is found. At this time the Temple of Amun was ~uilt, perhaps over an earlier foundation. In the Greek period Siwah was known as Ammoniun. The oracle a~ this site was known throughout the classical world and widely consulted. During the First Persian Occupation Cambyses sent an expedition to destroy the temple and oracle. It left the oases of al-Khargah, but never reached Siwah, presumably destroyed in a sandstorm. The fame of the oracle was crowned with the visit of Alexander the Great in 331 BC when his divinity as the son of Amun was confirmed. The subsequent history of the oasis is obscure and although the temple was closed on the orders of Emperor Justinian in the mid 6C the worship of Amun may have lingered here until the coming of Islam, which date itself is uncertain.
During medieval times Siwah was known as Santariyyah. It was on the Ncaravan route from NW Africa to Mecca and a stopping place for pilgrims. However, it was also vulnerable to the attacks of Berbers and Bedouin. From the 18C several European travellers passed through the oasis and it was finally incorporated in the modern Egyptian state by I:Iasan al-Shamshirgi who subdued it for Muhammad cAli in 1820-Muhammad al-Sam1ssi, the Libyan sufi, stayed at the oasis for several months in uie 1830s. The original main town was Aghurmi but the inhabitants moved about lkm W
in the early 13C and built fortified houses on a rocky spur. Since the decline of the predatory desert tribes in the course of the last century most of the inhabitants have built homes at the base of the hill. Most are Berbers with a strong admixture of Sudanese. Their language is Berber but under the modern Egyptian education programme most of the inhabitants now also speak Arabic.