Camels in the dunes

Travel to Siwa – Berber Town with Links to Alexander the Great

Just 60km east of the Libyan border Siwa presents more adventurous travellers with yet another opportunity to see something they did expect in this country of contrasts. Associations with Alexander the Great, an Oracle, the ancient town of Shali and friendly Berber people all make a journey well-worthwhile for those with time.

2,700 years ago the Oracle of Amun at Siwa gave seekers of knowledge advice even attracting the attention of Alexander the Great who visited and heard of his success in the battles which lay ahead of him. It is clear from archaeological investigations that the Berber population that inhabit the region today are the descendants of people who were present here at the time of Alexander and for some 7,000 years before him. This long history and its associated culture gives Siwa a distinctly North African rather than Egyptian feel.

The laid back nature of Siwa together with its lushness and several interesting attractions all make the oasis a great place to visit. Shali is the name for the old mud-brick town of Siwa an amazing 13th century fortress city.

The ancient town of Aghurmi is the site of the famous Temple of the Oracle and dates from the 6th century BCE whilst the rock cut necropolis of Jebel al-Mawta north of town is definitely worth a visit being riddled with tombs.

Like the oases towns of the Western Desert Siwa has its own hot springs whilst outlying villages provide a look at how Siwan life was not too long ago.

One of the great ways to explore Siwa is by bike – most sights are all within easy cycling reach. If you have less time the best thing to do is arrange a 4WD safari of the main sights. Trips from Siwa to Bahariya and then south to Farafra and Dakhla should ideally be arranged by a specialist from Cairo, though locally organised trips into the Great Sand Sea can be fun.

Relaxing in local restaurants and tea houses is as far as night-time entertainment goes in Siwa – perfect for such a chilled out place.

  • Relaxed desert town with a distinctly North African feel
  • Explore by bike or take a 4WD safari
  • Explore mud-brick Shali and see the Temple of the Oracle


Africa Travel Information