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Siwa Oasis, Egypt
Fast Facts
Historic Interest
Overland Adventure
Market / Fair
Tourist Attractions




Kid-Friendly Hotels
Points of Interest Nearby
Family Travel Tips

Shali, Siwa Oasis


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

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The oasis of Siwa is more than the gateway to the Great Sand Sea. This once sleepy frontier town, less than 50 kilometers from the border of Libya, has a rich cultural history. Siwa is home to Egypt's only native Berber population as well as the famed Temple of the Oracle. Alexander the Great traveled here and obtained the confirmation he sought. The priests addressed him as deity and established his right to rule Egypt. Famous for its olives and dates, Siwa was once an important stop on the Caravan Route. But to protect the oasis from hostile invaders the Siwans built the Fortress of Shali in the 12th century and for hundreds of years no one went in. And while Siwa first appeared on an Egyptian map in the 26th dynasty, it was likely settled long before that. Flints found in the area suggest that Siwa was inhabited during the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras when the barren desert was a lush savannah. But before you brave the long trek across the desert from Bahariya or south from Marsa Matruh on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, take note. This difficult to reach destination is no longer solitary. In the peak season tourists and tour buses can give Egypt's most picturesque oasis an amusement park feel. Visit off peak but don't stay home.
History & Culture
Family travel to Siwa Oasis provides an opportunity to introduce the kids to life in a desert oasis. Learn about the history of the oasis and follow the ebb and flow of Siwa's fortunes throughout ancient and modern Egyptian history. Discover the Oracle of Amun and find out why Alexander the Great and other leaders of the classical world attempted the trek this once important religious center. Learn about the Berber people, Siwa is Egypt's only Berber enclave, and find out why Siwa's cultural ties are to the west rather than the east.
Online maps are a great travel planning resource and a great way to get the kids involved in a family vacation. Use online maps to pinpoint family vacation destinations and create a travel itinerary. Map the Western Desert and identify points of interest from Siwa south to Sudan. Plot your route along the caravan route and discover Egypt's desert oases. And when maps fail use no-maps such as waypoints and satellite images to get a lay of the land and find your way in remote and poorly mapped places. You may find that your children are innate navigators.
Books are a great way to introduce younger children to a new adventure and get teens and tweens ready for a family trip. Discover books by notable Egyptian authors. Explore Egypt through fact and fiction. Embark on a different kind of family journey.
Music & Sound
The ancient Egyptians invented writing and were the first culture to erect a stone monument. And they were the first people to incorporate music and dance into religious ceremonies and everyday life. While little is known of the rhythm and sound, the importance of music is evidenced in wall paintings and the evolution in the instruments played can be followed overtime. Harps, flutes and double clarinets were played in the Old Kingdom. Percussion instruments, lyres and lutes, likely borrowed from neighboring cultures, were incorporated into ancient Egyptian song during the Middle Kingdom. But whether ancient Egyptian music is a precursor to modern Egyptian song remains a mystery. The Arabic music played in Egypt today is believed to be rooted in the courts of Islam between the 7th and 13th centuries. Sufi and Greek influence is noted in the music of that time but the hand of the ancient Egyptians is, as of yet, unproved.
Read Egypt newspapers online and brush up on Egyptian current events from politics to economics and sports to entertainment before you depart on a trip with kids. Get Egypt news and discover what Egyptians are reading. Daily Egypt News is only independent source for Egyptian news. Al-Ahram Weekly is a widely circulated government affiliated newspaper. Egypt Daily News aggregates the local news.
Kids' Stuff
Online resources make learning about Siwa lots of fun. Did you know that Siwans are Berbers and not Egyptians? Not only do they speak a different language they have different customs and traditions.
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Travel Trivia
Puerto Madryn is located on the shore of which Ocean: