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Its fame lies primarily in 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 Ammonium. To the west the Jaghbub oasis lies in a similar depression and to the east the large Qattara Depression also lies below sea level.The Ancient Egyptian name of the oasis was Sekht-am meaning palm land. Its modern name Siwa, first appeared in the 15th century. Basset 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.The fragmentary remains of the oracle temple, with some inscriptions dating from the 4th century BC, lie within the ruins of Aghurmi.The revelations of the oracle fell into disrepute under the Roman occupation of Egypt.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.Evidence of Christianity at Siwa is uncertain, but in 708 the Siwans resisted an Islamic army, and probably did not convert until the 12th century.The traditional culture of Siwa shows many features unusual in Egypt, some reflecting its longstanding links with the Maghreb and the fact that the inhabitants are of Berber origin.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.
In 1942 while the Italian 136th Infantry Division Giovani Fascisti occupied the oasis, a tiny Egyptian puppet government-in-exile was set up at Siwa.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.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.As a result of this isolation, the Berber inhabitants of the Oasis developed a unique culture manifested in its crafts of basketry, pottery, silverwork and embroidery and in its style of dress.
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Only one building in the Shali complex has been repaired and is in use, a mosque.