Monday, June 04, 2012

Monday, June 04, 2012

Visiting the highlights of the town yesterday was quite fascinating although some of the ruins I saw  are somehow neglected and some are not quite restored or probably the authorities had not given it much investment to rebuild those beautiful ruins. 

Yet I also think that, that’s probably the beauty of it, they were left as is, no artificial restitution should have been done that may just ruin the whole idea of authenticity and history of the sights.  It compliment the old-town charm of the Siwa Oasis.

Here's one that definitely is for free, see it before the authorities thought about constructing fences and charge entry fees.

I’m not going to leave this place without going up to the top of the fortress standing right in the middle of the town.  I wore my rubber shoes in case it might get tough getting to the summit.  I went around the village houses just below the fortress the day I arrived but I’m a bit sluggish from the overnight trip so I did not attempted a climb.

I could actually see it from the balcony of my room but the whole experience will not be satisfactory if I have not actually been on top of that hill that dominates the skyline of Siwa.  

Walls of the Shali Fortress from street level.


I started my way to the path passing by a carpet bazaar and ascended onto the steps that led me to the mosque on the lower level.  A labyrinth of paths leads to the top which isn’t much of a difficulty to find your way though.  Perhaps the only struggle is the uneven and some sharp-edged rocks protruding everywhere as you get near the peak.  So I have to cautiously choose every step I had to make to avoid tripping on the jagged rocks.

I was the only one wandering around that day, no staff or personnel whatsoever safeguarding the fortress.  There is no entry fee.  So literally the whole place is all by myself.

The ruins of the Shali,

View from the top of the fort.


Reaching the breezy topmost level is worth it as one will be rewarded with a 360 degrees of amazing view of the whole town, the ruins of a village on the other side, the Mountain of the Dead, the endless waves of green dates plantations, the lakes and the mountain ranges in the horizon.  It was just so peaceful.  It’s a nice not-so-bright sunshiny day.

So what is the Shali fortress all about?

It is a ghost town. 

The Shali is a five-storey 13th century medieval city or village.  The materials used in building the fortress is called "Kershef", a combination of salt rocks, muds and palm tree. The heavy rainfalls in 1926 demolished most of the houses and forced the inhabitants to build better and concrete houses below the fortress.

Although no longer inhabited, there are some structures below that are still in use, including a carpet and souvenir shops.   

View of the hill of the Mountain of the Dead.



The old mosque of Shali Fortress


The best preserved part of the Shali Fortress is the old mosque which was built in 1203 and considered to be the oldest mosque in town built in "kershif’ tradition, the same materials used to build the whole fortress.  The mosque is still being used by the locals during prayer times.

The old mosque that survived the fort.


The Shali is right at the center of Siwa so if you're staying in one of the taller hotels, then you'll probably have a decent view from your room window or get to the top floor, most of the hotels in the town have a rooftop cafe.

If you’re planning to climb to the Shali Fort, make it in the early hours of the morning or late afternoon when the sun is not blazing hot especially during summertime.

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