Thursday, November 29, 2007

Siwa fighting for survival

Egypt Daily Star News

Potential mismanagement of Siwa’s water resources are a growing concern among residents. Siwa sits on a huge salt water well and attempts to minimize flooding have led to the drying out of some areas, such as the near side of Fatnis Island.

Everyone acknowledges that it is difficult to strike a balance between flooding protection and maintaining a consistent water supply, particularly when many local residents rely on plentiful wells to irrigate their crops. The harvesting of olives and dates is still the main livelihood for this agricultural community.

However, visitors to Fatnis Island fear that the delicate water balances needed to sustain such fragile ecosystems are not being met . . . .

With pressures on agricultural production and with Siwa’s inherent natural beauty and archeological treasures Siwans, Egyptians and international development experts are looking to tourism as Siwa’s economic future.

Siwa, perhaps the most beautiful of Egypt’s oases, plays host to an ancient mud brick town, numerous Greek and Roman tombs and the ruins of the famous Oracle. Even if claims by Greek amateur archeologist Liana Souvaltzi that she had found the lost tomb of Alexander the Great seem to have been widely disproved, it is clear that Siwa has much to offer the tourist.

A historically isolated and culturally unique town, Siwa is a fragile community where 25,000 residents of Berber and Bedouin origin farm and make handicrafts.

Mahdi Huweiti, head of the local tourist information office, fears that growing tourist numbers could have a disastrous impact on both the community and the landscape. He particularly fears the possible construction of an airport. Siwa is a small town, and the streets are narrow.

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