Egypt’s Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism

Egypt

Tucked away in Egypt’s Western Desert, the Shali fortress as soon as protected inhabitants in opposition to the incursions of wandering tribes, however now there are hopes its renovation will appeal to ecotourists.

Egypt's Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism
The 13th century edifice, known as ‘Shali’ or ‘residence’ within the native Siwi language,
was constructed by Berber populations [Credit: AFP]

The 13th-century edifice, known as “Shali” or “residence” within the native Siwi language, was constructed by Berber populations atop a hill within the pristine Siwa oasis, some 600 kilometres (370 miles) southwest of Cairo.

The towering construction is product of kershef—a combination of clay, salt and rock which acts as a pure insulator in an space the place the summer time warmth might be scorching.

After it was worn away by erosion, after which torrential rains nearly 100 years in the past, the European Union and Egyptian firm Environmental High quality Worldwide (EQI) started to revive the fortress in 2018, at a price of over $600,000.

“Educate your kids, and mine, about what historical Shali means,” sang a choir of younger women in brightly colored robes on the renovated fortress’ inauguration ceremony final week.

Dotted by thick palm groves, freshwater springs and salt lakes, the Siwa oasis’s geographic and cultural isolation provides a uncommon eco-friendly getaway, removed from Egypt’s bustling city communities.

Egypt's Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism
Egyptian schoolchildren are seen sporting conventional outfits for the inauguration
of the renovated fortress on November 6 [Credit: AFP]

The area’s tourism mannequin contrasts with Egypt’s mass method in different areas, akin to its Crimson Sea resorts within the east or alongside the Nile valley, particularly in Luxor and Aswan within the south.

Vacationers started gravitating to Siwa from the 1980s, after the federal government constructed roads linking it with the northwestern metropolis of Marsa Matrouh, the provincial capital on the Mediterranean.

The Marsa Matrouh governor has known as the oasis, registered as a pure reserve since 2002, a “therapeutic and environmental tourism vacation spot”.

Eco-lodges supply lush vegetable gardens and kershef facades.

Restoration works on the Shali fortress have been carried out beneath the aegis of the Egyptian authorities, which has been pushing to make Siwa a world “ecotourism vacation spot”.

Egypt's Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism
The European Union and Egyptian firm Environmental High quality Worldwide (EQI)
started to revive the fortress in 2018, at a price of over $600,000 [Credit: AFP]

The challenge additionally contains establishing a conventional market and a museum on native structure.

“The challenge will definitely profit us and convey vacationers. In the present day, I can supply my palm frond merchandise inside Shali,” stated Adam Aboulkassem, who sells handicrafts within the fortress.

EQI challenge supervisor Ines al-Moudariss stated the supplies used within the restoration work have been sourced from the fortress web site itself.

 

She stated the challenge was about “bringing the inhabitants of Siwa again to their origins and providing them employment alternatives” and providers.

Occasions prior to now decade exterior the desert oasis have had a ripple impact in Siwa, and tourism slumped after political unrest that rocked Egypt and different international locations within the Center East in 2011.

Egypt's Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism
An Egyptian labourer works on the restoration of the Shali fortress
[Credit: AFP]

International vacationer arrivals on the oasis have plummeted from round 20,000 in 2010 to only 3,000, stated Mahdi al-Howeiti, director of the native tourism workplace. Home tourism has solely partially made up for the sharp decline, he added.

This yr, the coronavirus pandemic put a brake on journey worldwide and dealt an additional blow to arrivals.

And although the challenge is seen by some as a solution to carry again guests, critics say it fails to deal with the issues of the 30,000-strong Siwi inhabitants, a Berber ethnic group.

“No Siwi goes to Shali. We’re hooked up to it, however from afar, like a panorama,” stated Howeiti.

He stated there have been extra urgent points for residents, akin to fixing crumbled and unsafe roads or treating agricultural wastewater that harms the cultivation of olives and date palms—key pillars of the native economic system.

Egypt's Siwa fortress renovation boosts hopes for ecotourism
Restoration works on the Shali fortress have been carried out beneath the aegis of the Egyptian authorities,
hoping to make Siwa a world ‘ecotourism vacation spot’ [Credit: AFP]

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani stated on the inauguration that the fortress was a “cultural asset” and its renovation was “important”.

However he additionally acknowledged that “we have to work on the infrastructure of the area, the airport and particularly the roads”.

The closest airport to Siwa, positioned simply 50 kilometres (round 30 miles) from the border with war-torn Libya, is restricted to the navy.

However some locals stay sceptical. “The fortress was not in peril of collapsing,” stated Howeiti. “For my part, it might have been higher to go away it as it’s. These ruins have a historical past.”

Creator: Hager Harabech | Supply: AFP [November 15, 2020]

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