Locals - the Siwans
Berber culture - next door
The Shali. The people who are your neighbours in the Shali have not changed their way of life for hundreds of years. As the Shali is where a lot of people will spend their days walking around exploring the old buildings and twisting alleyways, they have become used to ‘tourist’ since the road was built in ’84 and if ignored will leave you well alone. If you say hello and give them a smile, you will have a friend for life and will be invited into their houses and shown around.
When you turn up in town it won’t take long for the guys in the market place to hear you’ve arrived. 10 people altogether who stay for one or two weeks is big news… the market stall holders and jeep drivers are all friendly people who all speak good English and are all keen to become your best friend for your entire stay. A cup of tea offered is a genuine offer, but remember they do make their living from the tourists and no matter how hard you try… you will always be seen as rich foreigner. They are however not pushy at all like Egyptians in other places where there are tourist and you can walk around the souk all day and not be hassled by anyone.
Siwan’s are warm friendly people who will say hello and let you on your way. The children are friendly and ‘What is your name” will be ringing in your ears on a return to the Villa from wandering around the backstreets of the town. Walk further away from the market area and you will become the focus of interest. They are great people and very different from the rest of Egypt, with less hassle than most other places in Egypt. Any offer of a trip to their garden or house for tea is genuine and you will be welcome as long as you like.
The foreigners who live in town (that includes us) are a mixed bunch. There are several British owners of land here and three of four live here a good part of the year. Most of the ‘foreigners’ here are Egyptians who are seen as just as foreign as we are. This makes it interesting when you meet the Egyptians of Siwa as you are both foreigners together and so can have interesting conversations about Siwa and Egypt as a whole. Most Egyptians that live in Siwa all speak English and are very friendly.