Music: Abdoul Doumbia

The Oracle of Amun at Siwa

Entrance to the Oracle of Amun
The Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis is another ancient oracle. The oasis has been inhabited since the tenth millennium BCE, while the Temple of Amun is thought to be more than 3,000 years old. The walls of this temple, built of local stone, still stand. In ancient times it was famed as the place where Alexander the Great crossed the wide sand sea to be acknowledged as the son of Amun, the Egyptian creator god who was considered the king of the gods and the physical father of all pharaohs. Thus Alexander became the true ruler of Egypt.

The oracle is located at the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt, not far from the border of Libya, in an area that has its own language and customs. My own pilgrimage to Siwa was made at a time when the town was reachable by just one road. The women older than the age of 14 were married and could no longer be seen by men outside their immediate family. Thus Siwa was a town comprised mostly of men and children, donkeys and camels, and a few tourists.

It requires stamina and perseverance to reach this far outpost. In the past, one would have had to endure crossing this vast desert by camel caravan. There is a story about an army being sent to destroy the Oracle around 550 BCE. The entire army disappeared—literally swallowed up by the immense and treacherous desert.

What kinds of questions compelled people to risk their lives and suffer immeasurable discomfort to cross the desert on camelback to consult this oracle? Before you listen to this track, consider carefully what question or questions would motivate you to make this perilous journey.