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The oracle knew that you would return to me soon enough, just as several millennia ago it knew that Alexander, the Macedonian conqueror, would come here – it is said by following the flight of birds across the Great Sand Sea - to trace his lineage back to the gods.
But I did not give myself up easily. I hid in every grain of sand and in each molecule of water that pulses through the crystal-clear springs and the knotted roots that hold the sturdy palms and olives trees upright. Only when the vagrant wind slipped out from underneath the canopy and ran off with moon did you smell me then.
The sultry night air was hanging thick with the sticky-sweet smell of ripened dates. At the foot of the olive trees, flowers with their petals wrapped tightly around them sighed in their sleep. You took these memories home with you and my fragrance was conceived. Vanilla laced with incense. Oil of cinnamon leaf softened with narcissus, freesia and heliotrope.
My home, of course, is Siwa, a green oasis in the middle of a vast expanse of sand and one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements. Majestic rock formations, shady groves, springs and shimmering salt lakes that have nurtured and inspired the Berber people that settled here 10,000 years ago continue to enchant all who set foot in this secluded idyll.
The sooty falcon and the thick-billed lark pay a fleeting visit here on their migratory journey, as do tourists searching for a calm refuge after the bustle of Cairo. Close to the leafy plantations, on a rocky outcrop, the busy streets of modern Siwa brim with life and trade. At the centre lies the old town of Shali, a labyrinth of dusty yellow-hued streets huddled around the mud-brick remains of the ancient fortress, Shali Ghadi.
To the west lies the Temple of the Oracle of Ammon, the ram-horned deity venerated by Libyan tribes and then worshipped as Amun by the Egyptians. To the north: the necropolis of Gabal al-Mawta, the mountain of the dead. The old and the new sit side by side in Siwa. Unique customs passed down for generations of Berber families mix with the modernities of the 21st century.
I have been told the smell of Siwa is not related to tangible elements but “the sense of being lost in a place and a time that no longer is”. A nostalgic age when Pharaohs still ruled, boy-kings waged epic military campaigns by horseback, and all-powerful oracles were consulted to share what the gods had in store.
But that is the stuff of desert daydreams. Siwa is to be enjoyed in the present moment and my delicious scent is a reminder that this green oasis is exactly where you want be.
Eau de Parfum
Memo Paris has revisited Siwa, taking the fragrance on a new journey by adding a twist of incense. Shop now.