About 300km from the Mediterranean coast, Mona Muhammad al-Mahdi, 26, hides behind her niqab and a large wooden table inside a silver factory in the Siwi house, holding tools as she curves a silver art piece portraying how Siwa has changed from a remote and seemingly withered Oasis to the flourishing land of the sun, dates, and olives.

With an Al-Azhar secondary school certificate, the young girl knows the suffering her parents and grandparents went through while they settled in the area, leave alone the power outages she witnessed during her childhood.

She has been working with Siwi House for a year now. Siwi house was established in 2006 for women to start handicrafts and cottage industries, such as knitting rugs and clothes. But with no solar power, Siwi House would not be there. Factories there are powered by solar energy.

The Dates country

Mohamed Yusuf, aged 40, a resident of Siwi, has been packing and selling dates since 2007. In this venture, he has had to use intermediate companies at the beginning due to the lack of refrigerators in the remote oasis. He also struggled to obtain approvals for establishing a commercial fridge to store his dates because of the limited power.

“Whenever I demanded a refrigerator, it was always rejected because of limited power,” says Yusuf.

For years, such challenges hindered Mohamed from implementing his project.

But with the introduction of solar energy in the oasis, it was time for Yusuf's dream to come true. The number of refrigerators in the oasis has quadrupled since 2010, and construction of his Shali Factory for packing dates was completed in 2017.

Shali Factory preserves and packs dates without any power shortage interferences.

“We aim to bring Siwa dates to the world. We achieved 60% of that during the last three years. We Opened markets in Asia, Ukraine, and Morocco, and we are looking for more, especially now that investment in dates has become a national trend,” notes Yusuf.

“We aim to bring Siwa dates to the world. We achieved 60% of that during the last three years. We Opened markets in Asia, Ukraine, and Morocco, and we are looking for more, especially now that investment in dates has become a national trend,” notes Yusuf.

He insists that this wouldn’t have happened “without a stable power supply.” At his factory, all employees are youths. He also creates safe employment for the Bedouin oasis girls.

“Siwi girls never went out of the house, but after establishing the dates’ factory, we provided a safe working environment for them while preserving the customs and traditions that prohibit mixing of males and females, “contends Yusuf.

The story of Siwa salt village

Together with his employees, Eisa Abdulallah Mousa, a carpenter, sat on the floor surrounding dishes of saltless food on a sunny day in 1997.

One of his employees suggested going to a distant place to get some salt, but Eisa said, "Siwa is salt."

He cut a minor piece of rock, cleaned it, and added it to the food.

Clay, salt, and electricity

A Lebanese blond young man stood among his colleagues at Shali Fortress (Old Siwa), feeling astonished as they mixed salt with clay to restore the castle dating back to the 20th century AD.

Ahmed Abu Dahar, an engineer, came with his colleagues, all postgraduate students at the American University of Beirut, to study how a city and Fortress can be built entirely with clay and salt, and it stays for hundreds of years!

The young architects tried to implement this in Lebanon but failed due to the different climate, so they set out for Siwa.

The Fortress building and its age were shocking for Ahmed and his colleagues and the hotel in which they stayed next to the Fortress. The hotel was built with clay and salt. It has air conditioners and a 24-hour power supply.

Shali Fortress brings together tradition, modernity, and luxury. This is possible because of solar power.

Camp Ali Khaled

Camp Ali Khaled is located in the middle of the desert, an hour and a quarter away from the center of Siwa. It is ideal for lovers of relaxation and calmness.

Ali Khaled and his seven companions took advantage of Siwa solar power plant to establish a camp in this area. At first, their project consisted of 10 reed huts and a spring of hot water. It later expanded over the years to include ten other rooms, all with solar power and air-conditioning.

Mohamed Omar, the reservations officer and one of the project’s founders, says this would not have been possible without solar power.

The village that rejected Electricity

“Without solar energy, we would not have been able to establish this project, which we thought about after the Egyptian revolution of 2011. But, unfortunately, there was no power in this remote place in the desert by then,” notes Mohamed.

Eventually, Camp Ali Khaled built a solar power station to ensure power availability at all times. It also erected lamp posts all over the camp and the heaters that provide hot water.

On the contrary, Adrere Amellal village rejected all forms of energy. Not even clean energy.

An hour away from the middle of Siwa, deep in the desert, 40 separate rooms made of kershif stones composed of clay and salt face a natural lake suitable for those searching for the desert’s calmness.

Traditional nature prevails over the place, which was built twenty years ago. No power. No mobile phones. Residents are contented with what nature gives.

How has the shape of Siwa changed over the years?

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