The Annual Spiritual Journey

The 200 year-old annual Spiritual Journey, also known as the Tourist Festival, is a 3-day spiritual and religious Siwan festival that usually coincides with the full moon in October. Through prayer, ritualized feasts and celebrations, the people of Siwa gather to praise God and the Prophet Mohamed, resolve disagreements, harvest dates and olives and perform marriages on the mountain of Gabal al Dakrur, one of the oasis’ most awesome natural settings. 

The day before the feast begins, each Siwan donates money and bread to the nearest mosque, to be used in the preparation of a meal of fatta (bread soaked in meat broth).  That evening, the cattle are slaughtered, and at sunrise cooked at a site some 30 meters above sea level.  People gather to hang decorations, children wear colourful new clothes, and Siwan crafts, food and merchandise are displayed for sale.  

On each of the first three days, after the noon prayer, a group of Siwan men and boys distribute the fatta to the people who have gathered to eat.  The meal’s preparation, distribution and consumption follow precise ceremonial routines symbolizing equality and harmony.  The council of elders then assembles on the mountaintop to hear and resolve conflicts and problems, and then the people disperse to play games and relax in their tents into the night. 

On the morning of the fourth day, Siwans wearing white clothes gather at the base of Gabal Al Dakrour to follow the elders and chiefs of the Siwa’s 11 tribes in a procession that leads through the palm and olive groves dotted with fruits of gold, black and green. The procession and the feast end when the group arrives at the grave of a Siwan saint and chants the anasheed, Islamic vocal music, in a circle, before shaking hands in a warm departure.