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"The Old Town of Siwa"

Some doubts about the authorship of the text but it is, however, a source of 1827.

"The Old Town of Siwa

Deb Manley sends in an account (possibly by Mr Browne, a traveller in Egypt at the end of the 18th century, or possibly by an author who collected material from others’ accounts rather than travelling himself) which provides a footnote to Edward Lewis’s report in Bulletin 53 of house building in Siwa. It comes from The Modern Traveller, published in 1827 by Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh."

"The external appearance of the town of Siwah is striking and singular, as well as its internal arrangement. It is built upon a low conical rock of testaceous limestone, and, both in form and in its crowded population, bears a resemblance to a bee-hive. The streets, narrow and crooked, are like staircases; and are so dark from the overhanging storeys, that the inhabitants use a lamp at noon-day. In the centre of the town the streets are generally 5 feet broad and about eleven feet high, but others are so low that you must stoop to pass through them. Each house has several storeys, the upper communicating with the lower by galleries and chambers which cover the streets. The number of storeys visible is three or four, and is, on the whole five or six. On every marriage the father builds a lodgement for his son above his own, so that the town is continually rising higher. The external walls of the town are inclined, and are flanked by towers. They form nearly a square about 400 yards in circumference, with between twelve and fifteen gates. There are three wells within the walls, one of sweet, and two of brackish water. The town is divided into two quarters: the upper town is inhabited only by married people, women and children; the lower by widowers and youths, who, although allowed to go into the other quarter by day, must retire at dusk under penalty of a fine. One wonders what the Siwans made of travellers who actually penetrated the beehive and wrote reports such as that above..."

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