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The British Army's Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was based here, but Rommel's Afrika Korps also took possession three times.German soldiers went skinny dipping in the lake of the oracle, contrary to local customs which prohibit public nudity.The oasis was officially annexed to the Eyalet of Egypt by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1819.

The oasis makes a brief appearance as a base of the LRDG in the 1958 war film Ice Cold in Alex.

The ancient fortress of Siwa, known as the Shali Ghadi ("Shali" being the name of the town, and "Ghadi" meaning remote), was built on natural rock (an inselberg) and made of kershif (salt and mud-brick) it was abandoned for similar unreinforced construction housing on the plain surrounding it, and in some cases those in turn have been replaced by more modern cinder block and sheet metal roof buildings.

Only one building in the Shali complex has been repaired and is in use, a mosque.

Ten miles (16 km) northeast is the small oasis of Al-Zaytūn (Zeitun), and westward a chain of little oases and small salty pools extends for about 50 miles (80 km).

Siwa Oasis is extremely fertile and supports thousands of date palms and olive trees.

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Other local historic sites of interest include: the remains of the oracle temple; the Gebel al Mawta (the Mountain of the Dead), a Roman-era necropolis featuring dozens of rock-cut tombs; and "Cleopatra's Bath", an antique natural spring.