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Its fame lies primarily in its ancient role as the home to an oracle of Ammon, the ruins of which are a popular tourist attraction which gave the oasis its ancient name Ammonium. To the west the Jaghbub oasis lies in a similar depression and to the east the large Qattara Depression also lies below sea level.
Several uneven pedestrian streets lead from the southwest end of the Shali into it, the ground rent in places by deep cracks.
Many of the unreinforced kershif buildings bordering the streets of the Shali are also split by large cracks, or they are partially collapsed.
Greek settlers at Cyrene made contact with the oasis around the same time (7th century BC), and the oracle temple of Amun (Greek: Zeus Ammon), who, Herodotus was told, took the image here of a ram.
Herodotus knew of a "fountain of the Sun" that ran coldest in the noontide heat.
Until a tarmac road was built to the Mediterranean coast in the 1980s Siwa’s only links with the outside world were by arduous camel tracks through the desert.