Only In Siwa Oasis
Traditional Siwan Medicine
There are many Siwans who are skilled in homeopathic medicine and who offer treatment for free. Any kind of work that is for the community good is performed for free in Siwa, and most healers will refuse money unless healing is their only form of livelihood.
Men and women healers specialize in mixing medicines, setting broken bones, Qur’anic healing and midwifery.
Bone Setting – The Way of ‘Agl Healing
The ‘Agl family (“Nan ‘Agl”) is famous throughout the oasis for setting broken bones and dislocated joints for free, and their skill is handed down from one generation to the next.
No x-rays are used – they locate the fracture by feeling with their hands and use humor as anesthesia. The healer massages the broken limb and tugs on its joints until he figures out the problem, all the while chatting and joking to distract the patient.
While the patient is laughing, the healer tugs the bones and sets them in the right place. Then he sandwiches the broken limb between two palm branch splints and bandages them together. If the joint is dislocated, the healer rubs it with white sheep meat and resets it.
The children of the family learn bone setting from their father. If they don’t understand how the bone fits, their father squeezes their ears with palm seeds to stress his point.
The ‘Agl family also treat blood clots by pricking them with pins and rubbing the area with salt. This method is known as “Adegee”. If there is still massing swelling, they will make small hatch marks with a razor blade to release the blood (“Adoqee el Moos”).
Back Pain & Headache
Haj Hosni performs “tabernant” which is similar to cupping. Small sacks of salt, the tops twisted into wicks, are placed on the sore back. The wicks are lit and glasses placed over them, creating a suction.
When the glasses are removed, the skin underneath swells and the healer cuts tiny hatch marks with a razor blade to remove the blood. Something similar is done for severe chronic headaches, only a ram’s horn is used for the suction rather than a glass and salt sack.
A small area of the head is shaved, and the hollow ram’s horn is cupped over it. The healer sucks through the narrow end of the horn, raising the skin. Small hatch marks are cut into the skin, and the skin is suctioned again.
Sandbaths taken at the sand dunes near Dakrur Mountain are said to be very good for rheumatism, and there are some who travel to Siwa every summer for the curative power of the sandbaths alone.
The pits are dug in the dry sun and must be ready before noon when the sun is hottest. The bather is buried up to the neck, naked, in hot sand, with an umbrella to protect his head from the broiling sun. The hot, dry sand sucks all the moisture from the body so that the sand turns cold and has to be replaced with fresh hot sand.
The bather is then dug out of the sand, swaddled in a blanket, and taken to a tent. The tent is the most difficult part. There, he rolls around on the ground until he dries off and must drink lots of hot lemon juice and fenugreek tea – no cold drinks are allowed. From the tent,
he is transferred to a closed, airless room. He eats chicken or duck and lots of hot drinks. The next day, it begins all over again and can continue for 3-7 days, depending on the stamina of the individual. After it’s all over, bathers return home but are not allowed to wash for a week.
Onion and garlic are a kind of natural antibiotic and eating them in large amounts is an excellent way to fend off colds and illnesses year round.
Eating them in large amounts, however, can also result in unpleasant odors, so Siwans prefer to spend one week every summer eating garlic and onion in the privacy of their garden. In winter, people drink a shot glass of olive oil and eat a few dates to strengthen the body and guard against the chill.
Mashed garlic and salt are applied to the sore area, which is then bandaged.
One method is to drink either a strong tea or Turkish coffee that has been made using only lemon juice, preferably without sugar. Another method is to eat dry, ground hommos.
Burns are treated with an ointment made by burning palm fiber mixed with egg yolk. Bee honey is also used to treat burns.
Three peeled and roasted cloves of garlic are swallowed like pills with water. They are a natural antibiotic and will not smell because they are not chewed.
A tea made from guava leaves is a natural medicine for coughs. A tea can also be made from bitter Luban, a natural chewing gum made from tree gum. The Luban is boiled in water until it liquefies and is drunk in the morning before breakfast.
Snake Bite Prevention
Parents immunize their children against deadly snakebites by having them drink a serum made of ground “teriyaq” a kind of wood, mixed with water.
A live scorpion is left in olive oil until it dies, and the resulting oil is applied to the bite. Perfume can also be applied as a relieving astringent.
Sore Red Eyes
Eyedrops are used made from cumin and mother’s milk.