Oases of Egypt

The oasis depressions in the New Valley of Egypt are 625km west of Cairo. They are famous for palm trees, olives, apricot, rice and corn.

Al-Kharga is the biggest New Valley oasis. It used to be a stop on The Forty Days Road, the slave-trade route between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, to the west of the town of Asyut. Today it has a population of 60,000, including 1,000 Nubians who were displaced here after the creation of Lake Nasser. This depression is 185 km long and 15-30 km wide. Only 1 percent of the total area is cultivated. One of the most distinctive features of the Kharga Oasis is the escarpment that one must descend before arriving at the town. 

Outside the main center is the Temple of Hibis, built on the site of an 18th dynasty settlement of Saites. This is one of the few Persian monuments in Egypt. It dates to the 6th century BC, still well-preserved with murals depicting vultures and large reliefs of Darius greeting Egyptian gods on the outer walls. The necropolis of Bagawat at 10km from al Kharga has 263 mud brick tombs with Coptic murals, including the remains of the oldest church in Egypt.

The thermal springs, which reach temperatures of 43C are at Bulaq and Nasser villages to the south. They are reputed to be suitable for the treatment of rheumatism and allergies.

Al- Dakhla Oasis lies120km to the northwest of al-Kharga and is also about 310 km to the southeast of Farafra. This oasis consists of 14 settlements and has a population of about 70,000. It is the farthest oasis out of Cairo and is considered one of Egypt's most beautiful. The depression is surrounded by pink cliffs. There are about 30,000 acres of cultivated land. Most of its 70,000 or so residents are farmers who have to constantly battle the dunes that threaten their fields and orchards. Mulberry trees, date palms, figs and other citrus fruits are cultivated. Water to this oasis comes from rainwater in equatorial Africa with collects in deep artesian wells. It is believed to take 500 years to reach the oasis.

Farafra Oasis has only a single village called Qasr el Farafra. It is the most isolated of the New Valley Oases. According to folklore, the villagers are so pious that once they lost track of time and had to send a rider to Dakhla so they could hold the Friday prayers on the right day. The oldest part of the village is next to walled palm groves. The small mud-brick houses all have wooden doorways with medieval peg locks. As in other oases, many of Farafra's houses are painted blue (to ward off the evil eye) but here some are also decorated with landscapes, birds and animals.

Farafra Oasis is connected to Dakhla by a road that crosses the escarpment at Bab al Qasmand Pass. It is supported by 20 freshwater springs. There is a large area of sand dunes in the eastern and south-eastern section of the depression which extends for some 150 km.

Siwa was until recently the most inaccessible of all Egypt's oases. It lies some 20 m below sea level on the edge of the Great Sand Sea. It has an area of 1,088sq km. Its history includes a visit from Alexander the Great to consult the Oracle of Amun in 331 BC. The area has cool winters, hot summers and moderate spring and fall. Lake Siwa to the west of the town is a large, saltwater lake.

Baharia Oasis is located 365km west of Giza and 200km north of Farafra oasis. Bawiti is its capital. The oasis has 398 mineral and sulphur springs, such as Bir Hikma, Bir Haifa, Bir El Ghaba. Ein el Bishmo springs are unique because both hot and cold water flow from separate sources and flow into a creek. Baharia Oasis differs from the other depressions in the Western Desert in that it is surrounded by an escarpment. The depression is 42 km long and 14 km wide. Dolorite and quartzite rock hills are scattered along the depression floor.

Archaeological sites at Baharia date to Pharaonic time, to the 26th dynasty. The Valley of the Golden Mummies was recently discovered in a necropolis 6km form Bawiti.

www.tourism.egnet.net/attraction/cities/oases/oases.asp , http://en.wikipedia.org; www.sis.gov.eg/En/Tourism

Photos: http://www.middleeast.com/oases.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siwa_Oasis

More photos at: http://www.haberlah.com/hosted/siwa/oases.html