Kharga Oasis is one of the most beautiful places in the world, especially at sunset! Everything you see at this "green island in the middle of a yellow ocean of sand" is 100 percent natural! Whether you are sleeping under the stars, or just relaxing between the high palm trees, you will find a feeling of completeness and relaxation in the beautiful environment. The first time I saw the El-Kharga Oasis, a bright light came to my eyes and I could not overcome the emotion, even I wondered "What better place could there be than this?"
Kharga Oasis, the capital of the governorate of the new valley, or Al Wadi Al Gadeed has been inhabited since prehistoric times and it is still the most populated oasis of Egypt today.
The Location of Kharga Oasis
Kharga is located 232 kilometers south of Asyut and 550 kilometers south of Cairo. The oasis is located to the west of the Nile valley. Al Menya, Asyut, Sohag, and Qena, occupy the eastern border of the governorate, while Matruh governorate occupies its northern borders, and the border with Libya is located on the western edge of Al Wadi Al Gadeed. governorate.
Kharga means "outside" in the Arabic language. It is located in a wide depression that extends over an area of 220 kilometers from north to south and comprises the whole of southern Egypt except for the part beside the Red Sea. The new valley governorate is one of the most important geographical locations in Egypt as it comprises one-third of the whole area of the country.
The oasis of Kharga is a major administrative center and the seat of the governorate of the New Valley or Al Wadi Al Gadeed.
History Of Kharga Oasis
Kharga Oasis was an important transit point for desert caravans going all the way back to the period of the 12th dynasty (1786 BC – 1665 B.C.) This was a transition period in Egyptian history when the Hyksos had control over northern Egypt and the Pharaohs ruled over southern Egypt and Nubia.
Kharga Oasis was always considered the southwestern Gate of Egypt. It connected Egypt to Southern Africa through the Forty days road.
In August 2010, an Egyptian-American archaeological mission discovered the ruins of the most ancient residential area discovered in southern Egypt until now and it goes back to the second intermediate period. These ruins that the mission has found reflect that Kharga was a major administrative and services body at that point in history.
The mission found the ruins of some huge buildings, passageways, and a large bread bakery. These ruins go back to the Middle Kingdom (2134-1569 BC) and scholars believe that this civilization went on until the new Kingdom (1569-1081BC). however, the area really flourished during the 13th dynasty, the second intermediate period (1664-1569 BC), and the 17th dynasty (1600- 1569 BC).
During the third and Forth centuries A.D., a lot of Egyptian Christians fled to Kharga Oasis and the surrounding area to escape from the unjust Romans who persecuted the Copts of Egypt because of their Christian beliefs. The Copts lived in peace in the Kharga Oasis and left remarkable monuments such as the cemetery of Bagawat.
Kharga Oasis Today
Although Kharga Oasis occupies around one-third of the whole land of Egypt, it contains the least population density in the whole nation with around 20,000 inhabitants nowadays and a population density of only 4 people per square kilometer. The reason behind this are the vast deserts surrounding Kharga Oasis, the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt.
Tourism is not a major part of the local economy for the people living in Kharga. Most of the people of the Kharga work in normal jobs like the inhabitants of Cairo, Alexandria, and the other cities of Egypt. Al Wadi Al Gadeed also hosts one of the largest phosphates mines in the world in the area of Abu Tartour, for example.
Kharga Oasis is connected to the Nile Valley with a set of roads. The first one goes from Asyut to Kharga, the second goes from Farafra to Dakhla to Kharga. There is also a direct flight from Cairo to the Wadi Al Gadeed Airport in Kharga Oasis.
Ancient Sites of Kharga Oasis
The Temple of Hibis
The Temple of Hibis is located approximately one kilometer to the north of Kharga. This temple is of significant importance as it represents different key stages of Egyptian history. The Pharaonic, Persian, Ptolemaic, and Roman eras are well reflected in this ancient beautiful temple.
The temple of Hibis was originally constructed during the 26th dynasty, which was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 B.C. The period of this dynasty is also called the Saite Period after the city of Sais, where its pharaohs had their capital.
The temple was built for the worship of the holy triad (Amun- Mut- Khonsu). The construction work started under the rule of Iris and then Ahmos II. However, most of the construction works were completed during the Persian or the Hyksos occupation of Egypt, specifically during the reign of Darius I (522 BC).
The Temple Of Hibis was enlarged during the period of Nectanebo I (380 -362 BC) and Nectanebo II (360 -343 BC). Ptolemy II (285 -246 BC) also added the two outer portals.
The temple starts from the East with the sacred lake and the ports. Then there is the Roman gate that dates back to the Roman emperor, Galba, who built this gate in 69 A.D. Afterward, there is the rams' passageway that leads to the major gate of the temple. Finally, there is the sanctum of the temple with its remarkable and unique inscriptions.
The Cemetery of Bagawat
The Cemetery of Bagawat is located three kilometers north of Kharga behind the Temple of Hibis. This cemetery got its name from its style of architecture as most of the tombs there were constructed in the form of domes or "Qubwat" in Arabic which transformed afterward into Bagawat. This cemetery has one of the most important and ancient Christian churches in the whole world.
Bagawat dates back to the seventh century A.D. when Christians escaping northern Egypt fled to the Kharga Oasis. It contains 236 tombs constructed as small domed chapels with a central church in the middle which is considered one of the most ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt.
The most important tomb in the cemetery is the tomb of Exodus which represents the Israelis going out of Egypt and the Pharaohs forcing them out of the country. There is also the tomb of "peace' that contains the reliefs of Jacob, the Virgin Mary, Saint Paul, and Saint Takla. Other tombs display many colorful Coptic inscriptions and writings that demonstrate Coptic life during this period.
The Temple of Ghweita
The Temple of Ghweita or Qaser Ghweita, ("fortress of deep springs") is located 25 kilometers south of Kharga. This temple together with the Temple of Hibis is the only temple built in Egypt during the Persian or Hyksos occupation. The construction work of this temple started in the reign of Darius I on the top of a hill that was originally the ruins of a Pharaonic settlement. The temple was built for the worship of the holy triad (Amun- Mut- Khonsu), the same as the temple of Hibis. It was also enlarged during the Ptolemaic era between the 3rd and 1st century BC. The Temple now includes a hall with 8 huge columns, a hypostyle hall, and a sanctuary.
The Temple of Qaser Al Zayyan
The Temple Of Qaser Al Zayyan is located 5 kilometers south of the Temple of Ghweita. Thanks to the Egyptian government, there is an asphalt road that links the two temples together now.
This temple was constructed during the Ptolemaic reign and enlarged during the period of the Roman emperor Pius in the 2nd century A.D. The temple of Qaser Al Zayyan was dedicated to the cult of Amun Ra of Hibis. It contains a sanctuary made out of white limestone blocks and many mud brick side chambers all around it.
The Temple of Dush in the Oasis of Paris
This area corresponds to the Ptolemaic and Roman settlement of Kysis and it is located near the oasis of Paris. It is 120 kilometers south of Al Kharga. There are two Roman fortresses at it and two temples. This site had significant importance in the old world as it granted the control of several caravan routes in the Roman and Ptolemaic times.
The major monument on this site is a temple that was made out of limestone blocks during the rule of Domitian (81 – 96 AD) and enlarged by many of his successors and it was dedicated to the worship of Isis. Excavation on the Dush site has been going on since 1976 by a French institution of oriental archeology. They have unearthed a lot of interesting findings that include many golden items. There are also a lot of many interesting monuments on this ancient site.
The Museum of Antiquities of Al Kharga
The Museum of Al Kharga hosts a lot of the items that were found all over the archeological sites of the governorate. This includes a statue of Horus, some Pharaonic reliefs, and a collection of Coptic pottery. The museum is open daily from 9 until 3 and it is located in the city of Kharga.
Kharga Oasis was a prosperous place during ancient times and was linked with the Nile Valley by many routes. The Greek historian Herodotus mentioned that the great Persian King, Campuses, sent a huge army (about 50,000 men) from Thebes in order to destroy the Oracle Temple of Amon-Zeus at Siwah. The huge army reached Kharga Oasis, was provided with food and water, and then they continued their march towards Siwah, but the campaign vanished and no one knows what really happened, even today! Some historians suggest that the Persian army was lost in the desert and was sunk in the Great Sea Of Sand, which extends along the borders between Egypt and Libya.
Nowadays Kharga is famed for a large number of palm trees, pigeon-houses, farms, fields, monuments, wells, artisans, traditional handcrafts, and honey-colored hills, which can be found here. There is also another attraction, riding camels, which is considered by many tourists and visitors, a very fun adventure in itself. On the rocks of some sites, some graffiti is left by tourists to commemorate their visit to that beautiful Oasis. Pure springs and natural wells are completely unpolluted by chlorine or other chemicals and are scattered in several locations in the Oasis. The local people seem to be "at your service"; they are very kind and give visitors the feeling that they are very welcome Life in Kharga Oasis is simple but extremely satisfying!