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 sleeping under the stars or just relaxing between the high palm trees, you will feel 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 New Valley governorate, or Al Wadi Al Gadeed, has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is still Egypt's most populated oasis.
The Location of Kharga Oasis
Kharga is 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. In contrast, the Matruh governorate occupies its northern borders, and the border with Libya is located on the western edge of Al Wadi Al Gadeed.
Kharga means "outside" in Arabic. It is located in a broad depression that extends 220 kilometers from north to south and comprises all of southern Egypt except for the area beside the Red Sea. The New ValleyNew Valley Governorate is one of Egypt's most important geographical locations, as it comprises one-third of the country's total area.
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 as early as the 12th dynasty (1786 BC – 1665 BC). This was a transition period in Egyptian history when the Hyksos controlled northern Egypt and the Pharaohs ruled southern Egypt and Nubia.
Kharga Oasis has always been considered the southwestern gate of Egypt. The Forty Days Road connected Egypt to Southern Africa.
In August 2010, an Egyptian-American archaeological mission discovered the ruins of the most ancient residential area 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 significant administrative and services body at that point in history.
The mission found the ruins of vast buildings, passageways, and a large bread bakery. These ruins go back to the Middle Kingdom (2134-1569 BC), and scholars believe this civilization continued until the new Kingdom (1569- 1081 BC). However, the area flourished during the 13th dynasty, the second intermediate period (1664-1569 BC), and the 17th dynasty (1600- 1569 BC).
During the third and Fourth centuries A.D., many 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 Egypt's land, it has the lowest popularity in the nation, with around 20,000 inhabitants today and a population density of only four people per square kilometer. This is due to the vast deserts surrounding Kharga Oasis and the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt.
Tourism is not a significant part of the local economy for the people living in Kharga. Most of the people of the Kharga work in regular jobs, like the inhabitants of Cairo, Alexandria, and the other cities of Egypt. Al Wadi Al Gadeed also hosts one of the largest phosphate 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 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 approximately one kilometer north of Kharga. This Temple is important as it represents different critical stages of Egyptian history. The Pharaonic, Persian, Ptolemaic, and Roman eras are well reflected in this ancient, beautiful Temple.
The Temple of Hibis was initially constructed during the 26th dynasty, the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 B.C. This dynasty is also known as the Saite Period, after the city of Sais, where its pharaohs had their capital.
The Temple was built to worship 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 reigns of Nectanebo I (380 -362 BC) and Nectanebo II (360- 343 BC). Ptolemy II (285 -246 BC) also added the outer portals.
The temple starts at the east with the sacred lake and ports. Then there is the Roman gate, which dates back to the Roman emperor Galba, who built it in 69 A.D. Afterward, the rams' passageway leads to the temple's main entrance. Finally, the temple's sanctum has 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 essential and ancient Christian churches worldwide.
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, considered one of Egypt's most ancient Coptic Churches.
The cemetery's most crucial tomb is Exodus, which represents the Israelis leaving Egypt and the Pharaohs forcing them out of the country. The Tomb of "Peace" also 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 25 kilometers south of Kharga. This Temple, and 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 initially the ruins of a Pharaonic settlement. The Temple was built to worship 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 B.C. The Temple now includes a hall with eight massive columns, a hypostyle auditorium, and a sanctuary.
The Temple of Qaser Al Zayyan
The Temple of Qaser Al Zayyan is 5 kilometers south of the Temple of Ghweita. Thanks to the Egyptian government, an asphalt road now links the two temples.
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 of white limestone blocks and many mud brick side chambers.
The Temple of Dush in the Oasis of Paris
This area corresponds to the Ptolemaic and Roman settlement of Kysis, located near the Oasis of Paris. It is 120 kilometers south of Al Kharga. The site has two Roman fortresses and two temples. It influenced the Old World by controlling several caravan routes in Roman and Ptolemaic times.
The central monument on this site is a temple made tone block during the rule of Dreignian (81 – 96 A.D.), enlarged by many of his successors and 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, exciting findings, including. There are also a lot of 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 three and is located in 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 massive army (about 50,000 men) from Thebes to destroy the Oracle Temple of Amon-Zeus at Siwah. The vast 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 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 many palm trees, pigeon-houses, farms, fields, monuments, wells, artisans, traditional handcrafts, and honey-colored hills, which can be found here. Another attraction is riding camels, which many tourists and visitors consider an entertaining adventure. 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 scattered in several Oasis locations. The local people seem to be "at your service"; they are very kind and give visitors the feeling of being very welcome. Life in Kharga Oasis is simple but highly satisfying!