Dakhla Oasis Travel Guide
With its considerable amounts of underground water, Dakhla was the capital of the Egyptian oasis region during the Pharaonic period. Today, El Dakhla is one of the most wonderful oases in Egypt with many remarkable monuments, amazing natural scenery, and a large collection of Bedouin handcrafted souvenirs being sold around the towns of Dakhla Oasis. Just like the rest of the Egyptian oases located in the Western Desert, Dakhla Oasis is situated inside a depression.
History of Dakhla Oasis
Dakhla Oasis is the southernmost Oasis of Egypt and it was historically located in the center of an important caravans trading route that linked the Dakhla not only to the Kharga and Farafra Oases but only to the Nile Valley in the West and as far to the east as Libya.
As opposed to the other oases in Egypt, more than half of the lands of Dakhla Oasis are agriculturally cultivated. This is because Dakhla Oasis is rich with a large number of water springs like "Bir Talata" (well number three) and "Bir El Gabal" (the well of the mountain). These freshwater springs have become the most popular tourist attractions in Dakhla Oasis because of their wonderful warm water and relaxing atmosphere.
The Village of Mut
Among the sixteen villages in Dakhla Oasis, the Village of Mut is the largest and most important, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, making it more of a city than a village. The name Mut was derived from the ancient Egyptian goddess, Mut, wife of the famous god Amun and the most important deity among the gods of Thebes. Like many oases of Egypt such as Siwa Oasis, Mut has an old city which is situated on the highest hill of the town and features mud bricks walls and narrow lanes. Southeast of Mut is "Mut El Kharab", or the ruined section of Mut, which is a badly-preserved Roman settlement that was inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century.
The most important touristic attraction in the city of Mut is the spa of the Bir Talata, or well number two, located about two kilometers away from the center of the town. The water of Bir Talata is rich in iron and sulfur which helps in curing many illnesses. The water comes from 1,000 meters underground.
An artificial lake is also located three kilometers north of Bir Talata. It was formed with the drainage of the irrigation water to become one of the largest artificial lakes in the region. This lake was established as a fish farm but the substances like pesticides and fertilizers that come from the cultivated land made the Egyptian authorities abandon the whole project.
The Village of Al Qasr
Situated 20 kilometers north of Mut, Al Qasr is among the most interesting villages in Dakhla Oasis because it has a number of remarkable ancient monuments. The narrow lanes of Al Qasr have some very ancient Islamic houses with doors decorated with acacia wood with the name of the owner or the constructor of the house being carved. In the center of the Village of Al Qasr is the minaret of Sheikh Nasr El Din Mosque. Dating to the Ayyubid period, during the 11th and the 12th centuries, nothing remains of this valuable monument except for its 21-meter high minaret.
Deir El Hagar
Deir El Hagar, or the Stone Monastery, lies north of Mut near the historical necropolis of Al Muzwaqa. It is among the most important historical sites of Dakhla Oasis. The Temple was constructed during the ruling period of Nero in the middle of the 1st century AD and was dedicated to the Holy Theban Triad, the gods Mut, Amun Re, and Khonsu. Deir El Hagar was renovated afterward, during the reigns of the Roman Emperors; Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian as they enlarged the complex and added many finely carved bas reliefs.
The Temple was visited by a number of travelers of the 19th century and some of them carved their names on its walls as a sign that they have been there, which is unique to see. Deir El Hagar, which was surrounded by large mud brick walls 16 meters long and 7 meters wide in its heyday, has a two columns portico and a small hypostyle hall with four pillars and a sanctuary at the end of the complex.
The Village of Bashindi
The Village of Bashindi is a quaint and finely preserved historical village situated 40 kilometers east of Mut. It was inhabited during the 11th and 12th centuries. The Village of Bashindi features many mud-brick houses that are finely decorated and colorfully ornamented, making it a popular place for tourists to explore.
There is an Islamic cemetery inside the Village of Bashindi that is dominated by the impressive mausoleum of Sheikh Bashindi, the founder of the village. There is also a necropolis dating back to the Roman ruling period. The Mausoleum of Bashindi was constructed by placing a large mud-brick structure with a dome over the Roman necropolis, which has some wonderfully decorated tombs like that of Kitines, painted in the Pharaonic style.
The Village of Balat
The Village of Balat is located northeast of Bashindi and its medieval district is of significant importance from a historical and architectural point of view. The village is famous for being the site of two of the most famous archeological sites in Egypt's Western Desert; the Qila El Dabba Necropolis and Ain Asil, the capital of the Oases in the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt. These important historical sites were excavated and studied by the French Institute of Oriental Archeology with the collaboration of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
In the Qila El Dabba Necropolis, archeologists were able to unearth some Mastaba-style tombs constructed with mud bricks that belonged to the rulers of the Oases and their families in the 6th dynasty. Among the most impressive tombs is the Chapel of Khentikau was that of Pepi, the ruler of the oasis during the reign of King Pepi II, in the period from 2246 until 2152 BC.
There is also the Mastaba tomb of Khentika, the ruler of the oases during the ruling period of King Pepi I in the period from 2289 to 2255 B.C. with the mortuary chamber being decorated with wonderful bright colors. The excavation works that were carried out in 1986 revealed that the mortuary chambers had four tombs; one of them was reserved for the deceased, while the other three were for the members of his family. Archeologists were able to find wonderful treasures inside these tombs that included copper items, terracotta pottery, and copper jewelry. These remarkable items are now on display in the Kharga Archeological Museum.
The Necropolis of Al Muzwaqa
The Necropolis of Al Muzwaqa means, in the Arabic Language, the wonderfully decorated tombs. It is located north of Mut near the Temple of Deir El Hagar. This important historical necropolis was discovered in 1908 by the American archeologist Herbert Winlock during his excavation missions in the Western Desert of Egypt.
This necropolis consists of around 300 rock-hewn tombs with most of them not yet unearthed or studied. The Necropolis of Muzwaqa is mostly famous for two tombs; the tomb of Petosiris and the tomb of Petubastis. Both tombs have finely-preserved wall paintings. Dating from the 1st and 2nd centuries, the two tombs contain all the components of the traditional tombs of ancient Egypt. This includes drawings showing offerings to the deceased, funerary processions, and the gods watching the deceased enter the afterlife.