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Dakhla Oasis Tours
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The tours

TOUR #1

Mut

Named for the ancient Egyptian goddess of the Theban triad, the city o Mut, the capital of modernn Dakhla, was called Back of the Oasis in pharaonic times. Mut is growing rapidly into a modern city.

            When Rohlfs was here in 1874, there were many craftsmen in Mut, organized into guilds: tablemakers, millers, blacksmiths, and tailors. There was even a distillery for date wine and a cotton press. There were also Islamic doorbeams like those in Qasr. Today, the Dakhla oasis Training and Archaeological Conservation Project helps the people of Dakhla learn to honor and conserve their own heritage. Funded by the royal Netherlands Embassy Cultural Fund and supervised by the Dakhla Oasis Project, it will train men and women in cultural conservation and restoration including recovery, handling, and storage of artifacts.

            In 1909, when Harding King visited Mut for the Royal Geographical Society, it was still a fortified town. In 1897, 1,078 people lived here.

 

Ethnographic Museum

Small entrance fee. Following the ground plan of a traditional Islamic home with a haramlik, women's quarters, and salamlik, men's public room, the wonderful, small Ethnographic Museum is a must. It contains items used in Islamic times in the oasis including pots, rugs, dresses, baskets, and jewelry. In addition there are figurines by the artist Mabrouk showing scenes from daily life.

            The Ethnographic Museum is located next to the cinema.(Naming streets is a new concept in the oases towns, and many streets, although named, are not known by those names by the local inhabitants.) There are no set hours for this museum, which is opened on request. For admission call the Tourist Information Office or Culture Office. (See Practical Information for details.

 

Old Mut

Falling to ruin, yet intriguing and full of the ghosts of past centuries, the old part of Mut, along with its main square, is another journey into twisting, narrow, dark passages offering cool shade and protection. The all but windowless facades of the houses once formed a defensive wall. The city is situated on a hill and divided into quarters which, in true Midle Eastern tradition, are separated by gates which were once bolted at night. In the 1908s, the mayor had a wall built around the village when he heard that the Mahdists had invaded Kharga and captured the Mamur of the Wells and other officials. Old Mut is still inhabited.

 

Mut al-Kharab

Mut al-Kharab, Mut the Ruined, southwest of Mut, was the temple area of the ancient town, the remainder of which is probably buried under the modern city. Mut al-Khrab has been plundered again and again, but extant ruins date from all major periods. The site has little to attract the visitor, but plenty to excite the archaeologist. It is enclosed by a Roman wall and contains the ruins of a temple. Winlock defines it as 300 meters (960 feet) north to south and 200 meters (640 feet) east to west. He also tells us that Drovetti saw a temple here, Rohlfs mentions pieces of sandstone columns, and Lyons took two stelas of the Twenty-second Dynasty to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. All Winlock describes is a dried up ancient well about 40 meters (128 feet) in diameter, and a short water tunnel. In 1897, 1,341 people lived here.

 

King Farouk's Resthouse

King Farouk's Resthouse is located at the southern edge of Mut and is owned by the government and used by public officials when they visit the oasis. Although a tour of the premise may not be possible, a visit to the sit is.

 

TOUR #3

 Mut to Qasr Dakhla

                       2x2

                      1.5 to 2 hours

                      easy

 

 

 

 

Km

Total Km

Mut

Fishpond

Al-Dahuz

Rashda

Deir Abu Matta

Sheikh/Jinn Tree

Budkhulu

 

 

0

4

4

2

3.4

1.5

4.5

0

4

8

10

13.4

15

20

 

There are two routes west from Nut to Qasr Dakhla, the first northwest along the main road and the second a loop through the desert. This is the main road.

 

Fish Pond

Less than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) northwest of Mut is a large artificial reservoir, which when it reaches full capacity will cover 400 feddans. This lake, called the Fish Pond by locals, is being created in an to develop a fishing industry in the oasis. Filled, like the new lakes in Wadi Rayyan, by the extra drainage water from crop irrigation, the fish project of Dakhla Oasis is a joint effort between the Egyptian and German governments. In 1998, it covered an area of 300 feddans. Unfortunately, fishing is not permitted because the pesticides in the water are harmful to the fish and to the people who eat them. No swimming either.

 

Al-Dahuz

Next stop is the Bedouin village of al-Dahuz on the outsskirts of the cultivated land. There is nothing much to see, except a coffeeshop along the road and the al-Dahuz Camp located beyond the village atop a small hill, with a great view overlooking the entire area.

 

Rashda

 Rashda, located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) west of the fish pond and a kilometer from the main road, is known for its fruit orchards, which include apricot,  date, and olive trees. There is an ancient acacia tree at Rashda called the Tree of Sheikh Adam, which is believed to possess a soul. Lying close to the cliff upon which the village built, the tree will not burn when set afire. Though of medieval origin, Rashda appears strikingly modern, a result perhaps of the local custom that insists that when a man marries he must build a new house for his bride. At the eastern end of the village are the Roman ruins of Ain Umm al-Masid. In 1897, the population of Rashda, spelled Rashida by Beadnell, was 1,191.

            Two kilometers (1.2 miles) beyond Rashda, on the right-hand side of the road, is the Bedouin village of Ezber Abu Asmn.

 

Deir Abu Matta

Deir Abu Matta, also called Deir al-Saba banat, Monastery of the Seven Virgins, is a mudbrick ruin 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) northwest of Rashda. It is a Christian basilica of the fifth or sixth century. The walls, still standing, once contained nine rooms. Around the area is a cemetery. Earthenware coffins from the Christian period were uncovered at this site. Artifacts found in the vicinity date from as late as the seventh century.

Deir al-Saba Banat features in desert lore and has long been thought to be a place of hidden treasure. Harding King, in Mysteries of the Libyan Desert, reported that residents would dig in the area  looking for treasure and that one of the treasure books had the following instructions: "Go to Deir al-Banat, near it you will find a hollow place, three mastabas, a round hill and three red stones. Burn incense here."

In the 1830s, when Hoskin's came to visit, all four walls were standing some to a height of three stories.

Beadnell identified a well 4 kilometers(2.5 miles) south around Qalamun as Ain al-Nasrani, the Christian's Spring. Drovetti describes two additional ruins in the area as al-Salib, the Cross, and Buyut al-Nasara, Houses of the Christians. Evidently there was a Coptic community in this area of Dakhla.

 

Sheikh's Tomb

Less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) beyond Deir Abu Matta on the northern side of the road stands a solitary acacia tree shading a whitewashed Sheikh's tomb. Villagers throughout Egypt visit and pray at similar tombs, the graves of pios persons, hoping hat the blessings of the sheikh will assist them. If a jinn tree, a tree with a spirit living in it, is nearby (like this one), the women often write notes and attach them to the twigs o the tree in a mixture of pagan and religious belief.

            Sheikh's cults are common in Egypt. Here in Dakhla they are especially important. A person becomes a sheikh because he has performed miracles for the living after his death: healings, ending famine, protection from enemies, drought, and bad weather. They also give blessings. In Gedida, small pieces of wood are left at a particular sheikh's tomb, so he will protect all the wood on a person's property.

 

Budkhulu

 The gardens of Budkhulu lie on either side of the road for a couple of kilometers before the entrance to the village. Almost every type of fruit tree is represented and they arch over the roadway, offering welcome shade and cooler temperatures in the summer.

            Although there is evidence that Budkhulu, 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) west of the Sheikh's tomb, was occupied during pharaonic times, the present structures dte from the Islamic era. In 1897, 583 people lived here. The old village contain a wonderful minaret, covered streets, and door beams like those seen at Qsr, Balat, and Qalamum. The mudbrick town was of great importance during Islamic times, when the customs along the Darb- al-Ghubari were assessed and paid here. One Turkish house, Beit Khalat al-Malik, reputedly belonged to the aunt of the king, though no one seems to remember which aunt of which king.

            The most striking feature of the village is the Turkish cemetery located on a hill west of the town and visible from the main road. According to the mayors of Budkhulu, Mushiya, and Rashda, the cemetery was once the site of a Sanusi Prison.

Today Budkhulu is an agricultural village growing mainly oranges, lemons, olives, and apricots, and its new buildings, all of mudbrick, surround the old village.

About one kilometer after Budkhulu there is a cold spring for tourists, along the west (left) side of the road. Then come a series of small villages several kilometers apart, including Ezbat Fiteima, Beit kolo, Ezbat al-Qasr, and Ezbat Giza. Then comes Qasr Dakhla.

You can continue with Tour #4, or return to Mut along the loop, or just return to Mut the way you came.

 

Tour #4

Around Qasr Dakhla

 

          2x2, 4x4

          1/2 day

 

 

 

Km

Total Km

Bir al-Gebel (at paved rd)

Tombs/Babs

Qasr Dakhla

Muzawwaqa(at Paved rd)

Deir al-Hagar (at paved rd)

 

 

0

2

c2

2.2

5

      0

      2

      4

       6.2

      11.2

 

Bir al-Gebel

N 25 44 315 E 28 55 252

Bir al-Gebel, well of the Mountain, is about 7 kilometers(4 miles) after Budkhulu. At this point, a road to the north (right) marked with a sign, leads to Bir al-Gebel, one of the prettiest springs in the entire Western Desert. The road runs for 5 kilometers (2.5 mules), past a hot spring, a small picturesque village, interesting yardangs, lush fields, and wonderful dunes to the foot of the escarpment. The spring is in a small palm grove.

 

Islamic Tombs and Bab al-Qasmund

 About 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) before the village of Qasr is a dirt track on the northern side of the road. It passes through a dramatic cemetery of domed tombs before it forks. The cemetery is an old one, probably Turkish, but maybe Mamluk. The tombs are in very good condition. The western fork circles the village of Qasr and leads back to the main road.

            The eastern fork is the beginning of the Darb al-farafra, which passes through the Bab al-Qasmund, which travels up the escarpment on its way to Farafra. The Bab al-Qasmund and Bab Cailliaud are the passes through the escarpment which lead down to Dakhla from the Darb al-Farafra. All locals call these the Naqb al-Farafra.  The locals also maintain that coming down from the plateau above here is okay, but it is almost impossible to go up to the plateau from here.


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