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Kharga Oasis

Asyut to the Kharga Escapment





Total Km

Cairo/Asyut Rd

N 27 06 485

E 31 00 519



Wadi al-Battikha

N 26 27 217

E 30 47 320




N 26 19 366

E 30 43 196



Naqb al-Ramliya (top)

N 25 57 275

E 30 42 497



A major change has taken place since the first edition of this book: the Cairo-Asyut Desert Road has opened. There are now two paved roads Leading to Kharga Oasis from the north. The original route follows the river and almost requires an overnight stop at Asyut. The new road, which begins on the Fayoum Road and runs south through the desert, is faster and does not require an overnight rest. The two roads merge just after the Asyut road has climbed out of the Nile Valley, approximately 25 kilometers (16 miles) into the desert and 350 kilometers from Cairo.

Once the two rods join, the traveler is on the famous Darb al-Arbain, used by Traders and travelers since the earliest of times. No sooner do you catch your breath than the Asyut airport appears on the left. Today the drive from Asyut to Kharga takes about four hours, but when the road was unpaved and the mode of travel ewas the camel, the journey took thirty-eight hours-and another four to descend the escarpment.

Wadi al-Battikha

The desert to Kharga is uninspiring and strewn with unattractive stones until about 75 kilometers (47 miles) into the journey. Here the first of three small valleys, collectively called Wadi al-Battikha,, Valley of the Melons, appears on the east (left) side of the road. The first and second valleys are separated by a small hill topped by a primitive desert outpost. The third, and best, is a few kilometers down the road. This third wadi runs west as far as the eye can see and is a good place to stop and wander. The unusual Lower Eocene stones are a fairly common feature of wind erosion and can be found in various places in the Western Desert, of which this is the most accessible. The name Wadi al-Battkha comes from the stones, which are locally called battikha (melons) because of their similarity to the Egyptian variety of watermelon. He stones are subspheroidal siliceous concretion, gray in color and often polished to a good shine by sand blasting. Some of them have been split in half by tempereature extremes.


There is a military checkpoint (taftish) at the resthouse just beyond the Valley of the Melorts. For those who wish to pause, tea and biscuits are available, but in any event all vehicles must for the military authorities. The officer records the license-plate number, asks the destination of the vehicle, inspects the car papers, and asks to see the passports of all passengers. This the first of many checkpoints the traveler will encounter in the desert. These checkpoints, which mark the points at which vehicles leave one area and enter another, are for the protection of the traveler. It is good to know someone is aware you have entered the desert.


Naqb al-Ramliya

The  road enters Kharga Oasis through Naqb al-Ramliya, Pass of the Sand Dunes, also called Naqb Asyut because the road terminates in Asyut in the Nile Valley. Used by a bevy of nineteenth-century explorers including Schweinfurth in the I87os, Blundell in the I87os, and Moritz in I900, the descent, in past Knee-deep in sand, offers wonderful panoramas. When escarpment was unpaved it took four hours to descend; now it can be done in a matter of minutes. On a clar day some of the Roman forts that dot the depression flooe are visible to the west. The road snakes 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) down the scarp to the floor of the depression.

There are a number of passes alonf this eastern escarpment. Only 13 kilometers (8.I miles) south of Naqb al-Ramliya is Naqb Yabsa, where a track exits the oasis and later joins the road to Asyut. It has an easier ascent than Ramliya, but not for cars, Two tracks leave the oasis from Yabsa pass. The first joins the Darb al-Arbain here at Ramilya Pass,  while the second, south of the first, heads north to al-Ghanayim over I80 kilometers (112 miles) away.

Kharga Oasis

Kharga is the seat of the New Valley Governorate and the most populous oasis of the Western Desert. Although it offers a variety of sites of interest to the visitor, including ancient fortresses and villages, in Kharga it is the landscape that most overwhelms the traveler. For it is in Kharga that we encounter the desert as we had always imagined it to be.


The Abu Tartur Plateau , Plateau, Plateau of the Cone shaped Hat, separates Kharga and Dakhla  oases, and covers I,200 square kilometers (750 square miles). Its Oval-shaped, flat-topped summit is surrounded by high scarps on three sides and is joined to the  escapment in the northwest by a small saddle. Rich in phosphate, the Abu Tartur plateau is attracting modern mining ventures. The fabled Ain Amur is located on one of its northern slopes.



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