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                                  Kharga Oasis Tours

Kharga Tours

  Ninety-nine monuments were recorded in Dakhla and Kharga oases by Ahmed Fakhry, one of the last persons to visit the oases by camel. That was over half a century ago, but few have yet been explored. We mention the major sites here, most with something for the tourist to see, but Kharga is so full of ancient artifacts that every inch of dirt tells a story.

             Bahgat Ibrahim, the director of antiquities for the New Valley, tells us there are so many sites that need excavation that a lifetime of digging will not uncover them all.

Most sites have tombs, town, and temples, mostly buried. There are residential structures of prehistoric peoples north of Kharga at Gebel al- Teir.  There are over fifty sites, mostly Roman, That have never been touched such as Bir al-Gebel, Ain Haran, Ain Yasim, Kanafis, Ain Hussein, and Ain Byramdi, all in the north and Ain Aska, Gebel Siwa, Gebel Sharfa, Ain Mansurm Wakfa, Badran, Mabruka, and Qasr Baris, all in the south.

            The long range plan for the New Valley includes tourism as one of its major goals. The infrastructure of new roads, new hotels, and tourism offices in all the oses is nearly complete.  Now the monuments are being prepared for visitors. As more travelers respond to the lure of the oases, more and more sites will be on their list of 'must sees.' That means these sites must, at least, acquire guards.



 Qasr Kharga

 Qasr Kharga, 86 meters (275 feet) above sea level, became the capital of Kharga Oasis during Islamic times, replacing Hibis a few kilometers away. Located in the center of depression, it stands due south of Gebel Tarif which not only protects it from the howling northern winds, but deflects the bands of marching sand dunes of the Abu Muharrik dune belt which tumble down the northern escarpment around Ain Umm Dabadib.

             Founded by a little over thirty families, the community had an influx of additional families around A.D. 300 (A.H. 1316). These families were mainly from the Nile Valley.  Hoskins, in 1832, found Qasr Kharga to be inhabited by 3,000 people, only 600 of them male.  (This is an unusual head count. The villagers often believed that travelers represented the Pasha in the Nile Valley and did not wand them to know the exact number of men in the village.) The town was " prepossessing," and its greatest asset was "a magnificent thick forest of date trees, which extends probably a mile toward the north and south and is surrounded by a brick enclosure, like the was of a park." He found a cemetery to the north and a second to the south. He found the town as "difficult for a stranger to pass through… without a guide, as it would have been to thread the mazes of the Cretan labyrinth."

             Harding King described Qasr Kharga as built of mudbrick and riddled with tunnels "so low that it is impossible to stand upright in them, and of such a length as to be completely dark." In 1898, John Ball found it an "uninteresting collection of mudbrick dwellings… with dark covered-in streets resembling tunnels." He also reported it had no shops or bazaars.

 The Qasr Kharga of today is very different. The covered fortress town described by nineteenth-century travelers expanded north and east during the British occupation. The English governor's residence to the east of the Darb al-Sindadiya (the original town) is still in existence, as is the British compound, a series of gardened bungalows shaded by lofty palm and casuarina trees, and the Kharga railway station, now a sporting club. In the 1960s, the oases underwent great changes: new housing, wide streets, clubs, indoor plumbing, and electricity. The population grew to over 16,000. As the seat of the governorate of the New Valley, the city has grown in all directions.

 Today 30,000 inhabitants live in Qasr Kharga. Hotels, schools, a hospital, a museum, municipal and governorate buildings keep increasing. Factories exist on the outskirts of the town. More and more residents are abandoning the gallabiya for western dress and women, once hidden away in their homes, are seen walking the streets, shopping, and working in government offices.

 Mabrouk Fountain

One of the first sites to greet the traveler is the Mabrouk fountain in the midan near the Tourist Information Office. The statues decorating the fountain were completed in three days by the local artist Mabrouk. The large breasted woman is intended to symbolize Egypt as she drags her reluctant child, the people of Egypt, behind her to a new destiny. The statues are made of cement, alabaster, and gypsum.



The suq is the traditional marketplace of Qasr Kharga and although visited by tourists its main purpose is to serve the local population. That does not man there is nothing for the tourist to buy-hand-woven baskets, scarves, and other items used by residents make excellent and authentic souvenirs.


Darb al Sindadiya

Despite the fact that its people lived in isolation, hundreds of miles from any other inhabited area, almost every village that was built in the Western Desert during the Middle Ages was in the form of a fortress. The Darb al-Sindadiya, the original village of Qasr Kharga, is no exception. Centered around the Ain al-Dar, a now dry spring, it is the best preserved of all the fortress cities in the oases.  The narrow, covered streets described by European travelers, in some places only a meter wide, kept out invaders mounted on horses or camels. Twists and turns provided good ambush in case the enemy did manage to penetrate the town. The multi-storied houses with no windows to the outside formed formidable walls that could not be scaled.   Although the interior was pitch black and even at high noon the passages had to be lit by oil lamps, the darkness provided cooling shade from the brutal desert sun.


            The name came from a family that once lived there and it originally designated the main street of the village. Today it represents the entire structure. As a street, it once ran for 4 kilometers  (2.5 miles). It no longer does, but enough of it exists to give visitors a picture of what life as like in a medieval oasis town. Although tourists are encouraged to visit the site, it is not recommended they journey too far into the interior without a guide for one could easily become lost.  Minimally inhabited by people, the passages are used primarily as barns for domestic animals. Built entirely of mudbrick with palm trunks as beams, this tenth-century city is one of the treasures of Qasr Kharga and plans are underway for its restoration .


Pottery Factory

Two factories were established in the early sixties to produce traditional  pottery and carpets in the hopes of establishing new industry in the oasis. Through the years the work has expanded to include a variety of products. Local artists, using modern pottery methods make not only traditional pots, but candlesticks and flatware. Two types of carpet are made in the carpet factory, knotted siggadas and woven kelims.

  Kharga Museum

The stunning Kharga Museum, housed in a new-building constructed to resemble the tombs at Bagawat, contains both Pharaonic and Islamic antiquities found in the New Valley. Located in the center of Kharga, along the main street, Sharia Gamal Abd al-Nasser, it is easy to find.


            There are three levels, two currently open to the public and a third for a future library. The museum contains a great quantity of coins and jewelry from all periods of Egyptian history. The first floor is devoted to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities. Among other things, it contains ostrich eggs, prehistoric tools, masks, Roman glass items, and Greek and Roman coins from Muzawwaqa, Zayyan, and Kharga. Its most important antiquities include:


First Floor

1.                  Sarcophagus of Badi Bastit  This Roman sarcophagus mad of sycamore was found at Labeka by the French Mission. It has a complete design and full color. This is the interior coffin-the mummy is still inside, but in very poor condition.

2.                  Ba Birds These wonderful birds were discovered in Dush by the French Mission. Ba birds were buried with the person to assure the person would move to the other world. There were five elements, each represented by a bird: the Ba, which is the soul; the Ka, which is the double image of the person; the Ren, which is the name of the person; the Khet, which is the physical body of the person; and the Akh, which is the shadow of the person. If only one piece of the person was missing, her or she could not enter paradise in peace. The birds assured that the entire person reached its destination. They are  7-10 cm(3-4 inches) long, painted, and made of wood.

3.                  The Tomb of Im-Pepi of the Sixth Dynasty is the outer parts of a tomb discovered by the French Mission in Dakhla Oasis.

4.                   False Door Stela of M Khent-Ka Khent-Ka was governor of the oasis during the Sixth Dynasty (2700 B.C.). This limestone door found at Balat carries the earliest reference to the oasis so far discovered: Wahet, which means 'oasis' in ancient Egyptian. This word is the origin of both the English word oasis (via Greek) and the Arabic word waha. The director of he museum, Mahmoud Youssef, himself and Egyptologist, believes this is the most important piece in the museum.

5.                  Double Statue of Ima Bibi and Wife This painted, color statue of a governor of the oases was discovered in Balat. It is 30cm by 25cm.

6.                  Kellis Wooden Panels Discovered at kellis in Dakhla by the Canadian Mission, these sycamore tablets contain documents that list marriage contracts, the buying and selling of goods, letters, and even some fiction writing. They provide us with a glimpse of everyday life in Dakhla during the Roman period. They were found in the home of the craftsman who fashioned the wooden tablets for people to use as we use notebooks today.



Second Floor

The second floor of the museum is devoted to Islamic and Coptic items and is heavy with jewelry, coins, and personal items. Many of the items on this floor are on loan from other museums in Egypt. An entire room is devoted to silver service, plates, tablecloths, and other items from the Manial Palace in Cairo. There is also a coin display of the Muhammad Ali dynasty, rounding out the museum's very interesting coin collection.

With all the archaeological work going on in the New-Valley it won't be long before the museum is filled entirely with interesting items from the desert and oases.

1.                  Coptic Textiles There are three panels of Coptic textiles on view, dated from seventh to the ninth centuries. They carry floral and animal patterns and consist of a woolen head covering, a jacket, and a panel. All are on loan from the Coptic Museum.

2.                  Icons These eighteenth-century wooden icons are of the virgin Mary and Jesus, and the martyr Mari Girgis stabbing the Dragon. On loan from the Coptic Museum.

3.                  Arabic and Coptic Books A display of Arabic and Coptic books show various scripts and designs.

4.      Islamic Coins There are a number of interesting coins displayed here from almost all periods of Islamic history. They include gold inars, silver coins of the Mamluk sultan Baybars, glass coin-weights of the Fatimid caliph al-Aziz al-Azhir, tenth-and eleventh-century glass measures for lentils, cumin, oil, and more. A very interesting display.                         





Hibis, Bagawat, and Environs

·                      Walk, 2X2, some 4X4 behind Bagawat

·                      2-3 hours

·                      entrance fee






Total Km

Tourist Office

N 25 27 531

E 30 32 931




N 25 28 589

E 30 33 527




N 25 28 963

E 30 33 293





The Temple of Nadura, the lookout, is visible atop a 133 meter (425 fot) hill and, as its name implies, commands a superb view from this strategic position. Dating from 138-161, during the reign of Caesar Antominus, it is typical of the temple/forts which were built to protect the oases. The outside wall has disappeared in places. The interior contains a large open space with a sandstone temple with hieroglyphic inscriptions in the center, It was later used as a Turkish fortress.

             The main entrance to the complex is through a sandstone agate in the southern was with a smaller entrance in the northern wall. Within the was stood the temple, with three rooms. A church once stood within the enclosure was, but outside the temple itself.  Near the bottom of the hill toward Hibis is a second, uninscribed temple, also Roman.


 Getting There:  Nadura is southeast of the Temple of Hibis and 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) north of the tourist information office at Qasr Kharga. Turn right (south) on the paved road and park at the base of the mountain. Enjoy the climb!



Hibis, known as the Town of the Plugh in ancient times, was the garrisoned capital of the oasis. Easily covering a square kilometer, it lay in the valley between the foothills of Gebels al-Teir and Nadura. We know little cultivated land, but excavations by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1909-10, uncovered a few huses with vaulted ceilings and fresco paintings.

            In the center of the town stood the Temple of Amun-Re, a sandstone temple, with an Bagawat.

East/west axis, which is the best preserved temple in the Western Desert (Partly because it was buried in sand until the Metropolitan team dug it out). It was begun by Apries in 588 B.C., during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, continued by his successor Amasis II, and completed by Darius I in 522 B.C. The temple is one of two built by the Persians in Egypt, both in Kharga Oasis. Further addition were made by later pharaohs and a fourth century church was built along the north side of the portico.

            Today  the temple is located in picturesque palm grove in front of what was once the sacred lake. It is approached through a Roman gate with inscriptions thqat have contributed greatly to our understanding of Roman rule. Created in A.D. 68, they provide information on a variety of topics including taxation, the court system, inheritance, and the rights of woman. Modern graffiti found in the hypostyle hall includes the names of nineteenth-century European travelers:  Cailliaud, who claims to have discovered it, Drovetti, Rosingana, Houghton, Hyde, Schweinfurth, and Rohlfs.

            The temple is dedicated to the Theban triad Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, and reliefs are in very good condition. There is also a large wall relief of Seth, the god of the oases, with a blue body and the head of a falcon. Here he is slaying a serpent with his spear. Recently the temple has been the object of a five-year epigraphic survey carried out by an American team led by Eugene Cruze-Uribe. In front of the temple are Greek and Roman tombs.

Getting There: Hibis is 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) after the turn off for Nadura. You can't miss it.


Entrance Fee. Cascading down the southern foothills of Gebel al-Teir are the desert brown, domed mausoleums of one of the earliest and best preserved Christian cemeteries in the world, Bagawat. In the center of the cemetery stands a Christian church that still had "traces of saints painted on the wall" when Edmondstone passed this way in 1819. Numbering 263 in all, with many pit burial between the chapels, most of the tombs are a single room. Some are larger and six have domed roofs. Evidence indicates the area was burial site long before the Christian era, but the current structures date from the fourth to the seventh centuries (some sources say only until the fifth century). Each chapel once had a wooden door with lintels of wood or stone at the entrance. Most have plain interiors, but there are several with wall paintings and graffiti. Two stand out: the Chapel of the Exodus and the Chapel of Peace.

  Chapel of the Exodus

One of the earliest chapels in the necropolis, the interior of the Chapel of the Exodus is decorated with scenes from the Old Testament,, which run in two circles around the interior of the dome. The upper register show Moses leading the Israelites, the Israelites on their journey through Sinai, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, Noah's Ark, Adam and Eve, Daniel in the lion's den, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego in the furnace, the sacrifices of Abraham, Jonah in the whale, Jonah out of the whale, Rebecca at the well, job in a chair, job suffering, Susanna and Jeremiah at the temple of Jerusalem, Sarah in prayer, a shepherd, the martyrdom of St. Thekla, seven virgins, and a garden.

            In addition to the original paintings, there is graffiti in this chapel dating from the ninth century to the present day, including the scribblings of Turkish soldiers, whom historians believe may have been garrisoned here 200 years ago.  

 Chapel of Peace

Located in the southwest corner of the necropolis, the domed Chapel of Peace also has a richly decorated interior. Vines, peacocks, and allegorical figures, all in Byzantine style and reminiscent of paintings in the catacombs in Rome, are found throughout. The most exciting frescoes are around the central panel f the dome. Identified in Greek, they are, starting from the panel above the entrance: Adam and Eve after the Fall; the Sacrifice of Isaac; Eirene, the Allegory of Peace; Daniel in the lions' den; Dikaiosyne, he Allegory of justic; Euche, the Allegory of PrayerJacob; Noah's Ark; The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary; and the apostle Paul instructing Thekla.

 Behind Bagsawat

Passing through the gate at Bagawat  the road skirts the western(left) side of the cemetery past the small house once used by Ahmed Fakhry when he was working in the oasis (perched on the edge of the Bagawat hill). It continues northwest to the Sixth Dynasty Tombs, the Monastery of Mustafa kashif, Ain Zaaf, Tahunet al-Haa, and a few other ruins.


Sixth Dynasty Tombs

Although named after a dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the mostly unexcavated Sixth Dynasty Tombs have not really been identified as belonging to the ancient Egyptians and to date little evidence has been found to suggest that the ancient Egyptians maintained any significant presence in Kharga Oasis. The rock tombs are cut into the side of the foothills behind Bagawat and run for nearly a kilometer.

Monastery of Mustafa Kashif

Just beyond the tombs and a kilometer north of Bagawat, commanding a magnificent view of the valley, is the Monastery of Mustafa Kashif, Mustapha the tax collector. Named after a governor of the oasis during Mamluk times, the site, now in ruins, was occupied during the Middle Kingdom, the Roman Period, and the Christian era, when the current structure was built. A Mamluk army general dug the nearby well, which is no silted up.

                With two entrances on the northern and southern walls, the building, part monastery, part hostel for travelers, was erected over an ancient tomb and once had five levels. Home to Christian hermits, it contains a church, where inscriptions dating to the fifth and sixth centuries are found on the ceiling. The western side is the oldest.

Despite its ruinous state, the monastery is still a magnificent structure. Shards cover the ground around the ruin. On the depression floor below the monastery are several additional ruins.


 Ain Zaaf

Ain Zaaf, Spring of Palm Fronds, is tucked into the base of the foothhills of Gebel al_Teir, a kilometer north of the Monastery of Mustafa Kashif. It contains three structures:

A Christian burial chapel that could have jumped out of the cemetery of Bagawat, a barrel vaulted tomb, and a recently excavated Christian church that archaeologists believe could be the church of the banished Bishop Athanasius. Today, roofless and standing less than a meter high, the church is a labyrinth of tiny rooms. Along the northwest corner is Coptic graffiti. For the naturalist and rock hound the cliffs around Ain Zaaf  hold various clays and colored stones.


Tahunet al-Hawa

On the west side of the road, visible from Ain Zaaf but accessible only by 4X4, as it is surrounded by sand dunes, is the well-preserved Roman mudbrick watchtower of Tahunet al-Hawa, the windmill. Standing 11.5 meters (36 feet) tall with a southern entrance, the building rises to four stories but is only 5 meters by 6.5 meters)16 feet by 21 feet) at its base. The floors perhaps built of wood, have collapsed. Like he Monastery of Mustafa Kashif, it guarded the crossroads of the oasis.

            Just before it is an ancient desert track (N 2530802 E 30 32 061) and beyond Ain Zaaf, is a small chambered structure of two stories of arches. It may well be Ain Khussa.


Gebel al-Teir

Gebel al-Teir, Mountain of the Birds, an outlier mountain. is located 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Qasr Kharga. Along its southern side it is 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) long, 1 kilometer 0.6 miles) wide, and 319 meters (1,020 feet) above sea level. On its northern side it is 5 kilometers ( 3 miles) long and 600 meters (1,920 feet) high.

Gebel al-Teir is a true wilderness. It is the home of foxes, wild dogs, snakes, including the deadly horned viper, and a lot fossils. Because of the quarrying roads that have been created recently, a trip into the wadis of Rock inscriptions at Gebel al-Teir.

Gebel al-Teir is complicated and should not be undertaken without a local guide.

            Located abut 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) north of Bagawat in one of the wadis of Gebel al-Teir are three different sets of rock inscriptions and graffiti covering a time span from prehistory to this century. The first set of graffiti is on the eastern façade of mountain, at the very entrance to the wadi. Hunters with bows and arrows, giraffes, gazelles, a boat, ancient Egyptian gods, and Demotic, Greek, Coptic, and Arabic script collide in a topsy-turvy jumble of writing and drawing in this timewarp motel, a billboard still in use after thousands of years.

            The second set is located 155 meters (496 feet) further into the wadi along the same side. Here in addition to more of the same, we have a great deal of hieroglyphic writing and inscriptions to the ancient Egyptian gods. Located across the wadi from an ancient stone quarry, this site was heavily inscribed during Pharaonic times.

            The third set of inscriptions, mostly Coptic, is harder to reach. On the western side, a path leads to the top of the mountain through a grotto. Here Coptic paintings, prayers, and invocations dating from the fourth, fifth, and tenth centuries are the dominant motif. There is also Demotic and Greek script. Most of these inscriptions, often identified by a cross, were left by the hermits who lived in these caves.


            At the top of the mountain is the Cave of Mary, which must have been a revered place during the Christian era, is a painting of the Madonna and Child and a prayer in alternating red and yellow lines.




Qasr Kharga to Dush

·                      2x2 (4x4 beyond Dush or long walk)

·                      all day

·                      entrance fee at Zayyan, Ghweita, and Dush.

·                      No petrol






Total Km

Tourist Office

N 25 27 531

E 30 32 931




N 25 23 480

E 30 33 314



Ginah (at d)

N 25 19 184

E 30 33 242



Ain al-D.b

N 25 19 144

E 30 33 386



Ghweita Zayyan (at rd)

N 25 17 692

E 30 32 724



Sheikhs tombs

N 25 10 719

E 30 32 188



Luxor road

N 24 48 823

E 30 34 825



New Baris/Shams al-Din



Dush(at main road)

N 24 31 747

N 24 40 543

N 24 30 225

N 24 33 318

E 30 35 897

E 30 36 061

E 30 36 949

E 30 27 222









 The southern portion of the Darb al-Arbain in Kharga is in sharp contrast to its northern counterpart. Where the north is surrounded by escarpments, the south with only an eastern scarp is open to the rest of the desert. Where water is very scarce in the north, it is readily available in the south. Unsurprisingly, in this century it is the south that has seen extensive development. New villages, all with electricity, primary schools, and health clinics, have been established, bearing names such as Algeria, Kuwait, and Aden, in tribute to neighboring Arab countries.

The journey from Qasr Kharga to Dush, the last ruin in the oasis, covers about 110 kilometers (69 miles) one way. It moves along a well paved highway and is therefore accessible to all vehicles. Some of the sites are located along desert tracks, 3 to 10 kilometers (1.8 to 6 miles) off the main road, but most of these secondary tracks are paved (at least to the major monuments), or are easily traveled b regular vehicle. Since there is no petrol along the route, travelers must carry enough  for the return trip.


Train Station

Now Kharga has a new train. Officially opened in 1996, it currently has three routes: Kharga to Qena (and on to Luxor), Kharga to Baris, and Kharga to Dakhla (under construction). The train is part of the infrastructure for the new development in the south which will bring a lot of water to the oasis and is intended to link the train routes being developed in the Eastern Desert and Delta, The train from Qena in the Nile Valley arrives Thursday around 3:30 pm and leaves Friday at 8:00 am, to give tourists time to visit the major sites at the oasis. The trip to Qena covers 410 kilometers. It takes about six hours with an additional two hours to reach Luxor, the most popular destination. Currently passengers are few in number.

It also has a new train station and it is a work of art. Designed to resemble an Islamic building with a domed center hall, the interior is all marble. I is very extravagant and quite a statement about the future of the New Valley. (For the original railway built by the British see Nqb al-Rufu below.)  



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