As the closest of the oases to the Nile Valley, Al-Kharga used to have the unenviable role as a place of banishment for mischievous Nile Valley citizens. Its remote location, punishing summer heat and destructive winds mean the oasis was synonymous with misery and exile. It may seem strange then that its chief town, Al-Kharga, was chosen as the capital of the New Valley Governorate in the 1950s. Life in the oasis has improved somewhat since then, and with a smattering of fascinating ancient sites it’s a worthwhile stopover.
Lying in a 220km-long and 40km-wide depression, Al-Kharga Oasis was at the crossroads of vital desert trade routes, including the famous Darb al-Arba’een (Forty Days Rd). Al-Kharga’s influential location brought it great prosperity, and the arrival of the Romans improved things as wells were dug, crops cultivated and fortresses built to protect caravan routes from attacking desert nomads. Even as late as the 1890s British forces were using lookout towers here to safeguard the ‘back door’ into Egypt. Today, attempts at modernising Wadi el-Gedid (the New Valley) with environmentally questionable land-reclamation efforts and intensive agriculture pose a bigger threat to the area than pillaging clans ever did.
Al Kharga oasis was known as (hebt) which meant the plough because it is famous for agriculture.
The official Governorate's website is: http://www.newvalley.gov.eg/
How to get There
from remaya square, you take fayoum road then switch left to Cairo-Assiut West-Desert Road around 400 km till u readh the intersection of assiout-sohag-kharga roads (el mafarek) then you take roght to kharga for another 230 km so the total kilometrage ranges from 630-650 km
solimar pioneers hotel:
4 stars hotel, best in town
single: 300-260-240 (half board-b&b-bed only)
double:400-340-300 (half board-b&b-bed only)
triple: 525-440-390 (half board-b&b-bed only)
Kharga Oasis Hotel:
3 stars hotel, some Safarists stayed there, best option to get
150 double 110 single b&b take the garden seperate chalets not the hotel rooms, they are much cleaner
Mogama3 rest houses rooms 0104311931 emad mahmoud
Waha hotel: 092 792 0393
Radwan hotel: 092 792 1716 45-65-85 L.E bed only dr ahmed sayed 0122528043
Kharga in the eyes of an Egyptian traveller is not an oasis per se, it is a modern upper egypt town, maybe cleaner and better than many other big towns in egypt, they even have VERY big digital trafic lights, and they have all the facilities there.
the different thing one may notice there is that all the pharaonic temples are surrounded by a fortress, which is a very new concept to me
Another strange scene one may see is on the way from Kasr ghweita to Kasr el zayyan. An enormous area covered by LEMONS maybe seen at times. as far as your eye can see, a huge field covered by lemons left to be dried in the sun; a spectacular view and one can take great pics of it
also the strange thing is that the WHOLE city closes from 1 to 5 or 6, EVERYTHING is closed all the shops and even some gas stations
you can find 92 gas in one gas station inside kharga and nile gas station 20 km outside kharga, otherwise 90 and 80 are there available mostly
we stayed there almost 2 days and we neededmaybe another day to finish all the monuments and sights completly
the food there is not much fun, nothing traditional, and it takes a LOT of time to get your food anywhere, we ate at bagawat cafeteria and it was terrible and it took us 100 minutes exactly to get out food (grilled chicken and kebab and kofta). we hear that WIMPY restaurant is the best but it was already closed when we went there, i recommend a GREAT icecream parlor under waha hotel, in the main souk street right at its entrance.
Sights and Attractions
NORTH OF KHARGA CITY
The town of Hebet ('the Plough', now corrupted into Hibis) was the capital of the oasis in antiquity, but all that remains is the well-preserved limestone Temple of Hibis . Once sitting on the edge of a sacred lake, the temple was dedicated to the Theban god triad of Amun-Re, Mut and Khonso. Its construction began during the 25th dynasty, though the decorations and a colonnade were added over the next 300 years.
An avenue of sphinxes leads to a series of gateways, the colonnade of Nectanebo and then a court, a hypostyle hall and an inner sanctuary. One of the reliefs in the hypostyle hall shows the god Seth battling with the evil serpent Apophis, an archetype of the St George and the dragon motif. Among the graffiti left by 19th-century European travellers is a lengthy inscription from 1818 by Frederic Cailliaud, who claimed to have been the first European to see the temple.The temple is in the process of being renovated and restored to its original location after a bungled attempt to move it elsewhere to protect it from rising groundwater. in our last visit november 2009 it was 90% finishe by the arab contractors and waiting to be delivered to the governement very soon, entrance is prohibited yet but we managed to talk out way through with the engineer reponsible there, we stayed for only 15 minutes. It's 2km north of town just to the left of the main road; pick-ups (50pt) heading to Al-Munira pass this way.
EL BAGAWAT Cemetery
It may not look like much from afar, but the Necropolis of Al-Bagawat is one of the earliest surviving and best-preserved Christian cemeteries in the world. About 1km north of the Temple of Hibis, it's built on the site of an earlier Egyptian necropolis, with most of the 263 mud-brick tombs appearing to date from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD. While many of the domed Coptic tombs are fairly plain, a few have vivid murals of biblical scenes inside and some have ornate facades.
The Chapel of Peace has figures of the Apostles on the squinches of the domes, just visible through Greek graffiti. The Chapel of the Exodus, one of the oldest tombs, has the best-preserved paintings, including the Old Testament story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, which is visible through some 9th-century graffiti. next to it is the Chappel of peace and in it there are picture of Jacob and the virgin and the two priests Bola and nekla . On the other tombs there are drawings and colorful writing narrate the stories of Christian history in Egypt. Another large family tomb (No 25) has a mural of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the smaller Chapel of the Grapes (Anaeed al-Ainab) is named after the images of grapevines that cover the walls. A guardian will be anxious to guide you to some of the more colourful tombs, he should be tipped
at the entrance of the bagawat cemetery lies a small cafeteria and a water sping, but unfortunatly it is VERY small (maybe fits one person inside only) and cold, so it is also not recommended for eager hot water-wells anticipators.
DEIR EL BAGAWAT & DEIR MOSTAFA EL KASHEF
Dominating the cliffs to the north of Al-Bagawat is the ruined Monastery of Al-Kashef, named after Mustafa al-Kashef, a tax collector, and strategically placed to overlook what was one of the most important crossroads of the Western Desert - the point where the Darb al-Ghabari from Dakhla crossed the Darb al-Arba'een. The magnificent mud-brick remains date back to the early Christian era, although the site was occupied as early as the Middle Kingdom.
Once five storeys high, much of it has collapsed but you can see the tops of the arched corridors that crisscrossed the building. To get here, walk or drive on the left-hand track from the Necropolis of Al-Bagawat for about 1km.
also 200 meters from this hill, we visited Deir el bagawat which was recovered recently from under the sand, it also contains some beautiful arched corridors and crisscrossed pathways.
NAGAH hot spring and ROMAN WATCH TOWER
from the location of deir el bagawat we could see a far away tower, when we asked our guide he told us it was a roman watch tower to guard "darb el arbe3een", the next day we took the road to naga7 village outside kharga to go to ahot wate spring surrounded y a small oasis and some sand dunes. the place was magnificent, the hot water spring was a little bit less-hot than Bulaq spring, but the water jet was incredible and very relaxing like a giant jaccuzi turbine :) also it is totally covered by shading trees and palms which give it a mysterious but familiar appearance. few hundred meters away stands the roman watch tower alone in the sandy desert.
GABAL EL TEIR
according to our guide, this area was called so because birds gather in there by sunset in large quantities, unconfirmed info
to reach gabal el teir u head behind el bagawat cemetary for about 20 minutes mada2 dirt road inside the desert. then u leave the car and go hiking for another 10 minutes. this area is famous by its caves dating from coptic era with coptic drawings and texts on its walls
AL NADURA Castle
Located on a hill off the main road at the north end of town, the Temple of An-Nadura has strategic views of the area and once doubled as a fortified lookout. It was built during the reign of Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) to protect the oasis, and inside are the remains of a sandstone temple with hieroglyphic inscriptions. It later housed a Coptic church and was used as a fortress by the Ottomans. It is one kilometer from el kharga from the eastern border of the hibis temple . it is called El nadoura because it was used in the Turkish and mamlouks age and there is still the rest of some ancient Egyptian writings and relief picture of the goddess aphrodite .
The site is badly ruined, but the superb vistas are ideal for sunset adulation. The ruins lie perched on a rise off to the right of the main road before the Temple of Hibis.
down hill next to the castle lies a water well but when we visited it it the water was totally GREEN so seems it is out of maintainence for a while, not recommended
23 km north of kharga on the asphalt road then west 12 km inside desert dirt road and some areasare sandy, you reach the Labkha site, it contains lots of fortresses, castles and temples scattered on a wide area, we managed to visit only the water spring and the fortress
we first arrived to a cafeteria or rest owned by SAYED, he is supposed to be an old guy who lives there alone and works volunteerly to clean up all the old roman aquatunnel systems that used to carry water from mountains to this oasis. he has a bazar shop and a clean bathroom. he also has a FUND AND DONATION box to help him get through the days. he showed us the water spring (small lake) where the water is concentrated from the tunnels carrying it from the mountains, he says there used to be 16 tunnel lines and each lines contained an average of 75 openings or vents, he cleans these vents and surrond the opening by bricks
Qasr el-Labeka was built by the Romans, yet largely implementing traditional building techniques. It was on the old caravan routes, and in its heyday the surrounding area was green and and with water. Water was carried by an aqueduct that still stand, but which is silted up.
It lies along a seasonal river (wadi) on an escarpment. The outer walls are 12 metres high and quite imposing. The location for this and the Ain Umm Dabadib is both part of the attraction and the reason why so few venture out here. The journey goes across real desert, and is only done by 4WDs, which arranged from tour operators in Kharga is expensive.
SOUTH OF KHARGA CITY
KASR EL GHWEITA
About 20 km south of Kharga is the temple Qasr al-Ghweita built between 250 and 80 BCE. It was dedicated to the Theban triad Amon, Mut and Khonsu.
According to some guide books, it is in a very ruinous state. This is fortunately not true. The 10 metre high walls are nearly intact, the houses have high walls still standing and the temple is about as complete as any other popular ancient destination in Egypt. Even large parts of the surrounding village can be seen.
Qasr el-Ghweita has one of the nicest locations around Kharga Oasis, on top of a circular mountain. Walking up to the temple, it looks impressive and massive. Which probably was the intent back in the days of villains and competing tribes.
Standing inside the holiest of the holy, looking out, you actually see right through the fortified village and into the valley below. Impossible to catch on photo, but really a nice view.
Around the temple there was a village that must have housed a couple of hundred persons. Some buildings are in about as fine condition considering the age of more than 1,500 years.
KASR EL ZAYYAN
Several guide books rate the Qasr el-Zayan fortress as in a very ruinous state. This is not entirely true, walls stand high, the centre of the temple is almost intact, and the setting is great. The main drawback is the original small size; you can cover it all in 5 minutes.
The temple itself, even if the promenade leading up to this structure was part of a whole structure.
The temple was built dedicated to the go Amenebis, the local town god. It was built during the Ptolemaic period and restored under the Roman emperor Antoniunus. The local town here was known as Tchnonemyris which flourished for several centuries. The modest village here now tells nothing about the rich past.
This place is the lowest in the Kharga Oasis, 18 metres below sea level.
5 minutes from Kasr el Zayyan, one can reach BULAQ hot water spring, the water was EXTRA hot and so relaxing, very clean too, definitely recommended to visit after a long dusty sight-seeing day
BARIS and DUSH Temple:
Baris, 90km south of Al-Kharga, was once one of the most important trading centres along the Darb al-Arba’een, but there is little left to remind you of that. Other than a few kiosks selling fuul and ta’amiyya, there is little of note apart from the mud-brick houses of Baris al-Gedida, about 2km north of the original town. Hassan Fathy, Egypt’s most influential modern architect, designed the houses using traditional methods and materials and intended Baris al-Gedida to be a model for other new settlements. Work stopped at the outbreak of the Six Day War of 1967 and only two houses and some public spaces have ever been completed.
About 13km to the southeast of Baris is Qasr ad-Dush, an imposing Roman temple-fortress completed around AD 177 on the site of the ancient town of Kysis. Dush was a border town strategically placed at the intersection of five desert tracks and one of the southern gateways to Egypt. It may also have been used to guard the Darb al-Dush, an east–west track to the Esna and Edfu temples in the Nile Valley. As a result it was solidly built and heavily garrisoned, with four or five more storeys lying underground. A 1st-century sandstone temple abutting the fortress was dedicated to Isis and Serapis. The gold decorations that once covered parts of the temple and earned it renown have long gone, but there is still some decoration on the inner stone walls.
Baris is not an ideal place to stay the night and you’re better off staying at or near Al-Kharga.