Submerged by the sea eons ago, leaving fossils on the high plateau, the Kharga depression is hemmed in by giant cliffs and broken up by massifs, with belts of dunes advancing across the oasis. Southernmost of Egypt’s five oases, historically, Kharga’s importance was due to the desert trade routes that converged upon the oasis.
In the case of Kharga, this is made particularly evident by the presence of a chain of fortresses that the Romans built to protect the Darb el-Arbain, the long caravan route running north-south between Middle Egypt and the Sudan. The forts vary for size and function, some being just small outposts, some guarding large settlements complete with cultivation. Some were installed where earlier settlements already existed, while others were probably founded anew. All of them are made of mud bricks, but some also contain small stone temples with inscribed walls.
The capital, El Kharga is relatively unremarkable but it is the surrounding area that offers the most interest. Two of the oasis’ most evocative monuments lie just a few miles north of El Kharga. Although botched in a 20th century conservation fiasco, the 6th century Temple of Hibis dedicated to Amun-Re is one of the few Persian monuments left in Egypt. The rambling c. 4th century necropolis of al-Bagawat, which is built entirely of mud brick, is one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in Egypt. The 263 mud-brick chapels display diverse forms of mud-brick vaulting and faint murals. Just beyond here is an imposing ruined monastery – Deir el-Kashef.
To get you started with planning your holiday to Kharga Oasis, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to Egypt
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