Dakhla Oasis (Egyptian Arabic: Al Wāḩāt ad Dākhilah ), also spelt Dakhleh and translates to the inner oasis, is one of the seven oases of Egypt’s Western Desert (part of the Libyan Desert). Dakhla Oasis lies in the New Valley Governorate, 350 km from the Nile and between the oases of Farafra and Kharga.
. It measures approximately 80 km (50 mi) from east to west and 25 km (16 mi) from north to south. It is above sea level and is well supplied with water from over 500 springs and pools. With pink cliffs to the north and lush green gardens, this is a truly picturesque spot. One of the best views of the oasis can be had from beside the pool at the Badawiya Dakhla Hotel in Dakhla Oasis.
As well as dates and figs, mulberries and citrus fruits are grown in Dakhla. It is thought that up until only about 7000 years ago there was a large lake at Dakhla which provided grazing for elephants, ostriches and buffaloes until it dried up and the sands moved in.
In contradiction to the other oases in Egypt, more than 50% of the lands of El Dakhla are actually cultivated. This is because the Dakhla Oasis is rich with a large number of water springs like that “Bir Talata”, Well number three, “Bir El Gabal”, the Well of the Mountain.
These fresh water springs have become among the most popular touristic attractions in the Dakhla Oasis because of their wonderful warm water and its relaxing atmosphere.
The human history of this oasis started during the Pleistocene, when nomadic tribes settled sometimes there, in a time when the Sahara climate was wetter and where humans could have access to lakes and marshes. But about 6 000 years ago, the entire Sahara became drier, changing progressively into a hyper-arid desert (with less than 50 mm of rain per year). However, specialists think that nomadic hunter-gatherers began to settle almost permanently in the oasis of Dakhleh in the period of the Holocene (about 12 000 years ago), during new, but rare episodes of wetter times.
In fact, the drier climate didn’t mean that there was more water than today in what is now known as the Western Desert. The south of the Libyan Desert has the most important supply of subterranean water in the world through the Nubian Aquifer, and the first inhabitants of the Dakhla Oasis had access to surface water sources.
Little is known about Dakhla during Pharaonic times. A single stela from the Twenty-second Dynasty, which mentions a water dispute, was found near Mut by the british H.G.Lyons, in 1894. The first contacts between the pharaonic power and the oases started around 2550 BCE.
The fortified Islamic town of Al Qasr was built at Dakhla Oasis in the 12th century probably on the remains of a Roman era settlement by the Ayyubid kings of Egypt. After 1800
The first European traveller to find the Dakhla Oasis was Sir Archibald Edmonstone, in the year 1819. He was succeeded by several other early travellers, but it was not until 1908 that the first egyptologist, Herbert Winlock, visited Dakhla Oasis and noted its monuments in some systematic manner. In the 1950s, detailed studies began, first by Dr. Ahmed Fakhry, and in the late 1970s, an expedition of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale and the Dakhla Oasis Project each began detailed studies in the oasis.
What to visit in Dakhla ?
The Village of Mut
Among the sixteen villages in the Dakhla Oasis, the Village of Mut is the largest and the most important, with more than 100,000 inhabitants living in village, which was transformed gradually into becoming more of a city other than a village today.
The name of the Village of Mut was derived from the ancient Egyptian goddess, Mut, the wife of the famous god Amun and the most important deity among the gods of Thebes.
The same as many oases of Egypt, like the Siwa Oasis, Mut has an old city which is situated on the highest point of the town and featured with its mud bricks walls and narrow lanes.
Located to the South East of Mut, there is “Mut El Kharab”, or the ruined section of Mut, which is a badly preserved Roman settlement that was inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century.
The most important touristic attraction in the city of Mut is the spa of the Bir Talata, or Well number Two, located about two kilometers away from the center of the town.
The water of Bir Talata is rich with iron and sulfur which helps in curing many illnesses and they come from a depth that reaches 1000 meters from the underground.
An artificial lake is located three kilometers to the North of Bir Talata and it was formed with the drainage of the irrigation water to become one of the largest artificial lakes in the region.
This lake was established to become a fish farm but the substances like pesticides and fertilizers that come from the cultivated land mad the Egyptian authorities abandon the whole project.
Deir El Hagar
This Temple was constructed during the ruling period of Nero in the middle of the 1st century AD and it was dedicated to the Holy Theban Triad, the gods Mut, Amun Re, and Khonsu.
Deir El Hagar was renovated afterwards, during the reigns of the Roman Emperors; Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian as they enlarged the complex and added many finely carved bass relieves.
The Temple was visited by a number of travelers of the 19th century and some of them carved their names on its walls as a sign that they have been here.
Deir El Hagar, which was surrounded by large mud brick walls 16 meters long and 7 meters wide, has a two columns portico and a small hypostyle hall with four pillars and a sanctuary at the end of the complex.
The Village of Al Qasr
Situated 20 kilometers to the North of Mut, Al Qasr is among the most interesting villages in the Dakhla Oasis because it hosts a number of remarkable monuments.
The narrow lanes of Al Qasr have some of the ancient Islamic houses with doors decorated with acacia wood with the name of the owner or the constructor of the house being carved.
Occupying the center of the Village of Al Qasr, there is the minaret of Sheikh Nasr El Din Mosque. Dating to the Ayyubid period, during the 11th and the 12th centuries, nothing remains of this valuable monument except for its 21 meters height minaret.
The Village of Bashandi
The Village of Bashandi
The Village of Bashindi is a quaint and finely preserved historical village situated 40 kilometers to the East of the city of Mut and it was inhabited during the 11th and the 12th centuries.
The Village of Bashindi is featured with its mud brick houses that are finely decorated and colorfully ornamented the fact that made it among the touristic attractions of El Dakhla Oasis.
There is an Islamic cemetery inside the Village of Bashindi and it is dominated by the impressive mausoleum of Sheikh Bashindi, the founder of the village, and there is also a necropolis dating back to the Roman ruling period.
The Mausoleum of Bashindi was constructed by placing a large mud brick structure with a dome over the Roman necropolis, which has some wonderfully decorated tombs like this of Kitines, painted in the Pharaonic style.
The Village of Balat
The Village of Balat is located to the Northeast of Bashindi and its medieval district is of significant importance from the historical and architectural aspects.
The village of Balat is famous the most for hosting two of the most important archeological sites in the Western Desert; the Qila El Dabba Necropolis and Ain Asil, the capital of the Oases in the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
These both important historical sites were excavated and studied by the French Institute of Oriental Archeology with the collaboration of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
In the Qila El Dabba Necropolis, archeologists were able to unearth some Mastaba style tombs constructed with mud bricks and which belonged to the rulers of the Oases and their families in the 6th dynasty.
Among the most impressive tombs is the Chapel of Khentikau- Pepi the ruler of the oasis during the reign of King Pepi II, in the period from 2246 till 2152 BC.
There is also the Mastaba tomb of Khentika, the ruler of the oases during the ruling period of King Pepi I in the period from the year 2289 till the year 2255 with the mortuary chamber being decorated with wonderful bright colors.
The excavation works that were carried out in 1986 revealed that the mortuary chambers had four tombs; one of them was reserved for the deceased, while the other three were for the members of his family.
Archeologists were able to find wonderful treasures inside these tombs that included copper items, terracotta pottery, and copper jewelry. These remarkable items are now put on display in the Kharga Archeological Museum.
The Necropolis of Al Muzwaqa
The Necropolis of Al Muzwaqa means, in the Arabic Language, the wonderfully decorated tombs and it is located to the North of Mut near the Temple of Deir El Hagar.
This important historical necropolis was discovered in 1908 by the American archeologist, Herbert Winlock during his excavation missions in the Western Desert of Egypt.
This necropolis consists of around 300 rock hewn tombs with most of them not yet unearthed or studied. The Necropolis of Muzwaqa is mostly famous for two tombs; the tomb of Petosiris and the tomb of Petubastis and both tombs have finely preserved wall paintings.
Dating from the 1st and 2nd centuries, the two tombs contain all the components of the traditional tombs of ancient Egypt. This includes offerings to the deceased, funerary procession, and the gods watching the deceased entering the afterlife.