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Tuesday, 2 September 2014 - 10:47 PM Cairo
Home >> Tourism >> Famous cities >> Oases

Oases

Oases

The word oasis is often used to describe a place where you can forget the cares of everyday life, relax,rest and renew yourself.
 
Egypt’s oases are just that: unspoilt refuge from the modern world, pockets of civilization in the dramatic setting of the desert. Surrounded by sand and sky, the oases have a sense of timelessness,rare in the 20th century.
 
Man and nature have co-existed here since the Stone Age,but the stars,the rock formations and the dunes defy the calculation of human calendars.
Egypt’s oases are still the most varied in the world, each with a distinguished character of its own.
 
Wherever you stay, enjoy the tranquility of the Bedouin lifestyle, the date groves and pigeon towers. For adventure and excitement, explore the majesty of the desert by camel or jeep safari; spend a night under the stars. Take a morning dip in the hot sulphur springs, the water and silt which have numerous curative properties.

Fayoum oasis
The main town in the oasis is located 85 km south of Cairo, 75 km from Giza Pyramids and 105 km from Cairo Airport. Its name is probably derived from ‘Fayoum’ meaning water. Although usually described as an oasis Fayoum is not fed by underground water,like the Western Desert oasis further south west but by water from the Nile transported to this natural triangular depression by a series of canals.
 

Oases

Having irrigated the oasis, the water runs into Lake Qaroun which despite having dramatically shrunk over the past few thousand years, is at about 215 sq km still Egypt’s largest natural salt-water lake.
 
About 70,000 years ago the Nile flood first broke through the low mountains which surround the large Fayoum Depression and formed Lake Qaroun and the surrounding marshes. This is believed to be of, if not the first,site of agriculture in the world, as plants which grew around the lake were collected, land was fenced in, and dry and guarded storage areas were built. Even today, Fayoum is still famous for fruit and vegetables and its chicken. To describe food as Fayoumi, it means delicious.
 
The 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenemhet I (1991-1992 BC) first drained part of the marshes to develop the area for agriculture and also dug a large canal from the Nile controlled by a regulator at Lahun to the north west of Beni Swef.
 
The result of this and further developments by Amenemhet III (1842-1797 BC), who showed great interest in the area and built a pyramid at Hawara, was lake Moeris (Great Lake), twice the present size and teeming with fish, and an agricultural area to the south renowned for its rich and varied crops.
 
The Romans,who called the area Crocodilopolis (because of the crocodiles) changed Fayoum’s previous system of crop rotation and forced the area to supply grain exclusively to the Roman market. Muslims believe that Prophet Joseph developed the area during his captivity in Egypt through the canalization of Bahr Youssef river and by building the world’s first dam.
 
Although Fayoum’s national strategic importance diminished with the canalization of the Nile Delta, it remains one of the most producer agricultural areas in the country.
The water level in Lake Qaroun had been falling for about 2,000 years, as it received less and less water until the construction of the Aswan High Dam led to greater stability in the level of the Nile.
 
By the Middle Ages, the lake had become far too salty to sustain fresh-water fish and new species were introduced. The shrunken lake now lies 45 meters below sea level since 70,000 years ago. It now appears that water table is rising again as houses and fields at the lakeside have been flooded in recent years.
 

Oases

The beach resorts around Lake Qaroun still attract the more affluent visitors to the region. The number of visitors is increasing and while half are Egyptians, about a third are Europeans. The season runs all year round, but from January to April it is considered too cold to swim. The highly motivated regional government is now studying new tourist desert sites to the north and west of Lake Qaroun,a wild life park and conservation area, and infrastructure is being developed. A conference hall is being built together with museums showing monuments, fossils and civilization.
 
As part of its efforts to persuade tourists to visit areas outside the Nile Valley, the Egyptian Tourist Association is trying to encourage tours from Cairo via Fayoum to both the Red Sea coast and Upper Egypt which would undoubtedly be a wonderful and fascinating tour.
 
The city of Fayoum, in the center of the depression, is the province’s capital and the largest of its 5 small cities. The oasis population is 1.45 million. In Fayoum City itself the covered market place and the adjacent street of gold smiths found across the 4th bridge to the west of the central tourist office, are worth a visit .
 
 Monasteries
Saint Anthony (251-356 AD) acted as an inspiration for hermits and there were soon numerous monasteries throughout the country, including those in the Fayoum Depression. A number of them are still standing today and,although perhaps only for pilgrims and those of specialist interests,are worth visiting.
 
The 12th Century Deir Al-Adhra (Monastery of the Virgin) just off the road to Beni Swef, about 6 km outside Fayoum City,is the most accessible.
 
Further south is the beautiful 7th Century Deir Malak Ghobrial (Monastery of the Angel Gabrial) which is located on the desert escapement above the cultivated lowlands.
 
Deir Hammam,which was originally built in the 6th or 8th Century, is 6 km north of Lahun and Deir Mari Girigis (Monastery of St. George) can be reached by boat from Sidmant Al-Gabal which is 15 km south of Luhun.
 
Even more isolated is Deir Anba Samwail (Monastery of St Samuel) which is about 30 km south of the Fayoum depression and can only be reached by four wheel drive vehicle.
 
Lake Qaroun
After the noise,crowds of Cairo the Fayoum oasis, which includes Lake Qaroun, is literally a breath of fresh air. It offers both Egyptian and foreign visitors a relaxing break from city life,a day at the beach and a chance to see oasis life without having to venture too far. It has as well ancient monuments.
 
A relaxing day or two in Fayoum is strongly recommended for those in Cairo who are beginning to feel claustrophobic. Access to Bahr Youssef, canal bisecting Fayoum, trains, buses and taxis from Cairo;all terminate close to the canal in downtown near one of the city’s 8 tourist offices.
 
Negotiate the price then take one of the Hantours (horse-drawn carriages) to your destination. Local buses and taxis serving the oasis can be obtained from the Al- Hawatim terminal to the south of Bahr Youssef.
 
Water-wheels
The locals are particularly proud of their water-wheels, first introduced by the Ptolemies and used now as the official symbol of Fayoum province. There are over 200 to see in the region. Besides the 4 large ones behind the tourist office on the main Gomhouria st., the most famous are the series of seven water wheels, about 3 km along Bahr Sinnuris.

Baharia oasis
Located 365 km south west of Giza and 200 km from Farafra Oasis,the Oases are famous for their palm trees, olives, apricots, rice and corn. Intertwined trees provide attractive scenery with contrast to massive sand dunes.
 
The region is rich in wildlife of migrant birds and deer. Bawiti is the capital of Baharia oases that occupies a hillside. The oases are famous for their 398 mineral and sulphur springs .The most famous are Bir Hakima,Bir Haifa,Bir Al Matar, and Bir EI Ghaba. The old Roman springs flow through cracked stones. Ein EI Bishmo springs are unique because both hot and cold water flow from separate sources then blend in a rocky creek, in addition to AI Qasaa wells.
Baharia oases archaeological sites date back to Pharaonic periods. "zis zis" was the original name of the region. Most of the antiquities belong to the 26th dynasty "Saite period".
 
A Major archaeological sites
 The site of El Qasr houses Ein EI Mifatala,Qarat Helwa and Al Tibniya area that includes Alexander the Great temple. El Maron,El Dist and El Maghrafa antiquities are located next to a limestone temple in El Qasr area.
 
 El Bawiti houses, the largest Ptolemaic necropolis dedicated to Ibis bird. Its historic
tombs are located in the complex of (Youssef Selim,El Sheikh Soby and Al Farouj).
El Heez area is famous for its ancient churches,palaces and Roman tombs. Binantiew tomb dates back to 26th dynasty and represents unique pharaonic paintings.
"Valley of The Golden Mummies" has been recently discovered in a Roman necropolis, 6 km from Bawiti.
Visitors can arrange safari trips to the oases while enjoying Bedouin folklore in the evenings. Baharia oases are connected with Siwa and Farafra oases through a motorway.

The New Valley Oases
The New Valley lies in Egypt’s west desert,625 from Cairo. It includes three main Oases: AL-Kharga (the Capital), AL-Dakhla and AL-Farafra. The history of the New Valley goes back to 5000 B.C. It combines desert,lush vegetation, wells and therap springs (cold and hot up to 49"C). Its climate is noted for its dryness that makes it a reputable healthy winter resort.
In the desert of the  New Valley there is room for Safari and adventure that offers options for sightseeing.
 
AL Kharga
Located 600 km from Cairo, 200km West of AL-Dakhla , AL Kharga used to be the last but one stop on the Forty Days Road, the infamous slave-trade route between North Africa and the tropical south.
Today,it is the biggest New Valley oasis. Outside the main  centre is the Temple of Hibis, built on the site of  Saite, Persian and Ptolemaic settlement. One of the few Persian monuments in Egypt, the 6th century B.C. temple is well-preserved with painted vultures and huge reliefs of Darius greeting Egyptian gods on the outer walls.
 
Ten kilometers away, the Necropolis of AL-Bagawat houses 263 mud-brick tombs with Coptic murals, including the remains of one of the oldest churches in Egypt: the Tomb of Peace and the Tomb of the Exodus. Pharaonic monuments include AL- Ghuwayta Temple which dates from 522 B.C, Nadoura Citadel,Qasr El Zayyan that dates back to the Ptolemaic era, and the Museum of Antiquities.
 
The thermal springs of Bulaq and Nasser to the south, are famous for water temperatures up to 43"C and reputed to be suitable for the treatment of rheumatism and allergies.
Camping facilities are available. Further south is Paris Oasis, the second largest settlement in AL Kharga. It houses Roman Temple of Dush, dedicated to Isis and Serapis.
 
AL Dakhla
Runs from different periods, it is located 200km west of Al Kharga. Dominated on its northern horizon by a wall  of rose-coloured rock,fertile cultivated areas are dotted between sand dunes along the roads from Farafra and  Kharga in this area of outstanding natural beauty. The  capital, Mut,its name is attributed to Mut the consort of  god Amon.
 
 It is an ancient city that dates back to Pharaonic period. It houses the Museum of Heritage, a traditional house. Rooms, with sculpted clay figures, are arranged to show different aspects of AL Dakhla culture and family life.
 
Islamic Village of AL-Qasr, about 35km from Mut, houses ruins of an Ayubid mosque. The Pharaonic Balat tombs date from the 6th dynasty and Qalamon village dates back to the Turkish era.
On the way back to Mut, located Bir AL Gabal, a palm-fringed salt lake where you: can camp and picnic. Other day-trips from Mut could include the 1st  century Al-Mozawaka tombs and Deir Al-Hagar, a temple which was originally dedicated to the Theban Triad. After exploring the temple, bathe in the hot sulphur spring nearby. Visit Bashendi to see Roman tombs and a factory where carpets are still woven with scenes of AL Dakhla life. Nearby lies the Islamic Balaat village, a trading post with ancient Nubia.
The oasis abounds in springs and wells of which the most famous are those of Mut 3. Their temperature reaches 43C and you can stay in equipped chalets.
Ain AL- Qasr springs are located about 12 km in the mountain so that you can camp, enjoy one- day trip and Safari.

west desert


Farafra
Located between Baharia and Dakhla Oases, 32o km North West of Dakhla. Known as Ta-iht or the Land of the Cow in Pharaonic times,it is an isolated village, of which the oldest part lies on a hillside, next to peaceful palm groves; a short ride away, there are hot sulphur springs at Bir Setta and EL-Mufid Lake where you can swim. The oasis houses Qasr AL-Farafra and Qasr Abu Minqar which are ruins of Roman buildings.
 
An art center that houses a museum and studio exhibiting paintings and ceramics of a local artist is situated in a garden full of sculptures made of materials available in the desert. Beautiful hand-knitted camel- hair sweaters, socks and scarves are also local products. Day-trips by jeep and camel treks from here to the White Desert, Bahariya, Dakhla and Siwa can be arranged.

The White Desert
A trip to the White Desert is something that no visitor to the New Valley should miss. Travellers coming From Bahariya will cross through the Black Desert, passing the tiny oasis of El Heez on the way. Nearby, there are some Roman ruins, including a church with Coptic graffiti. Bahariya and Farafra are separated by huge golden sand dunes which make a stunning photograph during the journey.
 
Once you enter the White Desert through Al-Sillim passage, you meet a unique landscape of surreal wind-eroded rock formations which is particularly fascinating at sunrise or sunset. Camel and jeep trips, including a hot meal and fresh bread, made in the sand Bedouin style, can be arranged from Farafra.

Siwa

siwa


Siwa is one of the most fascinating oases on the edge of the Great Sand Sea. Its rich history includes that visit of Alexander the Great to Amun Prophecy Temple in order to predict the prophecy of Amun in 331 BC. Siwans have their own culture and customs, and they speak a Berber language, Siwi, rather than Arabic.
 
Many women still wear traditional costumes and silver jewellery like those displayed in the Traditional Siwan House Museum at the town centre: Siwa remains one of the best places to buy jewellery, rugs, baskets, traditional robes and head-dresses, decorated with antique coins.
The  original settlement, Aghurmi, was superseded by Shali, founded in 1203. Set among thick palm groves, walled gardens and olive orchards, with numerous fresh- water springs and salt lakes, modern Siwa was established over the ruins of ancient Shali.
Climb through the ruins of the old city for magnificent views of the whole oasis.
 
Walk, rent a bicycle or ride in a caretta (donkey cart) to outlying sights and places where you can relax. These include 26th Dynasty tombs with murals and inscriptions at Jebel AL-Mawta (The Hill of The Dead) and the temple of Amun, an acropolis temple dating back to 550 BC.
 
Near the Oracle are the ruined temple of Amun and the famous Cleopatra Bath,a deep pool of bubbling water where you can bathe. Another favourite bathing spot is Fatnis Island, on the salt lake of Birket Siwa, surrounded by palm trees and beautiful scenery.
Date of publication:Monday, 20 July 2009