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Oasis

Oasis

Bahariya Oasis

 

 

                                                 Oasis of temples and Golden Mummies                              
Bahariya Oasis is easy to reach from Cairo (you will pass through much desert), Bahariya is in the middle of Egypt’s Western Desert, about 365 kilometers south-west of Cairo and it is the best starting point for the Black and White Desert. Set in a depression covering over 2000 sq. km., Bahariya Oasis is surrounded by black hills made up of ferruginous quartzite and dolorite. The oasis is provided with water by many springs. The most famous of these, a thermal spring with medicinal and restorative properties, comes out in the Bedouin village of Bawiti. Wildlife is plentiful; especially birds such as wheatears, Bahariya Oasis might also appeal rock hounds. Golden Mummies were discovered - 'Valley of the Mummies' is the biggest of its kind. Estimates are the four-mile strip of desert holds 5,000 - 10,000 mummies. The mummies are covered with a thin layer of gold and wearing gypsum masks. Sumptuous gilded death masks depict life like faces of real people, rather than stereotypical images. They were found in four tombs in the town of Bawiti in Bahariya Oasis

Dakhla Oasis

 

Dakhla is the oasis that lies furthest off the main settlements of Egypt. Unlike many other oases, it is situated above sea level, as high as 122 meters. Still it is fed by more than 520 springs and ponds. 75,000 people live in 14 different settlements, each strong local identities and customs. Only Mut and Al-Qasr qualifies as towns. Before the road came here, Dakhla must have felt like a planet of its own, where only few inhabitants ever came as far as to the neighboring oases Kharga and Farafra.

The main towns are Mut and Al-Qasr, the latter the main attraction in the entire oasis. If you have time, the old town of Mut is also interesting. Dakhla has been inhabited for millenniums, and of old sights, the Muzawaka tombs and Deir al-Hagar temple is the main attractions. At Balat, not far from Bashendi, tombs from the 3rd millennium BCE have been found, but generally the funerary complex is closed to visitors.

Farafra Oasis

The isolated oasis
with only 4,000 inhabitants and about 200 km to the first neighbor settlement, Farafra is among the most isolated places in Egypt. It is part of the Western Desert circuit, so it still gets many visitors. And the place has a number of attractions, of which the adjacent White Desert is one of Egypt's most famous nature sights.

The architecture of Farafra is the old and ingenious one, where mud brick houses stand close together, with narrow roads with roofs. Many of the houses have painted exteriors with murals. Many traditions live on in Farafra — traditions that die when locals in towns like this move into nondescript "modern" box houses. Dresses and shirts have beautiful embroidery, but little is available for visitors with hard cash. Of products for sale, olives and olive oil are of high quality here. In addition, there is a rich output of vegetables and fruits, including bananas, mangos and guavas. Most visitors to Farafra take at least one swim in the many hot springs in town. Female visitors should respect local traditions, and bathe only in the afternoons

  

Kharga Oasis

 Oasis of temples and castles

Kharga is clearly different from the image most people of an oasis out in the desert. It has been the most important town in the development plans for the Western Oases, and has presently a population of more than 100,000 people. And when the architecture is totally dominated by concrete blocks and wide roads, the result is that few tourists use more time than necessary in town. During my oasis circuit of 2004 I met several Western travel guides telling me that they omitted Kharga all together, because there was nothing to see. That is totally wrong; Kharga has sights from 3 millenniums.
Kharga means in Arabic "point of departure", in opposition to Dakhla, "point of entrance", which lies further to the west.
The population of Kharga are Berbers with roots back to the time when the oasis was a station on the famous 40 Days Road between Sudan and Egypt — famous because of the merchandise; slaves

 

Siwa Oasis

 

  The sweetest oasis
Siwa appears at first as a sweet and innocent place deep in the desert which has just opened its eyes to the modern world and still let's itself be amazed. Which is not wrong, the asphalted road opened first in 1984.
But the history goes deep beyond the earliest civilizations, to Paleolithic times. In the 1st millennium BCE, Siwa was famous with the ancient Egyptians, thanks to its oracle. The oracle was though to be so true and powerful that generals feared its predictions. Both when the Persian king Cambyses invaded in 525 and with Alexander the Great before his expeditions into Asia in 331 BCE, was the oracle consulted.
During these times, Siwa was a wealthy place, well illustrated by the Gebel al-Mawta and its rich tombs. In early Islamic times, Siwa went into decline and sometime in the 13th century was down as little as 200. Today the population is on the rise, and has since long passed 20,000. Most live in the town Siwa, the rest are spread across over10 smaller villages.

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai, located in the peaks, sometimes referred to as the Holy Mountains

The mountain was called Sinai or "the mount of God" possibly before the time of Moses, according to Josephus. On its southern end is Mount Mousa (or Musa), sometimes referred to as JebelMusa, Gebel Mousa, Mount Moses or the Mountain of Moses (all of which basically means the same thing).  This peak is traditionally considered to be biblical place where Moses communicated with God and received the Ten Commandments.

Mount Musa is 7,495 feet (2,285 meters) high. It is not he highest peak in the Sinai, That distinction, as well as the highest in Egypt, belongs to nearby Mount Catherine, which is 8652 feet (2637 meters) high. Visitors to Mount Musa may climb it using several routes. The shortest route, known as Siket Syidna Musa, is a steep stairway consisting of 3,750 steps, known as the "steps of penitence

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity, built in 1934 (on the location of the original chapel built in 363 and rebuilt by Justinian in 530), is located on the summit, but is not open to the public, though it is said to enclose the rock from which God made the tablets of the Ten Commandments. There is also a small mosque and a cave where Moses is thought to have waited to receive the Tablets. Of course, the summit also provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys. While the monuments on the peak of Mount Musa are well known, there are a number of other monuments and historical site located on the mountain, many of which are located along the stairway, and on the surrounding mountains.

 

The Monastery of Saint Catherine

Monasticism

Ever since the early Christian Period, South Sinai was a great attraction for the Christian monks. The Monasticism was an escape from the Roman violence which spread in the 4th Century A.D. Especially in Firan Valley, El-Tur, and Mount Moses; those who fled the Roman persecution have taken shelter in various areas in Egypt, particularly those areas near water sources. 

Saint Catherine

She lived in Alexandria during the persecution of Christians during the reign of Maximinus in 305-313 A.D, and when she converted to Christianity the Roman tortured her severely, finally beheading her in 307 A.D. Five centuries later, a monk saw a vision in which her body was carried by Angels, gently placing her on top of the peak of the highest mountain in Sinai, so the monks carried her relics to the Church of Transfiguration, which it was named then, next to the monastery that was formerly called “The Virgin”, and ever since then, the name of the monastery has been known as Saint Catherine.   

The Monastery

In 342 A.D The Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, built a monastery, including the chapel known as the Virgin Mary, at the Burning Bush site; where it is believed that Moses received the two tablets. In the 6th century A.D the Emperor Justinian ordered the building of the church known today as the Church of Transfiguration; both the church and the monastery were later named for Saint Catherine. Justinian also ordered the building of a high enclosure wall, with towers to protect the monastery, and it is said that he provided it with 200 Roman soldiers to protect it against the attacks of the Bedouins.