About El Bahariya Oasis
El Bahariya Oasis is the northernmost oasis among all the oases of Egypt. This is why it is the most visited by tourists spending their vacation in Egypt and locals all the same. Being near the Egyptian Capital, having many interesting sites nearby like the White Desert and the Valley of the Golden Mummies, El Bahariya has become quite popular in the past few years.
Its location, relatively near the Nile Valley has given an important role to play as a transit point of the commercial caravan coming from the Western Desert to the cities situated on the shores of the River Nile.
The Name Bahariya
The fact that the Bahariya Oasis is the northernmost oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt also played a role in the naming of the oasis. The word Bahariya in the Arabic language is mainly associated with the word Bahr that means the Mediterranean Sea and generally speaking refers to the North direction as it was the direction towards the sea situated in the North.
Geographical Location of El Bahariya Oasis
The Bahariya Oasis is located around 370 kilometers to the South West of Cairo; the capital of Egypt. It consists of a wide vast depression that is 94 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide. There are also some mountains surrounding this depression like the Ghurabi, El Maghrafa, and Mandisha Mountains. This is besides the English Mountain or Gabal El Engleez that was the location of the British troops during World War I.
El Bahariya is situated around 350 kilometers to the South East of the Oasis of Siwa, 480 kilometers to North West of Luxor, and 650 kilometers to the North West of Aswan.
The History and establishment of El Bahariya Oasis
The ancient Egyptians resided in the Bahariya Oasis as early as the ruling period of the Middle Kingdom. It was during the 18th dynasty around the 13th century BC when El Bahariya Oasis gained more importance as a strategic point controlling routs between the Nile Valley and the Libya and the Western Desert to the West.
However, it was during the 26th dynasty especially during the ruling period of the Kind Amasi that the Bahariya Oasis became the heart and the most important point in the caravan routs.
The importance of the Bahariya Oasis increased during the Greco Roman period in Egypt as the oasis became an important center for the production of wine, olives, oil, dates, and different types of cereals.
The existence of a huge Roman fortress near the Bahariya Oasis reflects how important was the Bahariya during the ruling period of the Romans in Egypt. The Roman wanted to assure their control over this important section of Egypt.
When Christianity became the official religion in Egypt during the Byzantine rule in the country, the Roman Emperor Hadrian was responsible for supervising the military troops that guarded the oasis. However, tribes coming from Libya took control of the oasis and destroyed many its buildings. However, in 339 AD, the Roman regained control over the oasis and secured the whole area.
El Bahariya Oasis Today
El Bahariya Oasis today became one of the popular touristic destinations for travelers visiting Egypt. With a population that is more than 35,000 inhabitants today, El Bahariya has four major towns; Bawiti that is considered like the capital of the oasis and the most important town and El Qasr, the most ancient section of the Bahariya Oasis. This is beside the two other smaller villages of Mandisha and Zabw.
The area around Bawiti has some ancient necropolises of sacred animals like that of the hill of the chicken Merchant or Farargi, that hosts some burial chamber of ibis.
There is the also the Hilwa Mountain or the charming Mountain that hosts the most ancient historical tomb in Bahariya that dates back to the reign of the 18th dynasty that ruled Egypt in the 13th century BC. This tomb belongs to Amenhotep-Hay, the governor of the oasis at the time.
The Bahariya Oasis also has some wonderful natural springs that have wonderful curative effects like the Ain Bishmu, which was used as early as the Roman period in Egypt.
Among the most important historical sites in the Bahariya Oasis is the Valley of the Golden Mummies. This was where an ancient necropolis dating back to the Roman period was discovered to the Southwest of Bawiti.
The archaeological mission that began in 1999 found that this area hosts the most important and largest Roman necropolis in Egypt. The studies showed that this area has thousands of tombs all over the surface area that is more than 35 square kilometers.
The discoveries so far have unearthed more than 250 mummies that are featured with their wonderful golden covers and wonderful inscriptions. Some of these mummies are now put on display in the Museum of the Golden Mummies in El Bahariya Oasis.
Another interesting historical site in El Bahariya Oasis is the necropolis of Ain El Meftella. This historical site is located four kilometers west of the town of El Qasr. It consists of four chapels that were discovered in 1939 by Ahmed Fakhri, one of the most important Egyptian archaeologists who had many discoveries and studies in the Western Desert of Egypt.
All the chapels at Ain El Meftella date back to the ruling period of the 26th dynasty in the 5th century BC and they have some wonderful fine preserved wall paintings and inscriptions.
The climate of El Bahariya Oasis plays a very important role in the international fame the oasis gained for its curative purposes. This is beside the fact that the oasis has many hot and cold Sulfur natural springs. The Egyptian government has also established many resorts and hotels in the area to encourage tourists to visit Egypt and enjoy their time in the Bahariya Oasis.