Bahariya Oasis

Bahariya Oasis

Location: Antiquities InspectorateMap

Open: 8:30am- 4pm

Admission cost: 30 euros for admission to 6 sites


Description of Bahariya Oasis

Bahariya Oasis (الواحات البحرية) is located near Cairo. It is also known after a small village of Bawiti where most of buses will take you. Black desert that surrounds Bahariya Oasis once was a home for a largest land carnivore spinosaurus. Wahati that live here derive their name from an Arab word that means "oasis". They are predominantly Muslims and minarets define the landscape in the area around Bahariya Oasis. A temple in Bahariya Oasis was dedicated to Alexander the Great commemorating the conqueror who is said to pass the oasis on his way to oracle of Ammun during his conquest. Besides a huge cache of Greco- Roman mummies are found here.

The Baharia oasis consists of several villages, the largest of which (the administrative center of the district) is called Baviti. In the neighborhood is the village of Qasr. To the east, about ten kilometers, lie the villages of Mandishah and Ez-Zabu, between which the small village of Aguz is located. A few kilometers to the east is the easternmost village, Harra. The last village is called Khiyaz, but it is not considered by all to be part of Baharia, as it is too remote from all other villages, about 50 km south of Baviti.

The population of the oasis, or Wahati people (from the Arabic word waha, that is, an oasis), are the descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the oasis, the Bedouin tribes from Libya and the northern coast, as well as other peoples of the Nile Valley, who settled in the oasis.

Most Wahati people are Muslims. There are many mosques in Baharia. The social structure in the oasis is strongly influenced by Islam.

Traditional music is very important for wahati. At public gatherings, especially at weddings, they play music with the help of flutes, drums and simsimia (an instrument like a harp). Traditional rural songs are passed down from generation to generation, and new songs are composed. Contemporary Arabic music is also popular in the oasis.

The ruins of the temple of Alexander the Great remained in Baharia. Some archaeologists believe that the commander passed through Baharia, returning from the oracle of Amun from the oasis of Siwa. In 1996, excavations of the Greco-Roman necropolis, known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies, began. About 34 tombs of that era were excavated.

In the ancient rocks of the oasis, scientists discovered the remains of skeletons of a carcharodontosaurus, bachariasaurus and dentosuchus dating back about 95 million years ago.



The depression is known by two names in ancient Egypt. The name Djesdjes was first mentioned on a scarab from the Middle Kingdom. This designation is only rarely found in the New Kingdom, for example in the Luxor Temple or in the report of Kamose, who took the oasis in the fight against the Hyksos. From the 25th Dynasty onwards it is used almost exclusively. The second name Wḥ3.t mḥty.t (“the northern oasis”) is used almost exclusively in the New Kingdom, for example in the local tomb of Amenhotep, and can be found again in the oasis list of the Temple of Edfu.

Since 45 AD the depression has been known as Oasis parva (small oasis). The Greek historian Strabo (63 BC - 23 AD) calls it the second oasis, the historian Olympiodorus of Thebes (5th century AD, Byzantine period) calls it the third oasis. In Coptic times it was called the Oasis of Pemdje (ancient Oxyrhynchos or today's al-Bahnasa) and in Islamic times it was called the Oasis of Bahnasa.

The current name is الواحات البحرية, DMG al-Wāḥāt al-Baḥriyya, meaning “the northern oases”. Apparently the southern part of the depression around al-Haiz never had a separate name.



Today's population is made up of several groups: on the one hand, these are the ancient inhabitants, often with Christian ancestors, Berbers (Bedouins) from Libya or the Mediterranean coast, and semi-nomadic Upper Egyptians from the al-Minya area, who have been around for around 500 years were particularly expelled under the rule of Muhammad Ali in the 19th century. At the end of the 19th/20th century In the 19th century, Sudanese and military refugees, often slaves, arrived in al-Bahariyya as immigrants. Since 1985, Nile farmers have been immigrating in greater numbers. While only around 5,000 people lived in the depression in the 19th century, there were around 7,000 in the 1950s, 16,700 in 1981 and around 30,000 in 2000, more than half of them in the twin city of Bawiti/Qasr.

The main source of nutrition are the 150,000 date palms as well as olive and fruit trees. About a quarter of the cultivable land is actually used.

The long-established families still live in extended families today; The distribution of roles is similar to that in Arab families. The (male and female) sheikhs enjoyed great reverence, which can be seen from their graves.

There are close family ties to the Fayoum, as there were repeated two-way immigrations as a result of the Second World War.

However, the large influx of Nile Valley residents, particularly for administration and mining, is changing the social structure to a great extent.



Bahariyya has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. In the area of al-Haiz, grinding stones, arrowheads, scrapers, chisels and other chert tools as well as ostrich egg shells were found at settlement sites measuring several hundred square meters for only small groups of hunters and gatherers.

In the area of Ghard al-Abyad in the al-Haiz area, settlement remains were found in 2007 that could be dated to the Old Kingdom. The al-Bahariyya depression had been part of ancient Egyptian rule since the Middle Kingdom. This is evidenced by a scarab with the name of this oasis, Djesdjes, and rock inscriptions from travelers near al-Harra. The most important evidence from the New Kingdom is the tomb of Amenhotep, called Huy, in Qarat Hilwa, which clearly reveals Theban influence. The depression reached its peak in the 26th Dynasty at the time of Pharaoh Amasis and in the Greco-Roman period. Evidence from the 26th Dynasty includes the tombs of Qarat Qasr Salim and Qarat ash-Sheikh Subi in al-Bawiti as well as the chapels of Ain el-Muftella.

In Qasr el-Maqisba there is a temple that, according to the foundation inscription, was founded by Alexander the Great for the god Amun. The Macedonian conqueror probably came to the oasis after being viewed as the son of this god during his visit to the Amum oracle in the Siwa oasis and from then on integrated himself into the religious traditions of Egypt. In addition to this temple, evidence from the Greek period includes the Ibis Galleries of Qarat al-Farargi. The fortress buildings of al-Haiz, Qarat at-Tub and Qasr Muharib, a Roman triumphal arch in al-Qasr and palace complexes and wine-making facilities in al-Haiz date from Roman times.

Christians lived here as early as Roman times from around the 4th century AD. Christianity only died out in the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century when the last Christians converted to Islam. Their churches were located near the old Roman fortifications. St. was venerated here. Bartholomew and certainly St. George.

Islamization is in the dark; Some ruins between the main road and the village of Ain Tuni are said to date from this period, according to locals. By the way, there was no permanent settlement of Arabs, so some Libyan Berber tribes exercised unrestricted dominance over all Egyptian oases since the 10th and 11th centuries. century. The historian al-Bakrī mentions that Christians and Muslims lived together in the 11th century. In the Mamluk period, the depression received greater attention again, and soldiers were probably stationed here in Ottoman times. However, there are hardly any finds from this period. Muhammad Ali incorporated al-Bahariyya into his domain in 1813. The depression has been under Egyptian administration since the middle of the 19th century and has to pay taxes. However, there were no permanent administrative officials on site; The local sheikhs managed all their own affairs well into the 1980s.

Since 1961, el-Bahriyya belonged to the New Valley Governorate, but in 1968 it was added to the al-Jizah Governorate. There has been a mayor since 1965, but for a long time he had little influence.

The depression experienced an economic boom with the development of the iron ore deposits of al-Managim in the east of the depression, whose ores are smelted in Helwan. In contrast to other depressions, there is virtually no new land reclamation here. Since the mid-1980s, tourism has established itself as a new industry here thanks to the pioneering work of the Swiss René Michel.


Research history

The depression itself has only been visited by Europeans since the beginning of the 19th century. The Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) traveled through the depression in 1818 on his way to Siwa. He was followed in 1820 by the Frenchman Frédéric Cailliaud (1787–1869), in 1823/1824 by his compatriot Jean-Raimond Pacho, in 1843 by the Briton John Gardner Wilkinson (1797–1875), the German botanist Paul Ascherson (1834–1913) in 1874 and the German Physician and archaeologist Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) in 1876. Geographical and geological exploration was carried out in 1897 by the British John Ball and Hugh L.L. Beadnell. In 1900, the German Egyptologist Georg Steindorff (1861–1951) traveled through Bahariyya on his way to Siwa. The most extensive research work was carried out here by Ahmed Fakhry (1905–1973) from 1938 to the beginning of the 1970s. French archaeologists have been researching here since the 1970s, and since the beginning of the 2000s, as a result of the discoveries in the “Valley of the Golden Mummies,” Egyptian and Czech archaeologists have also been conducting research here.

In 1999, new finds from the Valley of the Golden Mummies were officially presented. The discovery of this cemetery from the Greco-Roman period took place in 1996. A team led by Zahi Hawass discovered about 230 mummies here in about 15 tombs from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD; these finds are currently being evaluated. According to generous estimates, the cemetery contains around 10,000 burials.

The German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach (1871–1952) found the fossils of three carnivorous dinosaurs that lived here 94 million years ago near the Gebel ed-Dist (Bahariya Formation) between 1911 and 1914: Bahariasaurus ingens , Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. The remains, exhibited in the Munich Natural History Museum, were destroyed in a bomb attack in 1944. In 2000, an American team led by Joshua Smith from the University of Pennsylvania found another dinosaur, Paralititan stromeri, east of the tomb of Sheikh Muhammad al-Qaddafi at Gebel al-Fagga.


Sightseeing features

Five of the “Golden Mummies” are exhibited in a small museum. Also worth seeing are the pre-Christian tombs of Djed-Amun-ef-Ankh and his son Banentiu from the 26th Dynasty, which are located in the Qarat Qasr Salim hill not far from the center. The colors and hieroglyphs are very well preserved and are not inferior to those in the Valley of the Kings. The Alexander Temple can also be visited.


Black and White Desert

Bahariyya is also a good starting point for a drive through the Black Desert (as-Sahra as-sauda), Crystal Rock and the White Desert National Park (as-Sahra al-baida). One of the most important neighboring oases is Farafra, about 180 km south.