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Updated: October 2014
EGYPT’S GREAT WESTERN DESERT and OASES:
from north to south . . .
The SIWA OASIS
420 km northwest of the Bahariya oasis
I. Archaeological Sites
Shali Citadel/Fortress: The Shali is the old town dating to the 13th century and located in the center of Siwa. It was built on a large mound and appears to have houses built upon houses surrounded by labyrinths of streets. The town was mostly abandoned in 1926 after heavy rainfalls seriously damaged the structural integrity of this unusual mud, rock and plaster town.
Gebel El Mawta (Mountain of the Dead): A necropolis of ancient Egyptian tombs dating to the 26th dynasty and Greek and Roman period. During WWII the local residents used the tombs as hiding places when the Italians were raiding through the area.
The tomb of Niperpathot who was a 26th Dynasty “Prophet of Osiris” and also the “Scribe of the Divine Documents.”
The tomb of the Crocodile dates to the 4th c BC tomb and has decorations of Osiris, Hathor, a fox, and a crocodile.
Tomb of Mesu-Isis has excellent decorations of cobras on one wall.
Tomb of Si-Amun. This is probably one of the most beautiful in the oasis. This tomb belonged to a wealthy land owner and contains depictions of the major gods and goddesses of pharaonic Egypt, including a beautiful replication of Nut (the goddess represnting the Milky Way) standing next to a sycamore tree.
Oracle Temple of Amun: This 26th dynasty temple of Amun was built in the 7th or 6thc BC and was home to the most powerful Oracle in the ancient world. The Persian king, Cambyses sent an army of 50,000 soldiers to destroy the Oracle. Instead legend has it that the Gods protected the Oracle by allowing all 50,000 soldiers to die in the desert in a sandstorm. Later in 331 BC, Alexander the Great visited the oracle and was told the he was the son of the sun god Re and therefore eligible to become pharaoh of Egypt.
Umm Ubeiyda: Temple of Amun: This 30th dynasty Amun temple was built in the 4th c BC by one of the last Egyptian pharaohs – Nectanebo. This temple is southeast of, and connected to the Oracle Temple by a processional pathway. The Umm Ubeiyda Amun temple remained fairly intact until the early 1800s when a government official blew it up and took the stones to build his own house and a staircase for the police station.
II. Natural Sites: Siwa Oasis
Cleopatra Spring: This is one of the largest and most beautiful springs in Siwa. It is circular and stone lined with natural bubbles coming from the ground. Bathing and/or swimming is permitted and quite enjoyable. Bring your suit. A small café serving tea and other refreshments is next to the spring, along with changing rooms.
Fatnas (Fantasy) Island and spring: Located next to the large salt lake in Siwa and surrounded by thick palm groves. Swimming is permitted, a restaurant available, and the sunsets are gorgeous.
Gebel Dakroor (Dakroor Mountain): Located to the east of the Oracle temple. Archaeologists speculate that the Oracle temple was aligned to a distinct concave in the Dakroor Mountain. This area is also famous for its mud baths; many people take 1-3 day treatments because they claim the mud gives them relief from rheumatism and other muscle problems.
Siwa Berber Souks: Located in the center of town next to the Shali one can purchase many of traditional Siwa goods – things that you can’t find anywhere else in Egypt
South and west from the SIWA OASIS:
Bier Wahid Hot spring (Spring One): Located about an hours drive west of Siwa after climbing many large spectacular sand dunes you will be ready to relax in the warm water and enjoy the pristine view. Bier Wahid is in the midst of the northern section of the Great Sand Sea.
Cold Lakes: These lakes are located between the Bier Wahid and the Siwa oasis. They are fresh water lakes in the middle of the desert with no trees surrounding them. Here you will find that many fish live in these lakes.
Great Sand Sea sand dunes: An exciting way to spend the afternoon taking wild rides over huge seif (sword) sand dunes and checking out the moon-like terrain and looking for petrified sea shells or coral that usually dates to about 35 million years ago.
Fossil Valley: Egypt has many petrified wood and fossil areas with specimens that date back to 30-40 million years ago.
North and East of the SIWA OASIS
Abu Shrout Sping: This spring is located 19 miles north of Cleopatra springs and is not well known. It is still used in the traditional manner by the local residents as a meeting and bathing area for men.
Birket Siwa (Siwa Lake): This is the largest salt lake to the west of the Siwa Oasis
Masrab el-Ikhwan: This area is located on the east side of Siwa’s great lake (Birket Siwa). Here you will see Gebel Bayda (the White Mountain) to the left and Gebel Hamra (the Red Mountain) to the right. There are many caves in this area that were made and used in pharaonic times.
Maraqi: This is a small Bedouin village on the east side of the lake that sells local crafts
Doric Temple: This Greek temple with traditional Doric columns is very different from the Oracle and Umm Ubaiyed temples because of the strong Greek architectural influence. In the past decade some archaeologists claimed that Alexander the Great’s body was buried in this Doric temple but that hypothesis has been discredited.
Balad el-Rum (Roman Town) An unexcavated Roman fortress and Christian church in general proximity of the Doric temple.
Other Siwa points of interest: Ain Safi, Shiata Lake, Gara Oasis.
On the road between the
BAHARIYA and SIWA OASES
El Arag ancient oasis; Al Arag oais is located 250 km outside of Siwa. It is the most beautiful oasis between Bahariya and Siwa as its large sand dunes run into an impressive white chalk escarpment. Al Arag cannot be seen from the Siwa/Bahariya road so you must make a special request to see it. There is a lake and some cliff tombs as well.Is located 196 km outside of Siwa, past the Sitra Oasis.
Bahrain oasis was inhabited during Roman times; it has been deserted for many centuries. There are two lakes.
Sitra Lake & oasis: Located in the deep desert, 144 km outside of Siwa this oasis has a beautiful lake and impressive sand dunes.
THE BAHARIYA OASIS
400 km west of Cairo/ 420 km south of Siwa
Natural Sites of the Bahariya Oasis
Sandy Dune is located in the desert west of Bawiti. A great place to drink tea and watch spectacular desert sunsets.
Pyramid Mountain: Located northeast of the Oasis, many archaeologists have speculated that mountains such were the inspiration for pyramid building and dinosaur bones (30 – 50 million years old) have been excavated from this area.
Salty Lake: A very large lake in the northern section of the Oasis and surrounded by palm groves. Purportedly a 300-year old Islamic glass factory lies at the bottom
Palm Groves: The Oasis is home to thousands of thick, lush, palm groves, oozing with dates coveted by the rest of Egypt. Harvest time is October/November every year.
Hot Springs: Bahariya has hundreds of natural hot and cold springs that are beneficial for many health conditions including sore muscles and arthritis
English Mountain: World War I lookout post manned by Captain Williams to observe troop movement by the Sanusi (local tribal residents).
Old Oasis: Zawya Square – located where the old caravan route entered the town where the old Sanusi mosque and Zawya still stand
Old Market: Although now deserted this was the place where camel caravans from LiI. bya, Sudan, Chad and deep Africa would convene.
The Qasr area (where the Bedouin Castle is located) has a very interesting old Bedouin town that is mostly deserted. Examples of oasis construction and their favorite decorating techniques of their Haj trips (via camel, boat, etc) are still painted in their abandoned homes construted of: mudbrick, palm frond and apricot-wood.
II. Archaeological Sites in Bahariya
Antiquities Museum: There are nine gilded mummies from the Wadi Mummia (Valley of the Golden Mummies) that date to the Greek and Roman occupation periods in Egypt (ca 300 BC to 250 AD).
The tombs of . . .
o Pedashtar: a 26th dynasty high priest (not open)
o Thaty: the grandson of the high priest Pedashtar (not open)
o Ta Nefer-Bastet: the wife of Thaty (not open)
o Zed-Khonsu-ef-Ankh: a rich 26th dynasty land owner and probable governor of Bahariya (not open)
Amenhotep Huy: a 19th dynasty governor of Bahariya (not open)
Bannentiu: a trader or wealthy land owner who was also the son of Zed-Amun-ef-Ankh (open)
Zed-Amun-ef-Ankh: traditional religious texts and many false doors
The temples of . . .
Ain el Muftalla Chapels: This is series of 4 chapels begun in the New Kingdom and added to in the 26th Dynasty. Parts of the temple were built by Zed-Khonsu ef-Ankh, Bahariya’s 26th dynasty governor. This temple contains a large depiction of the god Bes (protecter of women in childbirth) and unusual groupings of sky and land deities combined.
Alexander the Great Temple: 4th century BC and the only place in Egypt where Alexander’s cartouche and effigy were found. It is surrounded by many smaller magazines. and rooms for priests. It is unusual in that it is cardinally aligned with it’s doorway to the south.
THE WHITE DESERT NATIONAL PARK
140 km south of Bahariya
In the Old and New White Desert there are numerous unusual natural formations made of chalk that come to life at sunrise and sunset. Nearby are the Roman and Magic springs, Crystal Mountain, and Flower Desert. This is an enchanted place that the desert visitor cannot miss.
Other sites in the White Desert National Park include: Double Peak, Ain Abu Hawass, Ain el-Serw, Ain Khadra, El Santa (the Acacia tree), El-Kheyam (the ‘tents’), Aish el-Ghurab (the ‘mushrooms’), El-Tabaly (the ‘tables’), and Bir Regwa.
The Western White Desert is to the west of the White Desert and is currently closed (very restricted area). It has spectacular natural monuments in it including: EL-Babien (the entrance), El Qabur, Bir Bidni, Margaret el-Obeiyd, Hidden Valley, and further west is the Ain Della pass where it is believed that Cambyses led his army of 50,000 thru to go to Siwa and destroy the Oracle. In Ain Della there are lots of caves with prehistoric rock art.
THE FAYOUM OASIS
2 hours southwest of Cairo -- 4 hours east of Bahariya
Wadi Rayyan and Wadi Hittan: This is a protected area in the Fayoum; the Wadi Rayyan boasts on Upper and lower lake with waterfalls between the two. There are also three sulpher springs.
Marine fossils and archaeological remains dating to c. 40 million years ago are on display in the open-air museum at the Wadi Hittan ([dinosaur] Whale Valley). The study of these dinosaurs was very important as they have tiny back legs. It has always been assumed that life began in the water and then moved to land. But the Wadi Hittan dinosaurs prove that this species began on land – and then returned to the water. Cousins to these dinosaurs can be found in Arkansas, US.
Karanis (Kom Aushim): This ancient Graeco-Roman town is located 80 km southeast of Cairo and it was built in the Ptolemaic period (304 to 30 BC).
Karanis has two temples, one of which was built in the ancient Egyptian design and dedicated to the crocodile gods, Pnepheros and Petesuchos (Sobek). Karanis site is important due to all of the ancient papyri found here, which told us much about history during that time period.
Karanis was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the 3rd c BC and it flourished for 700 years until it was abandoned in the 3rd c AD.
The Kom Aushim museum: is located near Karanis and it houses many artifacts that were discovered at Karanis. Karanis is important to archaeology as it helps us piece together how the ancient public lived and worked.
Qasr Qarun: is an ancient town on the far west side of the Fayoum on Lake Qarun. Most of the ancient town has been destroyed but two temples still remain: the large temple was dedicated to Dionysus (who the Greeks associated with Osiris), and the smaller temple to Sobek Ra.
Batn Ihrit: is just south of the Fayoum Lake and is the site of ancient Theadelphia, which contains a ruined Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek
Medinet el-Fayoum: is located just east of Batn Ihrit. In Medinet el-Fayoum is an ancient city that was first called Shedyet by the ancient Egyptians, then Crocodipolis, and later Arsinoe by the Greeks. This city was a major worship center dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek.
In the center of the town are water wheels, made during the Ptolemaic era and still functioning today.
Medinet Madi: was established in the 12thDynasty by the kings Amenemhet III and IV (1844 to 1787 BC); it was repaired in the 19th Dynasty and further expanded in the Graeco-Roman period. Excavations are continuing in this ancient town, and have uncovered even more interesting artifacts
THE FARAFRA OASIS
175 km south of Bahariya
Badr's Ethnic Art Museum: Here you will find a collection of eclectic and Bedouin heritage style of art made by Badr, the local artist.
Sitta Hot Spring (#6: Located in the northern part of Farafra and a great place for bathing after a night in the White Desert. There are clean clothes changing huts available.
Old Farafra Oasis: A small village next to a large palm grove and the oldest part of town. This is where the local farmer’s market is held.
Sandy Dune: Take a wild and isolated ride across the sand dunes on the trail to Dakhla where odd solitary trees are scattered across the area.
THE DAKHLA OASIS
315 km southeast from Farafra -- 200 km west of Kharga
Al-Mizawaka Tombs: These pharaonic tombs are 35 km outside of the Dakhla oasis; the most important tombs belong to Pelusis and Petosiris. The el-Mizawaka tombs also have Greek and Persian Mithras cult decorations. The tombs are only opened on the outside.
Al-Qasr (The Old Town/Fortress): This old Islamic village was founded in medieval times; and the oldest house in Qasr is from the Mamluk and Ottoman era,, and dates to 924 AD. The Ayyubid period mosque has a 3-story mud brick minaret. Al-Qasr is a very well-preserved mud brick, wood town with lots of winding, narrow streets, many homes, a school, and a government center. Ancient Egyptian blocks filled with hieroglyphs were used to construct the governor’s home. Only a couple of families live inside today. There is a nice local museum as well.
Balat: is an important Old Kingdom town with the Al-Adaba tombs and Asil spring located nearby. In this town there are five mastabas, one belonging to the governer, Medunefer, who ruled in the reign of Pepi II (Old Kingdom).
Beshendi Village: This is a pharaonic village that is located within an Islamic cemetery. There is a Nubian dome tomb that was made for an important sheikh and if you ‘speak’ into one corner of the Sheikh’s tomb, your voice will be amplified in the opposite corner. There are also two Roman tombs, one of which is the famous tomb of Kitnes.
Deir Al-Hagar: The ancient name of this Roman temple is Setweh, “Place of Coming Home.” This temple was dedicated to the gods Amun Re, Mut, Khonsu, and Seth and has wonderful astronomical depictions as well as Roman and Christian era inscriptions. Deir el-Hagar was originally dedicated to the Karnak triad of gods, Amun, Mut (his wife) and Khonsu (their son) as well as the god Seth (brother of Osiris).
Ain el Gebel and Bier Mou: These are two of the most popular hot springs in Dakhla and they are located in the ancient Egyptian part of the Dakhla oasis calle Mut (a powerful ancient Egyptian goddess).
Asamant El Kharab: An important archaeological site containing colonnaded halls with Corinthian capitals, Egyptian tombs and mummies, three Christian churches, Roman baths, and aqueducts, along with thousands of Greek and Coptic papyri and 5000 fragments of rare testaments of Manichaeism dated to the 3rd century AD. This religion spread from Babylonia to China and eventually died out.
Ain Asil: An Old Kingdom settlement possibly dating to the 6th dynasty (Old Kingdom). This may have been the pharaonic capital of Dakhla in the late third millennium.
Camel Rock: Located on the east side of Dakhla as you enter the oasis.
THE KHARGA OASIS
325 km west of Luxor
This oasis was important in ancient times, primarily because it was the second-to-last stop for the infamous slave trade route, al-Darb el-Arbein (The Forty Days Road) from Africa. Additionally in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries AD many of the early Christians were exiled to all of Egypt's Western Desert oases, but the Kharga oasis received the largest exiled Christian community.
Christian necropolis: el-Bagawat: Christianity had its beginnings in the Kharga Oasis in the late 3rd century AD when Christian leaders, including Nestorius and Saint Athanasius, were banished here.
In Bagawat there are 263 tombs with domed roofs dating from the 4th to 6th centuries AD; some are still partially pagan and others have biblical scenes.
Bagawat church: The oldest church in Egypt dating to the 5th century AD.
The Chapel of Peace, is sometimes referred to as the ‘Byzantine Tomb’ because of its depictions of Adam, Eve, Isaac, Noah, “Rebecca’s Well,” and the “Annunciation of the Virgin Mary,’ to name only a few.
Chapel of the Exodus is so-named because of the paintings inside which include: Moses leading the ‘Israelites Exodus from Egypt,’ ‘Moses in the Sinai,’ Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve, ‘Jonah in the Whale,’ Job’s suffering, ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den,’ and many others.
Kharga Museum: Inside are ancient Egyptian and Christian artifacts including 7th to 9th century Coptic textiles and 18th century icons.
Ain Umm el-Dubadib: is located about 40 km northwest of Kharga. In this isolated, deep desert area is a towering fortress, early church, aqueducts and town houses settled at the bottom of an escarpment that is 380 meters above sea level and 225 meters above the desert floor. Although Umm Dubadib was most likely populated in Pharaonic times it is also known for its Roman settlement and aqueduct system.
El-Deir: This Roman fortress was built to protect the infamous caravan route, the Darb el-Arba’in (Forty Day Road) which connected deep Africa with the Mediterranean. After the Romans abandoned this fortress, El Deir was then used as a Christian monastery; centuries later the Turks and Brits occupied it as well. El Deir has fabulous graffiti inside that dates back hundreds of years.
Qasr el-Ghuieta: This temple complexwas begun in the 27th dynasty (by the Persians and Egyptians) and completed during the Ptolemaic (Greek) period (ca 300 to 100 BC). It is perfectly aligned to the cardinal points and has an inner sanctuary and outer fortress walls.
Temple of Hibis: Like the Sphinx, this temple is very well preserved as it was covered with sand until the 20th century. It was built by the Persian kings, Darius I and II in t he 6thcentury BC. The Hibis temple, dedicated to Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, is the only known Persian temple in Egypt.
Qasr el-Zaiyan: This Graeco-Roman temple was dedicated to Amun-Hibis and is part of a fortress surrounded by thick mud brick walls. Although not as well preserved as Qasr Ghuieta, it is still in very fine shape and worth a stop. Qasr el-Zaiyan is located on the road between Kharga and Baris (south), and just south of Qasr el-Ghuieta.
1.5 hours south of the Kharga oasis.
Along the route from Kharga to Baris it feels as if you are traveling through the greater Middle East as the towns that you pass through are called: Algeria, Kuwait, Palestine, Jeddah, and Baghdad. Baris (Paris) contains many uninhabited Nubian style homes that the local inhabitants refuse to live in because they resemble tombs.
Shams el-Din: in ancient Egyptian times, this town was called “Water of Isis.” There is a necropolis and a 4th c AD church.
Gebel and Ain Tafnis: Ain Tafnis is difficult to reach; it consists of a spring and caves and lots of Greek, Coptic and Byzantine Arabic inscriptions.
Ancient city of Kysis (Dush): This city located 125 km south of Kharga was another Roman fortress town that might have been initially constructed by the ancient Egyptians in the 4th dynasty (Old Kingdom). Kysis was a major military fortress during the Roman period used to protect the Darb el-Arbaien caravan route.
Kysis has several Roman cemeteries and about 150 Ottoman tombs
and an elaborate underground pipe system. This city was probably abandoned when the underground springs dried up, most likely in the 4th century AD when a Christian church was also abandoned.
The temple of Dush in Kysis was dedicated to Isis and Serapis. “Serapis” is an amalgamation of the god Osiris and the Apis Bull. Serapis worship was very popular beginning in the Greek period. The name of the Isis and Serapis temple (“Dush”) came from the word “Kush,” which was the ancient Sudanese capital that had a big trade business with ancient Egypt.
El Manawar: is an archaeoogical site located near Dush. It has a temple, village, pottery mounds and many aqueducts and springs. Nearby sand dunes threaten to cover this site.
SEMI-DEEP DESERT SITES
The sites listed in this section can be accessed within one to four days. They give the traveler a sense of the extreme 'deep' desert sites (like the Gilf, Uwaynat, etc) and what it is like to be totally cut off from civilization. Yet civilization is still close enough if you need to return for an emergency. These semi-deep desert trips need special permission, which takes at least ten days to two weeks to acquire.
D’jara cave: is one of the very few caves in Egypt that is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. It is located the middle of the Western Desert to the east of the Bahariya oasis, and on a limestone plateau, next to an old camel track that connects the Farafra oasis and the city of Assiut (on the Nile).
Djara cave dried up centuries ago, meaning that the stalactites and mites have stopped ‘growing’. It is a spectacular cave and well worth the trip.
D'jara cave is very large today but in prehistoric times it must have been enormous (maybe about ¼ kilo deep) before it was filled by centuries worth of sand. Although Djara cave is off the beaten path, once there it is easy to explore as many parts have a level floor covered by desert sand. Flashlights are necessary and a helmet is a good idea.
Djara cave is also famous for its cave art and engravings depicting game and people. The cave's art was made during the Holocene wet phase when this area was occupied by early hunters/gatherers. Remains on the surface were dated by C-14 to be 8600-6000 BP. Unfortunately, practically all of these drawings have been covered by sand sifting into the cave over the centuries.
The D’jara region (an area measuring almost 5km x 10km), was inhabited during the time that the rock art was created (during a wet period).
After the climate changed, and the people left the area, D'jara cave was forgotten for millennia. Djara was rediscovered by Gerhard Rohlf (famous German explorer), during one of his famous expeditions in the early 19th century AD.
Shamani (Obayet valley) cave is in the Western White Desert and the cave contains many prehistoric artwork depictions.
Ain Lebekha Fortress (25 km north of Kharga) has two Roman fortresses, an aqueduct, and a rock-cut cemetery. Lebekha is located about 19 miles east of another ancient, important desert fortress town, Ain Umm El-Dubadib. There is a steep, magnificent mountain range between the two important caravan connctors; other smaller ancient Roman and Egyptian fortresses and temples are located to the north and south of Umm Dubadib and Lebekha.
QATTARA DEPRESSION is the largest depression in Africa and in an area seven times larger than all of the Egyptian oases combined. Qattara is also the lowest point in Africa as its elevation is 192 meters (428 ft) below sea level.
Many fossils of sea creatures, reptiles and mammals have been found in this area as well as the oldest Miocene monkey, and a Mastodon.
Naqb Abu Dweis is also in the Qattara Depression but do NOT go exploring here as this place is still heavily mined because it was strategically important during World War II.
Maghra Oasis is located in the eastern portion of the Qattara Depression. Although this oasis is uninhabited there is a salt lake and 5 wells that were built in 1840 by Mohammed Ali Pasha.
The Qattara Depression is the only area in Egypt where prehistoric Jurassic dinosaur remains can be found. This includes: reptiles, fish, mammals, and lots of petrified wood.
As an interesting sidenote, Qattara is also where drug smuggling has been going on for at least since since the era of the Greeks (600 BC) who imported opium and hashish. These illegal operations have been policed, first by the Berber, Bedouin and Senusi tribes, and later by the Egyptian Camel Corps who conducted heavy raids since the beginning of the 19th century.
THE GREAT SAND SEA
This impressive sand dune field begins in Siwa and ends at the north end of the Gilf Kebir, which is approximately 72,000 sq km.
Some sand dunes reach heights of 100 mt (320 ft) and lengths of 100 km (88 miles); it was recorded that one dune field was 140 km in length.
In the southern third of the great Sand Sea is an area also famous for silica green glass. The earliest theory was that this glass was extraterrestrial in origin, while other scientists believed it might be volcanic. As a nearby crater was discovered it is believed that the glass is extraterrestrial, coming to earth in a large meteor. People have cherished this glass at least since ancient Egypt's New Kingdom because recent analysis of King Tutankamun’s famous pectoral noted that the central piece, once thought to be calcite, was actually silica green glass that came form this remote region.
Is a deep desert area located about 240 km west-southwest of Dakhla oasis; Abu Balas is famous for hundreds of large water pots found abandoned here.
Abu Balas has been inhabited since prehistoric times (see rock art here that includes: a man a hunting dog, and an antelope). It may also have been used as a watering station for ancient Egyptians.
One early explorer thought that Abu Balas was the lost city/oasis of Zerzura because he thought that the Arabic name, Abu Balas, was an interpretation of the ancient name, Zerzura. His hypothesis has long since been discarded.
DEEP DESERT EXPEDITIONS OF A LIFETIME
This intreiging desert is located south of the Gilf Kebir, in the furthest southwest corner of Egypt and into northern Suden, Chad and Libya. The Uwaynat Desert is home to thousands of ancient rock art depictions that date to as early as 10,000 BC. Similarities also exist between a few ancient Egyptian gods and Uwaynat rock art, so it is possible that a few deities from ancient Egypt’s pantheon may have been influenced by the prehistoric religion that existed earlier in the Uwaynat Desert . . or the Gilf Kebir . . . or Nabta Playa, or even Zerzura for that matter.
The Uwaynat is also the location of numerous craters formed by meteorites -- or from springs and volcanic activity from the Early Cretaceous period -- who knows? The possibilities are limitess.
THE GILF KEBIR
This area is one of the least explored sites in modern Egypt. In it are valleys, vivid in color and terrain, cliffs so steep they are difficult to scale and the ultimate sense of timelessness as the Gilf is so far removed from modern civilization.
Located in the far southwestern corner of Egypt, the Gilf Kebir covers over 7,700 sq km (3000 sq miles), is 300 meters (1000 ft) above the desert base, and 1,075 meters (3,500ft) above sea level. It is like a huge shelf the size of Switzerland and one of the most imposing natural wonders in Africa.
Apart from the natual stunning beauty of the Gilf, it was also -- over 10,000 years ago + -- filled with a beautiful fresh-water lake and sustained a rather large, prehistoric culture as evidenced by the plentiful amounts of rock art found in the Gilf's abundant wadis, oases, and caves. If you have ever seen the movie "The English Patient" then you saw the inside of the Gilf's most famous prehistoric dwelling -- the "Cave of the Swimmers," which was so-named for the rock art covering its interior walls.
o Northeastern Side =
§ Lama Point – The dunes of the Great Sand Sea end at Lama Point in the Gilf Kebir with trillions of tons of sand dunes rolling on top of each other like a ponderous alien creature.
o The Plateau north to northwest– Egypt’s Grand Canyon with spectacular valleys such as the Black Valley and the Red Sand Dune Valley.
§ Zerzura – This lost city (see Uwaynat Desert) may also be located in the northern side of the Gilf Kebir or elsewhere in the Great Sand Sea.
§ Wadi Hamra (Red Valley)– This very dramatic valley contains unusual red sand dunes abutting steep black escarpment.
§ Wadi Abd el-Malik (Servant of the King) – This is another possible location for the lost city of Zerzurza. Rock art depictions can be found within grottos in Wadi Abd el-Malik.
§ Wadi Mashi (Walking Valley)– The mountains in this valley seem to “walk” as they disappear and reappear as you walk towards them.
§ Wadi Dayyiq (Narrow Valley)– Many ancient chiseled and pounded tools have been found here as well as military relics from World War II.
§ Wadi el-Bakht (Valley of Luck/Chance)– Has one dramatic 30 mt (96 ft) tall sand dune. There is also an abundance of ancient artifats such as grinding stones, bones, ostrick eggshells and pottery dating to 6930 BC. Rock art as well can be found in caves, mainly depicting cattle, which were present in this area as early as 9800 BC.
o The Southern expanse
§ Wadi Wassa (Wide Valley)– This valley was created by ancient water erosion and is one of the most spectacular in the Gilf Kebir.
§ Wadi al-Ard al-Hadra (Valley of the Green Earth) – There is evidence here of ancient human habitation as well as a series of unusual sand dunes.
§ Eight Bells – Drainage system of Eight Bells fed into Lake Chad 5000 BC
§ Wadi Sura (Picture Valley)– This valley contains an enormous amount of unusual rock art depictions including swimmers, dancers, hunters and possibly fertility rights.
§ Al Aqaba (the Difficult) – is a good pass to stay away from as there are rumors that it might still be mined from World War II.
o Nabta Playa is located about two hours (off-road) west of Abu Simbel at the southern end of Lake Nasser, which is just above the Sudanese border.
o The area of Nabta Playa was inhabited by peoples from Africa, who migrated north from the heart of the continent about 10.000 BC at the end of an ice age.
o In this time period, the desert areas had not dried out yet, and so were full of grass and savannah-like and very good for animal grazing.
o The people of Nabta Playa were famous for raising “geeps” which are a combination of sheep and goat. This rare animal no longer exists.
o Nabta Playa’s new occupants soon built up their own society, with rules and regulations amongst the villagers, as well as their own religion and sciences.
o By about 6000 BC they became so advanced that they built the world’s first Stonehenge – a rock circle used for telling the time via solar shadows.
o The location of Nabta Playa on the earth’s surface was unique in that it was located right on the Tropic of Cancer. This means that when summer solstice came about, and the Nabta Playeans studied their circle at noon, for several minutes there were absolutely no shadows. Pretty clever, huh?
o This stone circle (and other archaeological remnants from Nabta Play) still exists today.
TMake this into your table of contents for the stuff on the left. FX:
N, S, E of Siwa
Dakhla (Add Darb Dakhla in write up
DEEP DESERT SITES
Great Sand Sea
MAKE LINKS w/TofContents and write ups
Need to put maps next to each town thing? Or just one of entire West Dez?
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