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Bahariyya Oasis from Black Mountain

Coordinates: 28 ° 10 ′  N , 28 ° 50 ′  E

Relief Map: Egypt
Detailed map with Bahariyya oasis

Al-Bahariyya ( Arabic الواحات البحرية al-Wahat al-Bahriyya , DMG al-Wāḥāt al-Baḥriyya  'the northern oases') is one of the five most important inhabited depressions in the Egyptian part of the Libyan desert . It is located about 370 kilometers southwest of Cairo . The roughly oval depression extends from northeast to southwest, has a length of 94 km, a maximum width of 42 km and covers an area of ​​about 2000 km². The valley is surrounded by mountains and has numerous springs.

The sink can be divided into two settlement areas divide: this is the one of the north with the management center al-Bawiti ( 28 ° 21 '1.5 "  N , 28 ° 52' 0.1"  O ) and several villages east of Bawiti and others the area of al-Haiz in the south.


El-Beschmo Lodge, al-Bawiti

The valley is known by two names in ancient Egypt . The name Djesdjes is mentioned for the first time on a scarab from the Middle Kingdom . In the New Kingdom this name is rarely found, for example in the Luxor temple or in the report of Kamose , who occupied the oasis in the fight against the Hyksos . From the 25th dynasty onwards it is used almost exclusively. The second term Wḥ3.t mḥty.t ("the northern oasis") is used almost exclusively in the New Kingdom, for example in the local grave of Amenhotep, and can be found again in the oasis list of the Temple of Edfu .

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

The current name is الواحات البحرية, DMG al-Wāḥāt al-Baḥriyya meaning "the northern oases". Obviously the southern part of the Al-Haiz depression never had a separate name.


Today's population is made up of several groups: on the one hand, there are the old inhabitants with often Christian ancestors, Berbers ( Bedouins ) from Libya or from the Mediterranean coast and semi-nomadic Upper Egyptians from the al-Minya area , who have lived for about 500 years, but especially expelled under the reign of Muhammad Ali in the 19th century. At the end of the 19th / 20th In the 19th century, Sudanese and military refugees, often slaves , came to al-Bahariyya as immigrants . Since 1985 Nile farmers immigrated to a large extent . While only about 5000 people lived in the depression in the 19th century, it was about 7000 in the 1950s, 16,700 in 1981 and about 30,000 in 2000, more than half of them in the twin towns 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 large families today; the distribution of roles is similar to that in Arab families. The sheikhs (male and female) enjoyed great veneration , which can be seen in their graves.

There are close family ties to the Fayoum , as reciprocal immigrations repeatedly occurred as a result of the Second World War .

The strong influx of Nile valley residents, especially for administration and mining, is changing the social structure to a great extent.


Bahariyya was demonstrably settled since the Neolithic . In the area of al-Haiz , grinding stones, arrowheads, scrapers, chisels and other chert tools as well as ostrich egg shells were found at the settlement sites in the order of a few hundred square meters for only small groups of people of hunters and gatherers .

In the area of ​​Ghard al-Abyad in the area of ​​al-Haiz, settlement remains were found in 2007 that could be dated to the Old Kingdom . The Al-Bahariyya depression had been under ancient Egyptian rule since the Middle Kingdom. A scarab with the name of this oasis, Djesdjes , and rock inscriptions from travelers near al-Harra testify to this . The most important testimony from the New Kingdom is the tomb of Amenhotep, called Huy, in Qarat Hilwa , which clearly reveals Theban influence. The valley reached its heyday in the 26th Dynasty at the time of Pharaoh Amasis and in Greco-Roman times . The testimonies from the 26th dynasty include the tombs of Qarat Qasr Salim and Qarat al-Sheikh Subi in al-Bawiti as well as the chapels of Ain el-Muftella . The testimonies from Greek times include in particular the temple of Alexander the Great - the only temple dedicated to him on Egyptian soil - in Qasr el-Maqisba and the Ibis galleries in Qarat al-Farargi. The fortresses of al-Haiz, Qarat at-Tub and Qasr Muharib, a Roman triumphal arch in al-Qasr and palaces 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. The Christianity became extinct in the 17th or at the beginning of the 18th century with the transfer of the last Christians to Islam . Their churches were located near the old Roman fortifications. St. Bartholomew and certainly St. George .

The Islamization is in darkness; some ruins between the main road and the village of Ain Tuni are said to date from this time, according to local people. Incidentally, there was no permanent settlement of Arab origin, so some Libyan Berber tribes exercised unrestricted dominance over all Egyptian oases since 10/11. Century from. The historian al-Bakrī mentions that Christians and Muslims lived together in the 11th century. In the Mamluk period , the valley was again given greater attention, in Ottoman times soldiers were probably stationed here as well. Hardly any finds are documented from this time. Muhammad Ali had al-Bahariyya incorporated into his domain in 1813. The valley has been under Egyptian administration since the middle of the 19th century and has to pay taxes. But there were no permanent administrators on site; the local sheikhs managed all their affairs themselves until well into the 1980s.

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

The depression experienced the economic boom with the development of the iron ore deposits of al-Managim in the east of the depression, the ores of which are smelted in Helwan . In contrast to other sinks, however, there is almost no reclamation of new land here. Since the mid-1980s, tourism has established itself here as a new branch of the economy due to the pioneering work of the Swiss René Michel.

Research history

The valley itself has only been visited by Europeans since the beginning of the 19th century. The Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778-1823) traveled the valley in 1818 on his way to Siwa . He was followed in 1820 by the French Frédéric Cailliaud (1787–1869), in 1823/1824 by his compatriot Jean Raymond Pacho , in 1843 by the British John Gardner Wilkinson (1797–1875), the German botanist Paul Ascherson (1834–1913) in 1874 and the German doctor and archaeologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) in 1876. The geographical and geological exploration was carried out in 1897 by the British John Ball and Hugh LL 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 from 1938 to the beginning of the 1970s by Ahmed Fakhry (1905–1973). French archaeologists have been researching here since the 1970s and, as a result of the findings in the “ Valley of the Golden Mummies ”, an increasing number of Egyptian and Czech archaeologists since the early 2000s .

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

The German paleontologist Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach (1871–1952) found the fossils of three carnivorous dinosaurs that lived here 94 million years ago in the years 1911–1914 near the Gebel ed-Dist ( Bahariya formation ) : 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, east of the grave of Sheikh Muhammad al-Qaddafi on Gebel al-Fagga, found another dinosaur with Paralititan stromeri .


Five of the "Golden Mummies" are exhibited in a small museum . Also worth seeing are the pre-Christian tombs of Djed-Amun-ef-Anch 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 no less than 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 ), to the Crystal Rock and to the White Desert National Park ( as-Sahra al-baida ). One of the most important neighboring oases is Farafra, about 180 km south .


(sorted chronologically)

  • Ahmed Fakhry: Bahria Oasis. 2 volumes. Government Press, Cairo 1942–1950, (English).
  • Zahi Hawass : The Valley of the Golden Mummies. The newest and greatest archaeological discovery of our days. Scherz, Bern a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-502-15300-0 .
  • Wil Tondok, Sigrid Tondok: Egypt individually. 14th expanded and updated edition. REISE KNOW-HOW-Verlag Tondok, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-89662-472-5 .
  • Joachim Willeitner : The Egyptian oases. Cities, temples and graves in the Libyan desert (= Ancient World . Special issue; Zabern's illustrated books on archeology . ). von Zabern, Mainz 2003, ISBN 3-8053-2915-6 .
  • Frank Bliss : The Egyptian oases. Volume 2: Oasis life. The Egyptian oases of Bahriya and Farafra in the past and present (= contributions to cultural studies. Volume 23). 1st edition, Political Working Group Schools (PAS), Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-921876-27-3 . (The book contains an extensive ethnographic representation of the Bahriya and Farafra valleys.)

Individual evidence

  1. Frank Bliss: Oasis life. The Egyptian oases of Bahriya and Farafra past and present. Bonn 2006.
  2. W. Tondok, p Tondok: Egypt individually. Munich 2001, p. 464.
  3. Fekri A. Hassan: Baharia Oasis. In: Kathryn A. Bard (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge, London 1999, ISBN 0-415-18589-0 , p. 164.

Web links

Commons : Bahariyya  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Baḥrīya  - travel guide
  • Bahariya , excavation information of the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (French)