Tuesday, January 3, 2012
The Bahariya (‘northern’) Oasis is located 365 km southwest of Giza in Egypt’s spectacular Western Desert. The Oasis has a population of about 24,000 and is divided into several different areas, such as: Bawiti, Qasr, Hara, Mandisha, Tibaniya, and el-Haiz.
Although the most well-known tourist attraction in Bahariya are desert safaris to Siwa, Djara Cave, and the Black and White Deserts, the Oasis has many other interesting features such as: ancient Egyptian and Roman historical sites, spectacular African bird watching, paleontological remains of 35 to 600 million years old, and hundreds of natural hot springs with great medicinal value.
The featured historical site in Bahariya is the Valley of the Golden Mummies, in Tibaniya, where over 17,000 mummies of men, women and children were buried. Twelve of these fabulous mummies are carefully preserved and on display at the local museum in Bawiti. They tell a wonderful story of ancient oasis development and the differences of artistic values between the ancient residents of the Nile and the dwellers
of the desert.
sites include the underground tombs of Bennentiu and Zed ef-Amun
Ankh, two wealthy landowners; the singular temple of Bes, the only temple of Alexander the Great in Egypt, and the 4 chapels and temple of Ain Muftella. Roman temples and forts abound in the Oasis, one near Hara, quite a few in Tibaniya and Qasr, the remains of a Roman arch in Bawiti, and a fort in el-Haiz – along with a 4th c AD church, possibly dedicated to one of the apostles of Christ.
Even more ancient are the paleontological remains that have been found – and are simply lying around the Oasis and deserts beyond. Pre-historic rock art dating from 4,000 to 10,000 is waiting to look at on caves or rock shelves; 35 million year old sea shells and coral; giant geodes such as Crystal Mountain, that are filled with quartz or other interesting minerals; 600 million year old ammonite shells have also been found, as well as a green glass silica not found anywhere else on earth and probably deposited by an ancient meteorite. Finally, the largest dinosaur in Africa – perhaps the world – was discovered in the Oasis just a little over 10 years ago.
Finally, for several millennia, the people of Bahariya utilized holistic healing methods – many of which are still used today, including: sand baths, sheikh readings, cupping, and soaks in the 400 or so hot and cold springs, as all have high mineral contents that immediately helps sore muscles, arthritis, and rheumatism. Many tourists from western, central and northern Europe visit the Oasis specifically for health benefits. A soak in the darkness of night, under a blanket of stars, refreshes the body and feeds the spirit.