Dakhla Oasis

El-Dakhla Oasis in the Western Desert, which is around 200km away from El-Kharga, is widely regarded as the most beautiful of the oases in that part of Egypt. Water is more available in El-Dakhla than in El-Kharga oasis, making for more greenery, with palm trees and vast patches cultivated with cloves. El-Dakhla, which is home to some 85,000 people, also has more livestock. In every village, there is at least one primary school and one secondary school, medical centre, an Al-Azhar institute which teaches the curriculum of the institution in Cairo. There are several football grounds, each of which serves a few villages. On the three-hour car trip from Cairo to El-Dakhla, we stopped several times. We first stopped by some high sand dunes, where we had a chance to take photos. Our second stop was close to Gabal El-Engleez, or the mountain of the Britons, named after the spot where the British camped in the early 19th century to search for phosphate.

Britain built the oldest railway station in Upper Egypt, extending a railway line from Esna to their camp to transport phosphate. The railway station still exists, but the railway is covered in sand. Gabal El-Engleez is not easy to reach now, because it is far away from the road, but our guard told us that one can still find empty cans, buttons and spent bullets that were left behind in the area when the British moved on, having failed to find the minerals they were looking for. Phosphate was later discovered only 10km away from the site of their camp. The phosphate mines were our third stop, where phosphate was excavated and exported to Ukraine. The state built some 1,200 flats, several schools and a health centre for the workers. However, the workers preferred to commute to El-Kharga or El-Dakhla and the houses were left deserted. We also passed by the Natural Pyramids area, which holds more than 100 naturally-formed pyramids. Our next stop was the Valley of Camels, where various camel-shaped formations have naturally formed. We stopped in the valley and took few photos. The bus then stopped at the village of Balat, or the throne. It was the ruling centre in the old days and that is where it derived its name from. Unfortunately, it is now nearly completely ruined. We passed by Mut, the capital of El-Dakhla, on our way to El-Qasr village. The word Mut means “mother” in ancient Egyptian. El-Qasr Islamic village El-Qasr is the main attraction in Dakhla Oasis. The medieval mud-brick houses and the twisting and turning alleyways are some of the features that distinguish the village. The village was built in the 12th century during the Ayyubid period on the remains of an earlier Roman settlement in order to serve as the capital of the El-Dakhla Oasis district. It is one of the few villages that still exist from that era. In order to preserve the village, the Ministry of Antiquities has managed to convince most of its inhabitants to leave and has given them alternative housing.