The Oases of Wadi El Gedid,
in the Western Desert of Egypt

Click on one of the 4 oases on the map, or read down the page "as normal"
map of wadi el gedid in Egypts western desert
Baharia Farafra Dakhla Kharga
Map of Western Desert & the oases in wadi Gedid
Who doesn't know about the Nile Valley with the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings, or east of Egypt with Sinai and the Red Sea? Less know about the the Western Desert and it's Oases in Wadi el Gedid (the "new valley"). To see the distances between Cairo & Luxor and the oasis of the desert, see here.

This desert was previously called the "Libyan Desert" and covers an area of 680'000 square kilometers - or two third of Egypt. As it's hard to understand this size by numbers alone, let us mention that this area is equal to a combined size of these seven countries; Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland!

In east lies Ramla El Kebir (The Great Sand Sea), a huge area of moving sand dunes where nobody should even think about venturing without the best possible expertise and team. South of Ramla El Kebir is Gilf Kebir - a mountain plateau with numerous valley's. The size of Gilf Kebir is about the size of Switzerland.

The Baharia oasis is actually part of the Giza governorate (starting on the west side of the Nile in Greater Cairo), while the three other oasis is part of the Wadi el Gedid governorate. The main village is Bawiti which also is the administrative center for the oasis. Agriculture is an important in the oasis, but adventure tourism is also important for many inhabitants. It has lived people here since Neolithic times, and in pharaonic times it has been discovered settlement dating back to the Old Kingdom. Ruins of a temple to Alexander the Great is found here, and in the noble tomb of Rekhmire in ancient Waset (todays Luxor), there is a scene showing people from Baharia. In 1996 it was announced that several hundred mummies from the Roman period had been found near Baharia, in an area today known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies. South of the desert is what is called the Black Desert, black as some part of the limestone mountains here contains manganese. When manganese was eroded, these layers reacted with oxygen and became black. When driving from the oasis towards the Farafra Oasis, and have passed the Black Desert, one leave also the towards the Farafra Oasis, one leave the cliffs of the plateau, the road start to descend towards the amazing White Desert.

Farafra oasis . The Farafra oasis have only 5000 inhabitants, and have until recently been the most isolated oasis in the Western Desert. The mayor of the oasis told me that during the time of President Nasser, the inhabitants actually lost track of time, so one day they had to send a camel rider to the Dakhla oasis, so they could be sure they prayed the Friday prayer on the correct day. Today many adventurous travelers have visited the oasis which is most famous for the awesome White Desert north of the oasis. Agriculture is expanding in this oasis which during the pharaonic times was called Ta-iht, or the Land of the Cow. A local artist named Badr have built up an interesting studio and exhibition in the centre of the oasis.

The White Desert is still the main reason most people are going to Farafra. Located north of the oasis, it opens up a white alien like landscape on both sides of the road coming from Baharia. With unbelievable chalk rock formations made by an artistic desert wind - a mushroom here, and a lion there, all in colours variating from creamy to white. To spend an evening or even a night here will also give an special starry night, as this is one place on the planet where one can see more stars with the naked eye, than most other places on our planet.

The Dakhla oasis I have to admit that if I had to pick one of these great oasis, Dakhla would be my favourite oasis of many reasons. Let one thing be clear, Dakhla is not an Disney oasis with a water source and some few palms around. It's an oasis of around 400 square kilometers, and has an agricultural area of about 90 square kilometers from where it exports olives, dates, onions and fruits to the Nile Valley. Number of inhabitants in Dakhla is over 75000, compared to around 5000 people in Farafra.
Human activity is found here as far back as 150000 years ago. Neolithic rock paintings show that the lake here, which in those times was much larger, was visited by ostrich, zebra, giraffe as elephants. When the climate changed, many of the inhabitants moved to the Nile valley and became among the first inhabitants there. The capital of Dakhla is named Mut, a name it got in pharaonic times as Mut was one of three main gods from Waset (Luxor). Dakhla was important from Old Kingdom, and the capital was then close to Balat and it moved to Mut first during the New Kingdom. The restored Temple of Amun is from New Kingdom, and rebuilt during Roman times. Qasr Dakhla is an fortified Medieva town, today it's not many living here as it's in need of restoration. It's many monuments in Dakhla, but some need a 4x4 vehicle to reach, but there is also crafts of pottery, rug-making, basket ware, jewelry and wood-working in the oasis.

Khargha oasis. In the Byzantine Empire, Kharga was known as the end of the christian world, and it was here the most dangerous criminals was sent. The most dangerous, was those who supported heresy. Most famous was Nestorios, the Archbishop of Constantinople who was sent to this desert prison in year 431. Due to the fact that many leading, but nonconforming christians was dispatch to Kharga, one of the oldest, and most perserved christian cementries are found in Bagawat. It's located not far from the the centre of the oasis, with more than 250 tombs including famous chapels as Chapel of Peace, Chapel of the Grapes, and the Chapel of Exodus. Just before reaching Bagawat, is the pharaonic temple of Hibis, the best preserved temple in Kharga, built around 500 years BC. In Qasr Kharga itself is Kharga Cultural Museum with artifacts from both Kharga and Dakhla, dating from prehistoric times, pharaonic, coptic and islamic periods. South of Kharga, the world renown architect started to build New Baris in 1965, but was unfortunately stopped in 1997. The roots of this project is found in his village New Gourna on Luxor west bank.

Close to New Baris is the road connecting Kharga and Wadi Gedid with Luxor and the Nile valley. First times I visited Kharga there was no way here from Luxor, and trust me - the desert is truly vast if you get lost here. From Qasr el Kharga there is an older road connceting the oasis with Assuit further north. There is also an airport in Kharga, operated with flights from Egypt Air (but this route is not always operating).

Distances, Western Desert

"On road" in the Western Desert
(between Siwa and Baharia, it's only
possible with 4 wheel car

From Cairo to Siwa Oasis via Alexandria
around 800 kilometers / 500 miles
From Siwa Oasis to Baharia Oasis
around 400 kilometers / 250 miles
From Baharia to Cairo
around 320 kilometers / 200 miles

The Oases of Wadi Gedid, via Baharia Oasis
(here with start in Cairo and ending in Luxor)
From Cairo to Baharia Oasis
around 320 kilometers / 200 miles
From Baharia to the White Desert
around 180 kilometers / 110 miles
From the White Desert to Farafra Oasis
around 30 kilometers / 19 miles
From Farafra Oasis to Dakhla Oasis
around 290 kilometers / 180 miles
From Dakhla Oasis to Kharga Oasis
around 200 kilometers / 125 miles
From Kharga Oasis to Luxor
around 320 kilometers / 200 miles

All photos by Arnvid Aakre under Creative Common license, with exception of the photo from Menna's tomb:
By iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii der Grabkammer des Menna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Arnvid Aakre is an indie-pendent artist, writer, and lecturer. World & web citizen. He do 'one-man' projects to larger projects (as his multi artists based "Hatshepsut Project", under UNESCO HQ in Paris, patronage). Now working on the art project LAFIAS. He lived 15 years in Egypt (Luxor and Cairo), but today the Nileviking family live in Bergen, Norway.