Introducing Al-Kharga Oasis
As the closest of the oases to the Nile Valley, Al-Kharga used to have the unenviable role as a place of banishment for mischievous Nile Valley citizens. Its remote location, punishing summer heat and destructive winds mean the oasis was synonymous with misery and exile. It may seem strange then that its chief town, Al-Kharga, was chosen as the capital of the New Valley Governorate in the 1950s. Life in the oasis has improved somewhat since then, and with a smattering of fascinating ancient sites it’s a worthwhile stopover.
Lying in a 220km-long and 40km-wide depression, Al-Kharga Oasis was at the crossroads of vital desert trade routes, including the famous Darb al-Arba’een (Forty Days Rd). Al-Kharga’s influential location brought it great prosperity, and the arrival of the Romans improved things as wells were dug, crops cultivated and fortresses built to protect caravan routes from attacking desert nomads. Even as late as the 1890s British forces were using lookout towers here to safeguard the ‘back door’ into Egypt. Today, attempts at modernising Wadi el-Gedid (the New Valley) with environmentally questionable land-reclamation efforts and intensive agriculture pose a bigger threat to the area than pillaging clans ever did.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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