Ancient christian necropolis of Al Bagawat in Egypt.

© imagoDens/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Necropolis of Al Bagawat

Top choice in Western Desert

It may not look like much from afar, but this necropolis is one of the earliest surviving and best-preserved Christian cemeteries in the world. About 1km north of the Temple of Hibis, it’s built on the site of an earlier Egyptian necropolis, with most of the 263 mud-brick chapel-tombs appearing to date from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD.

Some have interiors decorated with vivid murals of biblical scenes and boast ornate facades. The Chapel of Peace has figures of the Apostles on the squinches of the domes, just visible through Greek graffiti. The Chapel of the Exodus, one of the oldest tombs, has the best-preserved paintings, including the Old Testament story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, which is visible through some 9th-century graffiti. Another large family tomb (No 25) has a mural of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the smaller Chapel of the Grapes (Anaeed Al Ainab) is named after the images of grapevines that cover the walls.

The site guardian will guide you around the site and unlock the doors to the decorated tombs; he’ll expect a tip of about LE5.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Western Desert attractions

1. Temple of Hibis

0.59 MILES

The town of Hebet (‘the Plough’, now corrupted into Hibis) was the capital of the oasis in antiquity, but all that remains today is the well-preserved…

2. Monastery of Al Kashef

0.61 MILES

Dominating the cliffs 2km to the north of the Necropolis of Al Bagawat, the ruined Monastery of Al Kashef is strategically placed to overlook what was one…

3. Temple of An Nadura

1.28 MILES

Located on a hill to the right of the main road when heading north from Al Kharga town, the Temple of An Nadura has strategic views of the area and once…

4. Al Kharga Museum of Antiquities

2.01 MILES

Designed to resemble the architecture of the nearby Necropolis of Al Bagawat, this two-storey museum is an old-school dusty trove of archaeological finds…

5. Qasr Al Zayyan

5.03 MILES

One of the major monuments of the Kharga Oasis is the Graeco-Roman temple of Qasr Al Zayyan, in the ancient village of Takhoneourit. The town, mostly…

6. Qasr Al Labakha

14.56 MILES

Set amid a desertscape of duney desolation, Qasr Al Labakha is a micro-oasis some 40km north of Al Kharga. Scattered among sandy swells and rocky shelves…

7. Ain Umm Al Dabadib

19.05 MILES

This impressive fort sits on a ridge rising grandly out of the desert plains about 20km west of Qasr Al Labakha. It has one of the most complex…

8. Qasr Al Ghueita

25.78 MILES

The garrison’s massive outer walls enclose a 25th-dynasty sandstone temple, dedicated to the Theban triad Amun, Mut and Khons. In later centuries, the…