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The Dakhla Oasis lies to the northwest of Kharga and is also about 310 km to the southeast of Farafra. This oasis consists of 14 settlements and has a population of about 70,000 people. Dakhla is the farthest oasis out of Cairo and is considered one of Egypt's most beautiful oases.

Dakhla sits in a depression surrounded by pink cliffs. There are about 30,000 acres of cultivated land. Most of its 70,000 or so residents are farmers who constantly fight the battle of the dunes that threaten their fields and orchards. The fields and gardens are filled mostly with mulberry trees, date palms, figs and other citrus fruits. Dakhla has retained most of its culture and charm even though it has increased in size by about double and government funding and technical training has revitalized the economy. Dakhla is the only place in Egypt where new water wheels which are driven by buffaloes are constructed. They are made of palm timber and clay jars and are called saqiyas. The oasis is connected to Kharga by a 120 mile (200 km) road that has buses running daily.

Research has found that the Oasis has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and that there was once a huge lake here. There are neolithic rock paintings that indicate that the lake was frequented by elephants, buffaloes and ostriches. As the lake dried up, the inhabitants migrated to the Nile valley and were probably some of its first settlers.

Dakhla Oasis is dominated on its northern horizon by a wall of rose-Colored rock. Fertile cultivated areas growing rice, peanuts and fruit are dotted between sand dunes along the roads from Farafra and Kharga in this area of outstanding natural beauty. The capital, Mut, named after the ancient goddess of the Theban Triad, houses the Museum of the Inheritance, a traditional house, with an intricate wooden combination lock. Rooms, with sculpted clay figures, are arranged to show different aspects of Dakhlan culture and family life. Mut is probably the most "tourist friendly" village in the Dakhla Oasis and does have some accommodations and amenities in that regard, including a number of hot sulphur pools. It has winding streets around old mud-brick houses, and there is an old citadel which is the remains of the old town. There is also a medieval Islamic cemetery on the outskirts of the village.

Al-Kasr, about 35 km. from Mut, was originally a Roman settlement which later became the medieval capital of Dakhla. The old town is a labyrinth of mud-walled alleys narrowly separating houses with elaborately- carved wooden lintels. It is little changed from medieval times. With a population of around 700, the town was built from the it's Roman ruins and has narrow covered streets. There are 54 lintels, some dating from the Ottoman and Mamluk era which adorn the old houses, one of which dates to about 924 AD.

There is also an Ayyubid mosque. It has a three-story mud-brick minaret, 21 meters high, and wooden lintels decorated with inscriptions from the Koran at the entrances. The local madrassa has been renovated, along with an old house which are open to tourists. Climb to the rooftop of the 10th century madrassa (school) for wonderful views of the surrounding area. Bir al-Gabel, a palm-fringed salt lake where you can camp and picnic, is on the road back to Mut.

Other local sites of interest include a pottery factory and an old corn mill. Mud bricks are still made in an ancient manner and there is a foundry where men still work mettle using bellows flamed fires.

Other day trips from Mut could include the 1st-century al-Muzawaka tombs and Deir al

Hagar. Al Muzawaka tombs are located 35 km away, they date back to the Pharaonic period. The most important are the rock hewn tombs of Pelusis and Petosiris. While the tombs are decorated in traditional Egyptian fashion, Petosiris is dressed as a Greek, and there is a bull on the ceiling from the Persian Mithras cult.

Deir El hagar (Monastery of the Rock) a temple which was originally dedicated to Amun and his wife Mut and has inscriptions representing religious life. It was later rebuilt by the Romans and it is one of the few Roman ruins in the area. It has been damaged by an earthquake but is said to have been recently restored. It was built during the rule of Nero (45-68 AD).

After exploring the temple, bathe in the hot sulphur spring nearby. Visit Bashendi to
see Roman tombs and a factory where carpets are still woven with scenes of Dakhlan life. Bashendi is a village of Pharaonic design located about 40 km. east of Mut. It hosts an lslamic cemetery as well as Roman tombs, the most significant being the Tomb of Kitnes.

At nearby Balat village, a trading post with ancient Nubia, archeologÓts are still uncovering dozens of 6th dynasty mastabas. Balat is a small village about 22 miles east of Mut in the Dakhla Oasis and was an important Old Kingdom town. Nearby is the Al-Adaba tombs and Ain Asil. Most notable are the five mastabas, which were discovered during a sandstorm. The best of these is that of governor Medunefer who served during the rule of Pepi II, where funeral artifacts, including gold jewelry was found. The village of Balat itself is picturesque and little changed from medieval times.

 

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