Kharga Oasis

Although it has impressive ruins, dunes, and cultural sights, tourists rarely spend more than a night in Kharga. And that's a shame. Beyond the concrete and pavement of its modern capital, the oasis's oft-overlooked sights warrant further investigation.

From Al-Kharga, the charmless capital, a spur road heads south past a string of crumbling fortresses that once guarded Egypt's southern frontier and taxed caravans arriving from what is now Sudan. Many of these forts are of pharaonic origin, though the surviving structures are typically of Roman construction. All can be visited with police permission on a daytrip, or as part of a tour that begins or ends in Luxor.

North of Al-Kharga lies the 2600-year-old Temple of Hibis, the early Christian burial ground at Bagawat, and the ruins of various monasteries and fortresses. You may also catch a glimpse of an abandoned railway built by the British in 1906, its tracks now mostly buried beneath golden dunes.

Security is heavier in Kharga than in the other oases, and tourists will receive an armed police escort unless they sign a waiver. Even then they will be expected to inform police of their movements, and can expect officers to radio headquarters for permission. The precautions are more a symptom of police paranoia than due to any genuine safety threat, but the overbearing security presence can dampen tourists' experience.

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