This was the first fortified settlement in the oasis, built on the site of the ancient Oracle of Amun, which lies ruined within its walls. While archaeologists disagree on the original date of the oracle's construction, it is clear that by the 26th Dynasty (664–525 BC) it was known throughout the ancient world.
In 524 BC the Persian king Cambyses dispatched an army of 50,000 men to destroy the oracle after he heard that it had been badmouthing his occupation of Egypt, but according to the Greek historian Herodotus, the soldiers marched into the desert never to be seen again. The oracle's anti-Persian tendencies may be what prompted Alexander the Great to consult it in 331 BC before marching against the Persian Empire.
A staircase ascends to the covered entrance of the ruined fortress, which sits atop a limestone outcropping. Portions of the original structure have been restored, including the sanctum that housed the oracle. There are stunning views of the palm groves and dunes beyond from several vantage points.
Nearby are the remains of the Temple of Amun, a 30th-Dynasty shrine that was blasted to pieces in the late 19th century by an overzealous treasure hunter.