Western Desert Oases

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Western Desert Oases - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Aghurmi

    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....

    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.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E25, Temple of Amun free, Daily 9–5; Temple of Amun daily dawn–dusk
  • 2. Al-Muzawaka

    While the two vividly painted Roman-era tombs that made this windswept necropolis famous have been closed for many years, it is still an interesting place...

    While the two vividly painted Roman-era tombs that made this windswept necropolis famous have been closed for many years, it is still an interesting place to explore. For a little baksheesh, the caretaker will direct you to a collection of mummies recovered from the tomb-riddled knoll.

    Al-Qasr, New Valley, Egypt
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free (baksheesh expected), Daily 9–5
  • 3. Ancient Rock Inscriptions

    A collection of inscriptions on a sandstone outcrop just off the highway near Teneida, some 45 km (28 mi) east of Mut, attests to Dakhla's...

    A collection of inscriptions on a sandstone outcrop just off the highway near Teneida, some 45 km (28 mi) east of Mut, attests to Dakhla's earliest inhabitants and its position on the ancient caravan routes. The carvings include naïve depictions of giraffes, fish, camels, antelopes, and hunters. There are also Arabic inscriptions, as well as graffiti carved by passing Bedouins and early European explorers. Although prehistoric rock art is common in North Africa, this is one of the most accessible sites for viewing. To preserve the inscriptions, do not add to them or take rubbings.

    Dakhla, New Valley, Egypt
  • 4. Antiquities Office

    The local antiquities office sells a combination ticket that includes admission to the five major sights—the Mummy Exhibit, the Tombs of Zed Amun Ef Ankh...

    The local antiquities office sells a combination ticket that includes admission to the five major sights—the Mummy Exhibit, the Tombs of Zed Amun Ef Ankh and Bannentiu, the Tomb of Amenhotep Huy, the Temple of Alexander the Great, and the Temple of Ain al-Muftillah. The Mummy Exhibit at the Antiquities Office displays some of the finds from the Valley of the Golden Mummies including several gilded mummies. In a typically provincial style, the Greco-Roman mummies are plastered, gilded, and decorated with scenes from the underworld. These mummies were not prepared in the same way as those in the Valley of the Kings, resulting in some degradation. The heat and humidity in the rather makeshift museum is also not helping to preserve them either.

    Bawiti, Giza, Egypt
    02-3847–1900

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Combination ticket for Mummy Exhibit, the Tombs of Zed Amun Ef Ankh and Bannentiu, the Tomb of Amenhotep Huy, the Temple of Alexander the Great, and the Temple of Ain al-Muftillah £E45, Antiquities Office Sat.–Thurs. 8–5; Mummies Exhibit Sat.–Thurs. 9–4
  • 5. Badr Museum

    The small, constantly evolving museum, which was built from mud-bricks by the local artist Badr ‘Abd al-Moghny, is a multilevel castle of the imagination, where...

    The small, constantly evolving museum, which was built from mud-bricks by the local artist Badr ‘Abd al-Moghny, is a multilevel castle of the imagination, where exterior and interior staircases and bridges connect terraces and courtyards to exhibition rooms. Badr's clay sculptures and paintings of the Farafra people, the desert, and his surreal dreams are displayed here. Carvings of Arabic calligraphy and desert scenes also adorn the walls. Around the building Badr is creating an almost grotesque-looking minidesert, with tree trunks that resemble camels and stones fashioned to resemble old women. The museum doesn't have set hours; if it's closed, you can ask about the artist's whereabouts at the nearby Nice Time Coffee Shop.

    Qasr al-Farafra, New Valley, Egypt
    092-751–0091

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; donations welcome, Hours vary
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  • 6. Bagawat Necropolis

    Hundreds of mud-brick chapels spill over the crest of a hill at this early Christian cemetery. They date from a time between the 4th and...

    Hundreds of mud-brick chapels spill over the crest of a hill at this early Christian cemetery. They date from a time between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, when Christians wrestled among themselves over the concept of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit—was God one, or three in one? Bagawat is probably the oldest Christian cemetery of such magnitude in the world. Most of the 263 chapels, which served as individual tombs and family mausoleums, are unadorned. Two tombs have Biblical scenes painted on their ceilings. The Chapel of Peace is the best preserved, with depictions of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and St. Paul dating from the late 5th century AD. The Chapel of the Exodus at the summit of the complex dates from the 4th century AD, and the Biblical scenes and characters here are depicted in an earlier, more naive artistic style. Pharaonic elements and Byzantine allegorical symbols can be seen on the walls, which are littered with centuries of graffiti. The necropolis was arranged in a series of streets as a "city of the dead." The remains of an early mud-brick basilica occupy the middle of the complex, and hundreds of unexcavated graves cover a nearby hill.

    Al-Kharga, New Valley, Egypt

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E30, combined ticket with Deir al-Kashef, Daily 8–5
  • 7. Bir al-Ghaba

    The "forest spring" is a hot spring traditionally reserved for visitors. It lies in a small forest of eucalyptus trees, reached by a picturesque drive—or...

    The "forest spring" is a hot spring traditionally reserved for visitors. It lies in a small forest of eucalyptus trees, reached by a picturesque drive—or hike—from Bawiti. The rough track passes oasis gardens where farmers plant, grow, and harvest a variety of crops interspersed with fruit trees. On the way to Bir al-Ghaba, about 7 km (4½ mi) from Bahariya is Bir al-Mattar, a tepid spring with a slightly sulfurous odor; it's on the left of the road and is a great place for a quick dip. After covering more desert, you enter a garden and, suddenly, Bir al-Ghaba appears. Camping is welcome here, and several primitive "camps" offer basic accommodation in thatched huts with no electricity. Bring your own food and plenty of bug repellant if you intend to overnight here.

    Egypt
  • 8. Bir Wahed

    This hot spring and picturesque lake amid dunes were created accidentally by exploratory drilling for oil in the late 1980s. The firm found water instead....

    This hot spring and picturesque lake amid dunes were created accidentally by exploratory drilling for oil in the late 1980s. The firm found water instead. A cement tank filled with the spring's hot, slightly sulfurous water is relaxing and therapeutic. The nearby reed-lined lake appears like a mirage at the end of a hot day of dune bashing and is perfect for a cool swim. A permit to visit this desert site is easily arranged through the tourist office or safari operators. Most visitors arrive by jeep around sunset.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt
  • 9. Black Desert

    South of Bawiti lies the Black Desert, a Martian landscape of orange sand and black peaks formed by a string of ancient volcanoes. Off-road travel...

    South of Bawiti lies the Black Desert, a Martian landscape of orange sand and black peaks formed by a string of ancient volcanoes. Off-road travel is possible for short distances in a regular car, but a four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to climb the sand dunes and explore at length; so is a guide, who can direct you to the desert's less obvious sights. Visitors can climb one of the scorched peaks, or arrange a trip to dunes where some outfitters offer sand surfing. Toward the southern end of the oasis, the Black Desert yields to a series of springs that provide enough water for small-scale agriculture projects, including an experimental cactus farm, and tiny frontier settlements.

    Bawiti, Giza, Egypt
  • 10. Cleopatra's Bath

    It's rumored that Cleopatra once swam in this freshwater spring east of town. Nowadays local men frequent the deep circular pool, while women may feel...

    It's rumored that Cleopatra once swam in this freshwater spring east of town. Nowadays local men frequent the deep circular pool, while women may feel more comfortable using the nearby Tamusi Bath, which is less exposed.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily dawn–dusk
  • 11. Deir al-Ghanayim

    Also known simply as Al-Deir (which means "the monastery"), this Roman mud-brick fortress with 12 towers once guarded the main caravan route to the Nile....

    Also known simply as Al-Deir (which means "the monastery"), this Roman mud-brick fortress with 12 towers once guarded the main caravan route to the Nile. Reached only by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, its sand-swept ruins are littered with the graffiti of disgruntled British soldiers stationed here during WWI.

    Al-Kharga, New Valley, Egypt
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily dawn–dusk
  • 12. Deir al-Hagar

    Shifting sands played no small role in preserving this small sandstone temple, which was commissioned by the Roman emperor Nero and continued under Vespasian, Domitian,...

    Shifting sands played no small role in preserving this small sandstone temple, which was commissioned by the Roman emperor Nero and continued under Vespasian, Domitian, and Titus. A sand dune consumed the temple in antiquity, collapsing its roof but preserving its hypostyle hall and sanctuary for posterity. The temple is dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. Its interior shows images of Roman rulers in pharaonic guise making offerings to the gods. The inscriptions are in good condition, and some still retain their color. The mud-brick ruins of an early Christian monastery surrounding the temple have remains of frescoes.

    Al-Qasr, New Valley, Egypt
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E25, Sat.–Thurs. 9–5, Fri. 9–noon
  • 13. Deir al-Kashef

    The mud-brick monastery overlooks one of the most important caravan crossroads in the Western Desert. The imposing ruin contains a honeycomb of hermit cells and...

    The mud-brick monastery overlooks one of the most important caravan crossroads in the Western Desert. The imposing ruin contains a honeycomb of hermit cells and once stood five stories tall. Below it are the ruins of a small church.

    Al-Kharga, New Valley, Egypt

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E30, combined ticket with Bagawat Necropolis, Daily dawn–dusk
  • 14. Ethnographic Museum

    Old Al-Qasr is a protected historical site and conservation work is currently underway. The small, privately run museum near the tour center displays cultural artifacts...

    Old Al-Qasr is a protected historical site and conservation work is currently underway. The small, privately run museum near the tour center displays cultural artifacts from all of the oases in the Western Desert. It also sells local crafts.

    Al-Qasr, New Valley, Egypt
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E5, Daily 10–5
  • 15. Fatnes Island

    Dubbed "Fantasy Island," it is a popular outing on the shimmering salt lake of Birket Siwa. The lush island is an ideal picnic spot and...

    Dubbed "Fantasy Island," it is a popular outing on the shimmering salt lake of Birket Siwa. The lush island is an ideal picnic spot and best visited at sunset when the colors of the distant hills are most striking. There's a deep, circular spring-fed pool of cool water for swimming, and a small kiosk in the grove that offers tea and soft drinks. Its owner also fires up a grill when there are enough people around.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt
  • 16. Fortress of Nadura

    On a desert hill east of the main road to Asyut is this Roman mud-brick fort and temple that once guarded the caravan routes. The...

    On a desert hill east of the main road to Asyut is this Roman mud-brick fort and temple that once guarded the caravan routes. The site is in ruins, but the view of the oasis from the top is worth the short ascent.

    Al-Kharga, New Valley, Egypt
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Jebal al-Dakrour

    This spot is known for its traditional rheumatism treatments, which include being buried up to your neck in the hot sand that pours off the...

    This spot is known for its traditional rheumatism treatments, which include being buried up to your neck in the hot sand that pours off the mountain's slopes. It is also the site of the ancient Siyaha (Tourism) festival, which marks the end of the date harvest and involves three days of feasting, dancing, and matchmaking. The event is held during the first full moon in October, and everyone is welcome.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt
  • 18. Jebal al-Mawta

    The conical hill just north of town is honeycombed with tombs. The finest, the Tomb of Si-Amun, depicts a wealthy merchant with curly hair and...

    The conical hill just north of town is honeycombed with tombs. The finest, the Tomb of Si-Amun, depicts a wealthy merchant with curly hair and a beard and his family worshipping Egyptian gods. You will need to find the site caretaker to open it. More than 1,600 individual tombs have been identified dating from the 26th Dynasty to the Roman period, though only a handful have any decoration.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £E25, Daily 9–5
  • 19. Mut al-Kharab

    A red mound beyond the cemetery at the southwest corner of town marks the remains of an ancient city dedicated to the goddess Mut, consort...

    A red mound beyond the cemetery at the southwest corner of town marks the remains of an ancient city dedicated to the goddess Mut, consort of Amun. There's not much to see, but if you climb up to the top at sunset, you'll be rewarded with views of verdant fields, golden dunes, and farmers racing home on their donkey carts.

    Mut, New Valley, Egypt
  • 20. Natural Hospital

    The Natural Hospital on the slopes of Jebal al-Dakrour offers hot-sand treatments for around £E150 and rents bungalows if you'd like to take residential treatments....

    The Natural Hospital on the slopes of Jebal al-Dakrour offers hot-sand treatments for around £E150 and rents bungalows if you'd like to take residential treatments.

    Siwa, Matruh, Egypt
    010-128–7642

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