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KHARGA
Oasis of temples and castles
Kharga is clearly different from the image most people of an oasis out in the desert. It has been the most important town in the development plans for the Western Oases, and has presently a population of more than 100,000 people. And when the architecture is totally dominated by concrete blocks and wide roads, the result is that few tourists use more time than necessary in town. During my oasis circuit of 2004 I met several Western travel guides telling me that they omitted Kharga all together, because there was nothing to see. That is totally wrong , Kharga has sights from 3 millenniums.
Bagawat Necropolis
The Necropolis of Bagawat is a reminder of one of the most central battles of early Christianity; the dispute over the nature of Jesus. The 5th century bishop Nestorius was exiled to Bagawat (as the village was called) for having claimed that only one of Jesus' natures had suffered on the cross; the earthly nature, not the divine. The large extent of the Necropolis of Bagawat is the result of the his and his supporters' exile. The tombs here are believed to indicate that worship of the dead was continued in a Christian style. There are 263 mud-brick chapels climbing up a ridge, the oldest dating back two centuries before Nestorius, the last dating back to the 7th century. .
Interiors of Bagawat
Most of the interiors of the chapels of Bagawat were probably without much decorations . And among the ones which were decorated, the hardship of time has been cruel. In the finest, the figures have been defaced by Muslim fanatics decades ago. ... and the walls of the interior is decorated with biblical scenes. The best of these is the Chapel of the Exodus, showing scenes from the Jews and Moses escaping from Egyptian troops.
Temple of Hibis
This temple, named after the town that once existed here, is unique for Egypt in one respect. It is by far the largest and finest of temples from Egypt's 200 years under Persian rulers. It was King Darius 1 of the 6th century BCE who ordered it built, and dedicated to Amon. The temple was adorned by rulers over the following centuries, but the original style was always respected. Today it is not available for closer inspection, as the main structure is swathed in scaffolding. It is planned to be relocated to a new location, close to the Bagawat Necropolis, but this will not be realized for many more years. Should you be allowed to enter the area (it is guarded by tourist police, no tickets are sold) the kiosk in front of the main entrance (upper photo) is part of what was an avenue of sphinxes. The interior (visible through the gates) is noted for its beautiful capitals.
Qasr el-Ghweita
About 20 km south of Kharga is the temple Qasr a l- Ghweita built between 250 and 80 BCE. It was dedicated to the Theban triad Amon , Mut and Khonsu. According to some guide books, it is in a very ruinous state. This is fortunately not true. The 10 metre high walls are nearly intact, the houses have high walls still standing and the temple is about as complete as any other popular ancient destination in Egypt. Even large parts of the surrounding village can be seen.
White Desert. Cream landscape
About 45 km north of Farafra , the White Desert begins. It is truly white, in clear contrast with the yellow desert elsewhere. At night, and many of the organized trips out here include overnight stay out in the desert, it gets a character reminding of an Arctic landscape. The rock formations of the desert are often quite dramatic, and you should not miss out on the weird rock balancing on top of a white pillar (see picture above).