Dakhla Oasis translates to the inner oasis, is one of the seven oases of Egypt’s the Western Desert. Like the rest of the Egyptian oases located in the Western Desert, Dakhla Oasis is situated inside a depression. Dakhla was the capital of the oasis region during the Pharaonic period. Today, El Dakhla is one of the most beautiful oases in Egypt, with many remarkable monuments, amazing natural scenery, and an extensive collection of Bedouin handcrafted souvenirs being sold around the towns of Dakhla Oasis.
Dakhla Oasis consists of several communities along a string of sub-oases. The main settlements are Mut (more fully Mut el-Kharab and anciently called Mothis), El-Masara, Al-Qasr, and several smaller villages.
Location of Dakhla Oasis
Dakhla Oasis lies in the New Valley Governorate, 350 km (220 mi.) from the Nile and between the oases of Farafra and Kharga. It measures approximately 80 km (50 mi) from east to west and 25 km (16 mi) from north to south.
History of Dakhla Oasis
The first contact between the pharaonic power and the oases started around 2550 BCE. The human history of this oasis started during the Pleistocene, when nomadic tribes sometimes settled there, in a time when the Sahara climate was wetter and where humans could have access to lakes and marshes. But about 6,000 years ago, the entire Sahara became drier, changing progressively into a hyper-arid desert (with less than 50 mm of rain per year). However, specialists think that nomadic hunter-gatherers began to settle almost permanently in the oasis of Dakhleh in the period of the Holocene (about 12,000 years ago), during new but rare episodes of wetter times.
The drier climate didn’t mean that there was more water than today in what is now known as the Western Desert. The south of the Libyan Desert has an essential supply of underground water through the Nubian Aquifer, and the first inhabitants of the Dakhla Oasis had access to surface water sources. In the third millennium BC, the probably nomadic people of the Sheikh Muftah culture lived here.
During the late 6th Dynasty, the hieratic script was sometimes incised into clay tablets with a stylus, similar to cuneiform. These tablets record inventories, name lists, accounts, and approximately fifty letters. Archaeologists discovered about five hundred such tablets in the governor’s palace at Ayn Asil (Balat) in the Dakhla Oasis. Noteworthy that the ancients made the tablets, although Dakhla lies far from the centre of papyrus production.
Deir el-Hagar, (Egyptian Arabic: دير الحجر ‘Monastery of Stone’) is a Roman sandstone temple on the western edge of Dakhla Oasis, about 10 km from Qasr ad-Dachla. In Pharaonic times it was a Resting Place or Set-whe. The Temple was erected during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero and decorated during the time of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Ancient Egyptians dedicated the temple to the Theban triad, composed of Amun-Ra, Mut and Khonsu, and Seth, the region’s principal deity.
The fortified Islamic town of Qasr ad-Dachla or el-Qasr (Arabic: قصر الداخلة, the Fortress) was built in the 12th century on the remains of a Roman fort in the NW of the Dakhla Oasis by the Ayyubid kings. The three-storey, 21-meter-high minaret dates back to 924 CE. Many of the up to four-storey mud-brick Ottoman and Mamluk buildings contain blocks of stone with hieroglyphics from the ancient Thoth temple of the nearby site of Amheida.
Sir Archibald Edmonstone visited Dakhla oasis in the year 1819. Several other early travellers succeeded him, but it was not until 1908 that the first egyptologist, Herbert Winlock, saw Dakhla Oasis and noted its monuments systematically. In the 1950s, detailed studies began, first by Dr Ahmed Fakhry. In the late 1970s, an expedition of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale and the Dakhla Oasis Project each began detailed studies on the oasis.
In August 2017, archaeologists from the Ministry of Antiquities announced the discovery of five mud-brick tombs at Bir esh-Shaghala, dating back nearly 2000 years. Researchers also revealed worn masks gilded with gold, several large jars and a piece of pottery with unsolved ancient Egyptian writing on it.
Some of the tombs are completely large, containing several burial chambers, while one burial has a roof built in the shape of a pyramid and some of them with vaulted ceilings.
Dakhla Oasis has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), typical of much of Egypt.