History Of Bahariya Oasis
Ever since the Pharaonic era, Bahariya has been an important location for the wine and agricultural industries. Some of the ancient sites in Bahariya have gone through excavation, so it is difficult to know about the history of the oasis. The little bit of documentation about Bahariya can be found in Nile Valley tomb paintings, which were done sometime during the early New Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom eras.
The Oasis In Pharaonic & Greco Roman Eras
If you visit a tomb dedicated to the Vizier Rekhmire at Thebes (Dynasty XVIII), you’ll see a scene depicting Northern Oasis people in striped kilt attire as they pay tribute. During the Third Intermediate Period, Libyans became more powerful in Egypt. That was when the oasis really took off and became the main route between the Libyan border and the Nile Valley. A lot of caravan routes went through here to reach different oases.
During Dynasty XXVI, the oasis became a critical trade location and had local governors ruling the territory. There are a lot of tombs close to Bawiti which contain the bodies of many prominent governors, including provincial governor Amenhotep Huy from Dynasty XIX and many regional governors from Dynasty XXVI. You will also find a temple that belongs to a Greek leader named Alexander the great and another temple dedicated to King Apries from Dynasty XXVI.
Historians didn’t know much about the Romans’ history in Bahariya until lots of Roman Papyri were recently discovered at Oxyrhynchus. This indicates that many Roman soldiers built a huge station in the oasis. Due to all the complex aqueducts and Roman ruins, there is no doubt the Bahariya had a huge population at one point.
The Oasis In Modern History
In March 1996, another tomb was discovered after a guard on a donkey accidentally came across a sand hole. An excavation happened soon afterwards, which led to the finding of a large necropolis that contained up to 10,000 mummies in excellent preserved condition. The mummies are believed to be from the Graeco-Roman period because of the marvelous golden face-masks they wore.
Bahariya used to be considered an insignificant part of Egyptian history until numerous artefacts and tombs were discovered there. Now it contains a plethora of archaeological sites, and it is internationally famous for having the “Valley of the Golden Mummies.”
The Bahariya people had apparently stuck to their traditional belief system for a longer period of time than the people of other Egyptian oases. Once the Roman influence diminished in the region, more Christians began settling in Bahariya. It had a bishop of its own too.
In the early 7th century A.D., Islamic influence began to spread in Bahariya, but that didn’t diminish the strength of Christianity in the oasis. It remained stronger than the Islamic influence. No other oasis had such a strong Christian influence like Bahariya. It remained this way until the 17th century, which is probably why no Islamic monuments have been found there yet.
There are a variety of people who come to Bahariya to live. You’ll find the original inhabitants whose ancestors came to the oasis hundreds of years ago. You’ll also find Bedouin tribes that come from the Western Desert, and migrant families coming from the Nile Valley and Central Egypt.
The oasis used to have wealthy families living there, but then times got hard for people. This forced many of the inhabitants to migrate to Cairo and other wealthy locations because there was no work left in Bahariya. In 1958, the local government introduced construction plans for what they called the “New Valley.” By that point, approximately 6,000 people were left in the oasis.
Despite that, the government went ahead with the construction of the project. Once people heard about the renovation, more migrants came back to Bahariya because they thought there would be more opportunities for them after it was finished. It took a while, but the conditions gradually improved, while the renovations of Dakhla and Kharga were much faster.
In 1967, the road linking Cairo and Bahariya was paved for the first time. The development of the Managim mineral mines came soon after that. Then, with another paved road connecting Bahariya and Farafra together, more people began to come back.
Now there are roughly 30,000 residents in Bahariya. The oasis features several archaeological sites and discoveries, which is another reason tourism has been booming there over the last 100 years. Bahariya is once again a wealthy oasis.
In 1938, an Egyptian archaeologist named Ahmed Fakhry came to Bahariya for the first time. He drove from Cairo in his car, and it took him between 2 and 3 days to get to the oasis. He found four main villages upon his arrival there, which were Mandishah, El-Zabw, and el-Qasr and Bawiti (twin villages).
Bawiti was eventually turned into an administrative town, so there isn’t much left of the older villages that were once there. The structures that are left have become badly deteriorated and left in ruins. But tourists can still find a lot of ancient monuments, gardens, springs, hotels and other sites to keep themselves occupied.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities has begun to excavate many sites in Bahariya because of all the media attention they have received in recent years. That is why you’ll find a lot of the sites are closed if you were to go there. If you want to view these sites, you must contact the local antiquities authorities and ask for permission. The times in which you can see the sites will vary, based on excavation work taking place.
Updated On May 04, 2020