Al Qasr – The Old Town
Al Qasr was an ancient town that served as the capital of Bahariya. Today it is called el-Qasr. It surrounded a temple back in ancient times, but now all that is left of the temple is a big stone. Archaeologists believe more ancient monuments and artefacts are buried beneath the town.
In Bahariya, a group of tombs were found at Qarat el-Hilwa, which is 3 kilometers to the south of Al Qasr. The tombs were cut to form a sandstone ridge. This is the oldest evidence to come from the Pharaonic Period in this area. Experts believe the tombs were an ancient cemetery in the town.
Amenhotep, who was the Northern Oasis Governor sometime between mid-Dynasty XVIII and early Dynasty XIX, had a tomb with decorations on it. Not only is it the only tomb with decorations, but it is the oldest tomb found. The forecourt of the tomb contains decorations of scenes depicting Amenhotep performing his governorly duties. They also show his son, Menna, and his wife, Ourly. The tomb contains two additional chambers with ancient funerary scenes that are like the ones found in the Theban tombs of the same era.
In 1938, Ahmed Fakhry discovered the terribly damaged tomb and recorded it. Now, most of the wall scenes are almost gone completely because of deterioration and bad weather. The roof is not even there anymore, but you can see lots of reliefs in rebuilt blocks and mortar. Better restoration efforts are needed badly here.
As for Al Qasr, two governors of Bahariya constructed a stone chapel for King Apries of Dynasty XXVI. The inscriptions in the stone show his name along with the inscribers’ names, Djedkhonsu-ef-ankh and Wahibrenefer. More of the inscribed text is a dedication to the king. It refers to him as the “Lord of the Great Hill.” In 1900, an alabaster statue of Djedkhonsu-ef-ankh was found in Al Qasr. It has since been donated to the Cairo Museum.
There are no inscriptions that show a dedication to the dwarf deity named Bes, but the artefacts discovered certainly point to this dedication. A freestanding statue of Bes was the primary artefact found to make this determination. The statue was made of limestone, and most of it was well intact. The height of the statue was 1.37 meters and is now in the centenary exhibition of the Cairo Museum.
Psobthis is another ancient town which could be found outside the Al Qasr temple. Roughly 3 kilometers to the west is the Ain el-Muftillah spring, which is believed to have been the primary water source of the ancient capital city. Today it is mostly desert with an enclosed fence and pieces of old houses and pottery shreds scattered everywhere.
In 1901, Steindorff discovered a chapel wall which bore the name “King Amasis.” Ahmed Fakhry excavated the wall between 1938 and 1939. Fakhry discovered three additional chapels nearby, and portions of their walls had religious representations and scenes of various gods on them.
The decorations of the chapels seem to be from Dynasty XXVI. It is believed that Djedkhonsu-ef-ankh built the third chapel, which was likely dedicated to a Bes-like cult. These are very rare ancient temples to find in the modern age. As for Chapel One, the design of its reliefs is just like the design of the shrines found at Medinet Habu at Thebes, which are in honor of the divine adoratrice. Chapel Two was built to honor Osiris and features some strange cult designs.
In 1977, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization conducted excavations which revealed that the four different chapels in which Fakhry excavated were really portions of a temple. This temple contained one of the first pronaoses to ever exist.
The construction of the temple took place during Amasis’ reign over the region. The governor brothers Shebenkhonsu and Djedkhonsu-ef-ankh started the construction. In modern times, a conservation effort was made to preserve the chapels by placing them underneath a mound of sand and a wooden ceiling.
The Triumphal Arch looked great during the age of the Roman Empire. Anyone traveling on the desert plain to the oasis could easily see the tall towering platform upon their arrival. Unfortunately, not much is left of the Triumphal Arch today. Most of it was destroyed over the years because builders took stones from the arch and used them to make other buildings in the area.
You can still see the remains of the arch on its left side. The existing platform remains 10 meters in height. The previous columns and arches were much taller, but now they’re a pile of ruins. Nobody knows what happened to the Arch of Triumph, who was the builder of the project.
Updated On May 04, 2020