Bahariya is most famous for the Black Desert
and the Golden Mummies
. But the oasis itself is surrounded by desert dunes, mountains walks, palm plantations, hot springs and peaceful accommodation. There are historical remains from the Middle Kingdom and 2 museums near the modern centre of Bawati
Bahariya is the closest oasis to Cairo and the smallest of the 4 depressions at 2000 sq km. It was at the heart of the great caravan routes across the desert during the Late Kingdom period. At that time, the road from Cairo was a donkey caravan trail through the oases. Other branches linked Bahariya to Siwa, Minya and the Fayoum. The oasis was an important producer of wine which was transported around the kingdom.
In ancient times it was known as the Northern Oasis. Ramses II mentioned Bahariya on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Luxor, when it was famous as a place known for mining. But millions of years before the pharaohs, dinosaurs lived here in forests and mangrove swamps and their bones were discovered around Jebel Dist. Now the oasis is inhabited by people of Bedouin and Nile Valley descent.
The Italian Belzoni was the first documented explorer to reach the oasis in 1819 – although he actually thought he had reached Siwa. The old caravan routes are of course now tarmacked so it is much easier to travel to Bahariya, only 4 hours away from Cairo, without getting lost.