Dakhla Oasis

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Dakhla Oasis
Dakhla Oasis Egypt.jpg
Dakhla Oasis, February 1988.
Inner oasis
Egypt relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Dakhla Oasis
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 25°29′29.6″N28°58′45.2″E / 25.491556°N 28.979222°E / 25.491556; 28.979222
Governorate New Valley Governorate
  Total2,000 km2 (800 sq mi)
  Land1,500 km2 (600 sq mi)
Time zone UTC+2 (EST)
Capital'Ain Basil (Balat) (c. 2500 BCE-c. 1500 BCE)
Mut (c. 1500 BCE- )

Dakhla Oasis (Egyptian Arabic : الداخلةEl Daḵla, pronounced  [edˈdæxlæ] ), translates to the inner oasis, is one of the seven oases of Egypt's Western Desert. 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. [1]

Oasis Isolated source of fresh water in a desert

In geography, an oasis is the combination of a human settlement and a cultivated area in a desert or semi-desert environment. Oases also provide habitat for animals and spontaneous plants.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Western Desert (Egypt) Egyptian part of the Libyan Desert

The Western Desert of Egypt is an area of the Sahara which lies west of the river Nile, up to the Libyan border, and south from the Mediterranean sea to the border with Sudan. It is named in contrast to the Eastern Desert which extends east from the Nile to Red Sea. The Western Desert is mostly rocky desert, though an area of sandy desert, known as the Great Sand Sea, lies to the west against the Libyan border. The desert covers an area of 262,800 sq miles (680,650 km2) which is two-thirds of the land area of the country. Its highest elevation is 3,300 ft (1000m) in the Gilf Kebir plateau to the far south-west of the country, on the Egypt-Sudan-Libya border. The Western Desert is barren and uninhabited save for a chain of oases which extend in an arc from Siwa, in the north-west, to Kharga in the south. It has been the scene of conflict in modern times, particularly during the Second World War.




The human history of this oasis started during the Pleistocene, when nomadic tribes settled sometimes 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 Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Nomad member of a community of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another

A nomad is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation who regularly move to and from the same areas, including nomadic hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and tinker or trader nomads. As of 1995, there were an estimated 30–40 million nomads in the world.

Sahara desert in Africa

The Sahara is a desert located on the African continent. It is the largest hot desert in the world, and the third largest desert overall after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi) is comparable to the area of China or the United States. The name 'Sahara' is derived from a dialectal Arabic word for "desert", ṣaḥra.

In fact, 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 the most important supply of subterranean water in the world 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.

Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System aquifer

The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is the world's largest known fossil water aquifer system. It is located underground in the Eastern end of the Sahara Desert and spans the political boundaries of four countries in north-eastern Africa. NSAS covers a land area spanning just over two million km2, including north-western Sudan, north-eastern Chad, south-eastern Libya, and most of Egypt. Containing an estimated 150,000 km3 of groundwater, the significance of the NSAS as a potential water resource for future development programs in these countries is extraordinary. Recently the Great Man-made River Project (GMMR) in Libya began extracting substantial amounts of water from this aquifer, removing an estimated 2.4 km3 per year. This system is primarily used to supply water in the Kufra oasis.

The Sheikh Muftah culture is attested in the western desert of Egypt and flourished in the third millennium BC, from about 3200 to 2000 BC.

Pharaonic period

The first contacts between the pharaonic power and the oases started around 2550 BCE.

During the late 6th Dynasty, hieratic script was sometimes incised into clay tablets with a stylus, similar to cuneiform. About five hundred such tablets have been discovered in the governor's palace at Ayn Asil (Balat) in the Dakhla Oasis. [2] [3] At the time the tablets were made, Dakhla was located far from centers of papyrus production. [4] These tablets record inventories, name-lists, accounts, and approximately fifty letters.

Hieratic cursive writing system used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia

Hieratic is a cursive writing system used for Ancient Egyptian, and the principal script used to write that language from its development in the 33rd century BCE until the rise of Demotic in the mid 1st millennium BCE. It was primarily written in ink with a reed pen on papyrus.

Stylus a writing utensil

A stylus or stylo, plural styli or styluses, is a writing utensil or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example, in pottery. It can also be a computer accessory that is used to assist in navigating or providing more precision when using touchscreens. It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styluses are heavily curved to be held more easily. Another widely used writing tool is the stylus used by blind users in conjunction with the slate for punching out the dots in Braille.

Papyrus Writing and painting implement

Papyrus is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge. Papyrus can also refer to a document written on sheets of such material, joined together side by side and rolled up into a scroll, an early form of a book.

Islamic period

The fortified Islamic town of Al Qasr was built at Dakhla Oasis in the 12th century probably on the remains of a Roman era settlement by the Ayyubid kings of Egypt. [5]

After 1800

The first European traveller to find the Dakhla Oasis was Sir Archibald Edmonstone, in the year 1819. [1] He was succeeded by several other early travellers, but it was not until 1908 that the first egyptologist, Herbert Winlock, visited Dakhla Oasis and noted its monuments in some systematic manner. [1] In the 1950s, detailed studies began, first by Dr. Ahmed Fakhry, and in the late 1970s, an expedition of the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale and the Dakhla Oasis Project each began detailed studies in the oasis. [1]

Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 3rd Baronet was a British traveller and writer.

Al-Qasr town at Dakhla Oasis Al-Qasr city (Dakhla Oasis).jpg
Al-Qasr town at 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, together with several smaller villages.


Dakhla Oasis has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), typical of much of Egypt.

Climate data for Dakhla
Record high °C (°F)33.2
Average high °C (°F)21.5
Daily mean °C (°F)12.0
Average low °C (°F)3.5
Record low °C (°F)−3.9
Average precipitation mm (inches)0
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)0.10000.100000000.2
Average relative humidity (%)47413529262426283136434734.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 294.5279.7316.2315.0356.5366.0384.4375.1336.0328.6300.0291.43,943.4
Mean daily sunshine hours 9.59.910.210.511.512.212.412.111.210.610.09.410.8
Source #1: NOAA [6]
Source #2: Arab Meteorology Book (sun) [7]

Dakhleh Oasis Project

The Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP) is a long-term study project of the Dakhleh Oasis and the surrounding palaeoasis, initiated in 1978 when the Royal Ontario Museum and the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities were awarded a joint concession for part of the Oasis. [8] In 1979, the Centre for Archaeology and Ancient History at Monash University began to cooperate in the project. [1]

The DOP studies the interaction between environmental changes and human activity in the Dakhleh Oasis. [9] The director of the DOP is Anthony J. Mills, former curator at the Royal Ontario Museum. The excavations at Ismant el-Kharab (ancient Kellis), [10] Mut el-Kharab (ancient Mothis), [11] Deir Abu Metta and Muzawwaqa [12] are undertaken with the cooperation of Monash University, under the direction of Gillian E. Bowen. Bowen and Colin Hope, also of Monash, are the principal investigators at Ismant el-Kharab. The DOP has also excavated at 'Ain el-Gazzareen, [13] El Qasr el-Dakhil, [14] Deir el Hagar [15] and Ain Birbiyeh. [16]

As well as the Dakhleh Trust, formed in 1999 to raise money for the DOP, organizations which have supported or participated in the DOP include: the Royal Ontario Museum, the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, Monash University, the University of Durham, the University of Toronto, Columbia University, the American Research Centre in Egypt, the Egyptology Society of Victoria and New York University.

In addition, excavations are undertaken at Amheida under the direction of Roger S. Bagnall. These were originally conducted under the auspices of Columbia University, but are currently conducted for New York University. [17]

Excavations are also underway at Balat under the auspices of the IFAO under the direction of Georges Soukiassian in conjunction with the Ministry for State Antiquities. [18]

In 2018, the fossilized remains of a large dinosaur were discovered here. [19] In 2019, two ancient tombs were discovered at Ber El-Shaghala archaeological site, that date back to Roman Egypt. [20]

Dakhleh Trust

The Dakhleh Trust was formed in 1999 and is a registered charity in Britain. Its declared aim is to advance understanding of the history of the environment and cultural evolution throughout the Quaternary period in the eastern Sahara, and particularly in the Dakhla Oasis. To this end, the present trustees have committed themselves to supporting the DOP.


NamePersonal detailsOffice
John Ruffle MA Retired museum curator and Egyptologist Chairman
Judith TrowellTreasurer
Sir Graham Boyce KCMG
Glenys Carter MBE Retired director, National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries
Simon deMare Museologist
Anthony Harris
Peter Mackenzie-Smith Managing director, Prothero Limited

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Dakleh Oasis Projects, Arts, Monash University". Monash University. September 24, 2010. Archived from the original on February 18, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  2. Scribes and craftsmen: the noble art of writing on clay. Feb 29, 2012; UCL Institute of Archaeology
  3. Posener-Kriéger 1992; Pantalacci 1998.
  4. Parkinson and Quirke 1995:20.
  5. Su (March 31, 2009). "Qasr Dakhla, Egyptian Monuments" . Retrieved February 8, 2011. (blog)
  6. "Dakhla Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  7. "Appendix I: Meteorological Data" (PDF). Springer. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  8. "SSEA Dakleh Oasis Project". Society for the Study of Egyption Antiquities. 2006. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  9. Chandler, Graham (2006). "Before the Mummies: The Desert Origins of the Pharaohs". Saudi Aramco World. Vol. 57 no. 5. Aramco Services Company. p. 7. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  10. "Ismant el-Kharab, ancient Kellis". Monash University. November 12, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  11. "Excavations at Mut el-Kharab, Dakhleh Oasis". Monash University. December 9, 2010. Archived from the original on February 18, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  12. "Deir Abu Metta and Muzawwaqa, Dakhleh Oasis". Monash University. November 5, 2010. Archived from the original on February 18, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  13. "'Ain el-Gazzareen". Dakhleh Trust. 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  14. "El Qasr el-Dakhil". Dakhleh Trust. 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  15. "Deir el Hagar". Dakhleh Trust. 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  16. "Annual Report 2008, Ain Birbiyeh Temple Project" (PDF). Monash University. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  17. NYU. "NYU Excavations at Amheida" . Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  18. IFAO Balat Project Page. Retrieved 2014-10-22
  19. "Near-perfect fossils of Egyptian dinosaur discovered in the Sahara desert". Nature Middle East. January 29, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  20. "Two Ancient Tombs from the Roman Era Discovered in Egypt". Live Science. January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2019.

Further reading

Published works

Coordinates: 25°30′00″N28°58′45″E / 25.50000°N 28.97917°E / 25.50000; 28.97917