advertisement

Most visitors coming to Bahareya will be here at the beginning or the end of a desert safari. Listed here are the main sites within the oasis.

Black Desert -- After about 30 minutes on the road heading south out of Bahareya, the desert begins to look dirty, like there's a dusting of black muck across the hitherto pristine sand -- this is the Black Desert. The most interesting feature of the area, aside from its color, may be the large conical hills that rise straight up like rounded pyramids. The hike to the top of one of these is tough, but the view from even halfway up can be an ample reward.

Black Mountain -- Quite close to town, Black Mountain was used during World War I by the British to keep a lookout for marauding Sanusi tribesmen (hence, its local name Jebel Al Ingleez). You can get to the top, check out the view and the ruins of the British outpost, and be back into town by foot easily in 1 1/2 hours. Of course, if you're staying at the International Health Center, it's just out the back door.

Hot Springs -- Desert hot springs are rough-and-ready things, so don't expect changing facilities, wooden decking, and a swim-up bar. Sometimes the pool is just a natural depression, but most of the time it's actually a cement tank designed to collect irrigation water. There are a number of hot springs around Bahareya, and choosing the right one is a bit like Goldilocks choosing her porridge -- Bir al Ramla's too hot (113°F/45°C) and Bir al Mattar is too cold (unless it's a really hot day), but for me, Bir al Ghaba's just right. Unlike several others, it's also a bit off the beaten track; about 15km (10 miles) northeast of town, past the International Health Center and past Bir al Mattar.

Etiquette demands that if you arrive to find it occupied, you wait your turn. Women should not go bathing alone, particularly after dark, and should bathe in at least a one-piece bathing suit and a T-shirt.

Something to keep in mind is that the temperature of these springs changes from time to time. It's not a bad idea to take the advice of a local on the matter of which spring is the best at the time of your visit.

26th-Dynasty & Greco-Roman Sites

Before you head out to see any of the 26th-dynasty and Greco-Roman sites, stop by the kiosk by the museum to buy a ticket for all six sites (Tomb of Amenhotep, Tomb of Zed-Amunerankh, Tomb of Banentiu, Temple of Ain Muftellah, Temple of Alexander the Great, and the Golden Mummies). Hours 8am until 4pm. Six-site ticket LE35 ($6.35/£3.25) adults, LE20 ($3.60/£1.85) students.

Golden Mummies -- The Sharia al Mathaf Museum, just off the main road in the middle of Bawiti, houses 10 spectacular golden sarcophagi that were excavated in the early 1990s. They are Ptolemaic, rather than ancient Egyptian, so think "decorative coffin" rather than an artifact that was part of an elaborately well developed and sophisticated process of preservation. In practical terms, this means that the bodies inside did not last like those in earlier burials and, as you will see, decorative techniques were less sophisticated.

Temples of Ain Muftellah -- These four temples, which were discovered in 1901, lie a little to the west of Bawiti. They are quite different both in layout and decoration from their Nile Valley counterparts. One seems to have been entirely dedicated to Bes, the dwarf god of musicians and dancers. Though the temples themselves were reburied in sand to preserve what was uncovered, you can admire some restored frescos.

Temple of Alexander the Great -- This temple, built outside town but quite close to an old pass through which travelers from Siwa had to descend to get into Bahareya, presents a bit of a puzzle. When it was excavated by the well-known Egyptian architect and archaeologist Ahmed Fakry in the late 1930s, it was found to have Alexander the Great's effigy and cartouche inscribed in the wall. Both have since unfortunately been erased, literally sandblasted away by the wind, but the question remains of why, if the Macedonian never came farther south than Siwa, his image was engraved here.

Tomb of Amenhotep -- This lovely 18th-dynasty tomb is full of inscribed reliefs showing the luscious afterlife experience of this former governor of the oasis: plenty of food, wine, and worship of the gods. It's the oldest tomb to be visited in the oasis, and the only one in which the ancient inscriptions have survived.

Tomb of Banentiu -- This tomb, next to that of Zed-Amunerankh (below), is worth a visit for the pictures depicting gods and the owner of the tomb. Of particular interest is the panel depicting the journey of the moon god Khonsu; you'll see it to the right of the entrance to the main burial chamber; Khonsu is seated in the middle of the panel between the horns of the crescent moon. Worship of the moon god was particularly important in the oases, where the sun could be harsh, and both work and travel were often easier and safer than during the day. The four chains made of ankhs descending from the moon in this panel represent life.

Tomb of Zed-Amunerankh -- It's assumed that the original inhabitant of this tomb was a wealthy 26th-dynasty businessman, perhaps a trader in the wine for which the oasis was famous. It may have been robbed long before the archaeologists found it (though Ahmed Fakhry, who excavated the tomb in early 1938, was shown the tomb by the man who robbed it in 1918), but the rich wall paintings and oddly shaped doors make it well worth a visit.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.