Kharga & Dakhla Oasis
October, 1980


In the late seventies I was living in Egypt with my parents, starting my first year at the American University in Cairo in 1980. In late october a feast offered a long week-end, and with two fellow Egyptology classmates we made a trip to Kharga and Dakhla, mythical places that were really off the map at the time. The oasis circuit road was non-existant, asphalt stretched only till Dakhla that was 'the end of the road' in all sense. After a rather adventurous overnight train ride in 3rd class to Assiut, we hitched our way to the oases, usually riding on the back of supply trucks.


Kharga was already the capital of the 'New Valley' governorate, but the grandiose project was very much at the beginning, with only a few modern buildings spoiling the original oasis landscape.

The Hibis temple still had the scaffolding erected the the Chicago Oriental Institute team some 50 years earlier.

On a rather dilapidated pickup rented for a day we visited the southern temples in Kharga till Kasr el Zayan.

The road to Dakhla was covered by dunes in many places, and the Deir el Haggar temple was still a pile of fallen stones (now completely restored, I'm not quite sure wether to it's advantage).

The curious greco-roman tombs at el Mazawaka were open to visitors (and the elements) with a lone gaffir protecting them. He was delighted to see visitors, the last ones being there some three months before.

The village of el Qasr, though already some parts crumbling, was still a living city, with shy children following us about the covered streets, but apparently the term 'bakshees' was unknown to them. They only smiled and looked with big round dark eyes at the rarely seen strangers.

Our 'taxi' in Dakhla was a delightful (if somewhat temperamental) 1947 Ford pickup, the only local vehicle available for hire at the time. It lacked a starter motor, and the engine had the habit of stalling at the most unpleasant places (like when crossing a small irrigation ditch, in ankle deep mud), but a little pushing always brought it back to life.