Bahariya Oasis is located to the west of the River Nile in Egypt about 300 km south-west of Cairo. The oasis is spread over a large depression, the lowest of its kind in the country. A cluster of villages with a total population of approximately 30,000 inhabitants constitute the oasis.
Bahariya Oasis enjoys a fairly moderate climate with very chilly winters.
The people of the oasis are known as the Wahati people and are descendants of the Bedouin tribes. While the residents still lead an idyllic and peaceful life, connection to Cairo by an asphalt road has introduced several changes in the lifestyles.
Under the reign of the Pharaohs the region developed into a major agriculture centre; agriculture is still a primary occupation. The region developed a reputation of a major wine producer almost 4,000 years ago.
Baharia, the first oasis to be encountered, completely surrounded by high black escarpments. From an archaeological point of view, little seems to have survived the pharaonic period. The Greco-Roman period on the other hand is represented by one of the most important discoveries of the last years, a huge cemetery (about 6 square kilometers) in the area of el-Bawiti, the capital of Baharia. One hundred mummies beautifully decorated, some covered with a layer of gold, some wearing painted masks, some buried in pottery coffins and some wrapped in linen. Archaeologists excavating there expect to unearth over 10,000 mummies. Statuettes, pottery, jewels and coins were found and helped date the cemetery to the Greco-Roman period. The inhabitant of Baharia are a mixture of the original oasis dwellers, the Bedouin tribes and families who migrated from Middle Egypt and the New Valley. Conditions in the Oasis began to improve with the construction of the road connecting it with Farafra and the development of the new mines as well as the booming tourism industry motivated by the new discoveries.
The Oasis Heritage Museum in Bawiti
Situated in the city of Bawiti, Bahariya Oasis, the Oasis Heritage Museum provides a history of living in desert oasis. There are displays of clothing and jewelry, along with clay figures engaged in typical oasis activities.
Valley of Golden mummies
The city has received considerable press recently due to the discovery of a Festival of Mummies by an Egyptian team at Baharia Oasis, located about 380 km west of the pyramids. Four tombs were excavated, and found inside them were 105 mummies, many of them beautifully gilded. These mummies, many sumptuously decorated with religious scenes, represent the very best of Roman-Period mummies ever found in Egypt. These ancient remains are around 2000 years old, but they have withstood the test of time remarkably well.
Hercules, Temple of Bahariya
The Temple of Hercules was discovered in October 1996 by Faraq Allah Abdeen, and Inspector at Bahariya. Initially, it was investigated by that local office, and was later excavated by a team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass. It was probably constructed in about the year 21 BC, during the reign of Octavian Augustus. However, we believe that the major deity worshipped in this temple was Hercules, artifacts found within the temple indicate that several of other gods may have been worshipped here.
Today, the temple of Hercules is now almost completely destroyed, however there remains sufficient foundation and other evidence that we may examine the layout of the temple in some detail. The temple was probably approached from an avenue that led to the southern section of the temple. The temple itself was surrounded by a mud brick and local sandstone wall.