Baharyia Oasis is a total of 500 Km from
Cairo, set in a depression covering over 2000 sq. Km. Baharyia Oasis is the lowest point in
Egypt, it is surrounded by black hills made up of ferruginous quartzite and dolerite. Most of the villages and cultivated land can be viewed from the top of the 50-metre-high Jebel al-Mi’ysrah together with the massive dunes which threaten to engulf some of the older settlements. Wildlife is plentiful, especially birds such as wheatears; crops (which only cover a small percentage of the total area) include dates, olives, apricots, rice and corn.
Bawiti is the largest village in the oasis; its picturesque hillside quarter overlooks lush palm groves irrigated by the Am al-Beshmo, a natural spring hewn from the rock in Roman times which gushes water at 30 C The neighboring village of al-Qast was built on the remains of a 26th dynasty temple-nearby, at Qarat Hilwah, you can still see tombs with paintings dating from the same period. Famous for its mineral and
Sulphur springs, including Bir Mathar and Bir al Ghaba, Baharyia is also known amongst local Bedouin for informal music and poetry recitals.
Near the fortress, found the remains of a Coptic church built in a classical basilica style. Built of mud brick, with whitewashed walls covered in a sort of solidifying mud and straw, it has two levels connected by staircases and was probably built at the end of the 5th Century AD. The walls originally had paintings, but none survive today. The floor plan of the church is very similar to many modern cathedrals. The main entrance to the church leads into a foyer with alcoves carved into the walls where icons where probably once mounted.
Black & Crystal
Looking out across Baharyia Oasis from the
Mountain), which is topped by a fort built by a British Captain during World War I. The
Mountain, a large rock formation beside the road between Baharyia Oasis and Farafra Oasis made from quartz.
The Roman fortress is probably the most prominent ruins at Ain el-Rees. Two of its ancient walls still rise above a sandy hill that overlooks the modem village (if it can be called a village). As with most of the structures in the area, including many of the more modem ones, the fortress was mostly built of mud-brick, and apparently served as a large garrison. In fact, this is the largest of any Roman fortresses found in the Western Oasis and it probably housed a large contingent of soldiers, as well as local rulers in order to protect
Egypt from desert attacks, as well as securing the well established trade routes through this region. Near the fortress is a cemetery that acted as the military counterpoint to the one closer to El Bawiti that we now call the Valley of the Golden Mummies.
Visitors enjoy a trip by camels or recreational vehicle through the hills and valleys of the oasis. Palm trees, olive orchards and apricot groves create a natural panorama that blends sandy hills with lush vegetation.