Travel to Bahariya – Gateway to the Western Desert
Lying some 376km southwest of Cairo Bahariya is the gateway to the Western Desert, home to friendly oasis people descended from Bedouin and site of the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Travellers come here to experience a different side to Egypt, enjoying wide-open spaces and nights under the stars.
The main town of the oasis – a string of settlements spread over some 2,000 square kilometres – is Bawiti. Its fields of palms are watered by a network of wells and springs. The people here are descended from nomadic Bedouin who once roamed the area but are now settled. Facilities are more basic than many places elsewhere in Egypt, ranging from small backpacker-style camps to 3* properties.
Most people come either on a short trip from Cairo or pause here whilst heading south to the other oasis towns which lie to the south. The oasis is the now-famous site of the Valley of the Golden Mummies, an underground burial chamber of gilded Roman coffins discovered when a donkey stumbled in a field in 1996; they can be seen in the museum. Other attractions include hot and cold springs, the Tombs of Zed Amun ef Ankh and Bannentiu in what is called locally Qarat Qasr Salim, the Black Desert and the Temple of Alexander. Other minor attractions include the Temple of Ain al-Muftella, Jebel Dist and Qarat al-Hilwa.
A 2-day/1-night 4WD safari will show the traveller most of what Bahariya has to offer enabling easy access to the attractions which are spread out over a wide area. This is best arranged from home via a local travel expert based in Cairo to ensure your needs are planned for in advance.
Bahariya is low key with no bars or cafes. An evening soaking in a hot spring with beer in hand can’t be beaten.
Bahariya can be reached by public transport from Cairo – an uncomfortable journey of around 4hrs. Once in the oasis transport is limited and consists of the occasional taxi or hitchhiking – not recommended. A better way of visiting is on an included tour from Cairo in which the main attractions are included, or from the south as part of a longer expedition from Luxor to Cairo.