• Keywords: Egypt Cultural Landscape, Bahariya Oasis, Desert Landscape, The Valley of the Golden Mummies

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Bahariya Oasis was defined as “Desert Landscape” in World Heritage Regional Thematic Expert Meeting on “Desert Landscapes and Oasis Systems in the Arab Region”, in Kharga Oasis, Egypt (2001). According to Med-o-Med, this site has enough cultural and natural values to be considered as a cultural landscape.

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

Bahariya Oasis is characterized by desert feature and its environment has both cultural and natural elements which formed a remarkable Cultural Landscape. The 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which is known as the World Heritage Convention, was designated the concept of Cultural Landscape in its Article 1 as cultural properties which represent “the combined works of nature and of man”. Moreover, the 2008’s Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention clearly explained the definition and categories of inscription of the Cultural Landscape on the World Heritage List. In parallel, it urged the State Parties to the World Heritage Convention to do all they can to ensure the protection, presentation and management of their cultural landscape and its outstanding universal value as one component of World Heritage. Basis on the above definition, Cultural Landscape reflects the interactions between people and their natural environment over space and time, so Bahariya Oasis represents a good example of a cultural landscape which is produced by the interactions between the indigenous people and their natural environment from Pharaonic time till today. According to the second category (ii.b) of the Cultural Landscape Categories in the 2008’s Operational Guidelines, There are many elements and units have been formed the cultural landscape of Bahariya Oasis, which could be identified as follows: -Natural heritage components: lakes, freshwater springs, mountains, hills, palm fields, and rock and sand formations. -Cultural heritage components: local festivals, traditional houses, traditional handcrafts, historical trade route, artifacts and archaeological remains (temples, caves, fortresses, and necropolises).

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Bahariya Oasis
  • Current denomination Bahariya Oasis
  • Original denomination Bahariya Oasis
  • Popular denomination Bahariya Oasis, Bahareya, Bahareia.
  • Address: Bahariya is a depression in Egypt. It is approximately 360 km away from Cairo, located in Giza Governorate.
  • Geographical coordinates: 28°33′N 29°01′E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Bahariya consists of many villages of which el-Bawiti is the largest and the administrative center. Qasr is el-Bawiti's neighboring/twin village. To the east, about ten kilometers away are the villages of Mandishah and el-Zabu. A smaller village called el-'Aguz lies between el-Bawiti and Mandishah. Harrah, the eastern most village, is a few kilometers east of Mandishah and el-Zabu. El-Heiz is the southern most village, but it may not always be considered as part of Bahariya because it is so far from the rest of the villages, about fifty kilometers south of el-Bawiti.
  • Access and transport facilities: Until recently, all the routes going from to the Bahariya Oasis, or from Dakhla or Farafra, were not paved and travelers used to suffer a lot to reach this unique oasis. However, nowadays there is a good network of roads that connects all these oasis with the Nile Valley.
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BAHARIYA OASIS (EGYPT)

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BAHARIYA OASIS (EGYPT) 28.550000, 29.016667 BAHARIYA OASIS (EGYPT) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

  • Owner: Giza Governorate.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Giza Governorate.
  • Legal protection: Unprotected. Dr. Ahmed Nazif Prime Minister assigned (2010) eleven ministries including agriculture and land reclamation, tourism, trade and industry, housing and finance the mission of sorting out laws on dealing with the desert lands owned by the State and to propose a unified law on the use of desert land, in implementation of President Mubarak assignments for making the best use of those lands. The assignments included the incorporation of similar laws and define the contradicting ones to avoid in the unified law.

4. HISTORY

The depression was populated since the neolithic, even if there is no archaeological evidence to all times. In el-Haiz, a prehistoric settlement site of hunter-gatherers was found with remains of grindstones, arrowheads, scrapers, chisels, and ostrich eggshells. In Qārat el-Abyaḍ, a Czech team led by Miroslav Bárta discovered a settlement of the Old Kingdom.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: Desert Lake
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: Precipitation over the Western Desert is minimal and many consecutive years may be completely rainless. Mean annual rainfall at Cairo is only 25 mm. Precipitation in the hills of the Eastern Desert and Sinai is very variable. In these places a stream may flow as a torrent for a day or so after a storm, during which over 100 mm of rain may fall, but it may thereafter remain dry for several years. There are two seasons. Winter lasts from November to March, and summer from April to October. Winters are cool and mild, but summers are hot and dry. Then, in the deserts, daytime temperatures may reach 48°C but may fall to 10°C at night. NE winds predominate in winter, but it is the occasional westerly winds that bring rain. In summer, winds are from the SW, off the Sahara. January is the coolest month throughout the country and August is generally the hottest month.
Water resources:
Bahariya Oasis is located around a freshwater spring.
Vegetation:

The main habitats in Bahariya Oasis favourable for plants growth are the swamps and the salt marsches including sand flats and sand formations. The swamps ocuppy the shallow lands having continuous feed of water either from springs and/or from irrigated lands. During the winter-table of these areas is usually exposed. These swamps are dominateed mainly by Typha domigensis and rarely by Phragmites australis. Nymphaea caerulea v. aschersoniana, the blue sacred flower of the ancient Egypt, a very rare floating hidrophyte in Egypt, is commonly recorded in Bahariya Oasis. The salt marshes cover the greater part of the oasis floor. The vegetation of the wet salt marshes is organized in zones dominated by Cyperus leavisatus, Juncus rigidus, and Salicornia fruticosa. The vegetation of the dry salt marshes is distinguished into four communities dominated by Sporobolus spicatun, Alhagi marorum, Desmostachya bipinnata and Tamarix nilotica.

Land uses and economical activities:
Agriculture is still an important source of income, though now the iron ore industry close to Bahariya provides jobs for many Wahati people. Recently there has also been an increase in tourism to the oasis because of antiquities (tombs, mummies and other artifacts have been discovered there), and because of the beautiful surrounding deserts. Wahati and foreign guides lead adventure desert tours based out of Bahariya to the surrounding white and black deserts, and sometimes to Siwa or the southern oases. Tourism is a new and important source of income for locals, and it has brought an international presence to the oasis.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Naturalized trees of Phoenix dactylifera are widely distributed in the Bahariya Oasis where date production is the backbone of its economy. Other agricultural products are guavas, mangos, and olives.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The oasis itself, including its cultivated lands, its palm fields, its lakes and water wells, and its architectonical and archaeological elements.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

There are some tombs and mosques in Bahariya, as the tomb of Amenhotep called Huy (erected in Qarat Hilwah at the end of the 18th dynasty), the tombs in Qārat Qasr Salim and Qarat esh-Sheikh Subi, the site of Qasr ‘Allam, and the chapels in ‘Ain el-Muftilla.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
Cultivated Land Several hundred deep artesian wells in this oasis provide the only source of water for irrigation.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    The valley of the golden Mummies: In 1996, the famous Egyptian archeologist and the head of the supreme council of antiquities, Mr. Zahi Hawas and his team, discovered a magnificent huge necropolis that dates to the Roman era and it is located 6 kilometers to the Southwest of Bawiti, the largest city of the Bahareya Oasis. The digging work started in 1999 and it showed that this necropolis was the most important burial site of the Romans in all the land of Egypt. This necropolis, in fact contains hundreds of tombs over a surface area of about 36 square kilometers. This astonishing discovery which news were spread all over the world in TV channels, newspapers, magazines, and over the internet, made Al Bahareya Oasis famous world wide and gave the oasis a new touristic dimension. Tens of mummies were discovered in perfect preservation state in the valley of the golden mummies. Most of these mummies were mummified using the old method which is called cartonnage. This method consisted of covering the face of the mummy with mask made out of linen and plaster. This mask was then decorated with many colorful reliefs. The mouse and the eyes of the dead person were then painted on the mask to give a clearer image of his face. The mummies of the Bahariya Oasis had the common Roman decoration of the Roman period that combined the traditional ancient Egyptian Pharonic shapes and colors with those of the Roman mythology. The valley of the golden mummies in the Bahariya Oasis is one of the most unique necropolises all around Egypt. The temple and chapels of Ain el Muftella: The site of Ain el Muftella is located three kilometers west of the Al Qaser at the exit point of the track that links the Bahariya to the Siwa Oasis. This site contains four chapels that were discovered by Ahmed Fakhry, the Egyptian archeologist that holds the credits for most of the discoveries that took place in the Egyptian Western desert, in 1938-1939. The four chapels belong to the 26th dynasty, the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC. These chapels belong to a temple complex built during the rule of Amasis, who was a pharaoh (570 BC – 526 BC) of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt, the successor of Apries at Sais and he was the last great ruler of Egypt before the Persian occupation of Egypt. The temple of Ain el Muftella belonged to the city of Psobthis which was located between the temple of Ain el Muftella and the present city of Al Qaser. The first chapel, which is the largest among the four chapels, consists of two chambers that were decorated with beautiful reliefs which are well preserved until today. These reliefs contain images of the Pharo Amasis making an offerings to a series of gods that were highly venerated in the oasis of Egypt. The tombs of Zed-Amun-ef-Ankh and Bannentui at Qarat Qaser Salem Qarat Qaser Salem is a small hill located inside the city of Bawiti and it contains two richly decorated tombs that date back to the 26th dynasty and were discovered by Ahmed Fakhry in 1938. The first tomb belongs to Zed-Amun-ef-Ankh, a rich merchant and it contains a hypostyle burial chamber which is supported with four pillars. This room is surrounded by some other undecorated rooms that were used during the Roman period when the tomb was used again. The other tomb belongs to the son of Zed-Amun-ef-Ankh, Bannentui, who was believed to be a priest and a prophet. The design of the tomb of Bannentui is similar to this of his father, except the fact that the burial chamber which connects the burial chamber with two other chambers contains four pillars not three. The two tombs contain rich decorations and ornaments with religious scenes connected to the mortuary rituals and many the offerings represented to the gods. The Muzzawaqa Necropolis: The Muzzawaqa, or the “richly decorated”, Necropolis is located north of the city of Mut. It was discovered by the American archeologist, Herbert E Winlock in 1908. The Muzzawaqa Necropolis contains more than 300 rock hewn tombs. The most important tombs in the Muzzawaqa Necropolis belong to Petosiris and Petubastis who lived in the Bahareya Oasis in the first or the second century AD. The two tombs contain extensive painted decorations that are perfectly preserved. The two tombs contain all the main themes of an ancient Egyptian tomb: offerings to the dead person, the procession of the funeral, and the dead person watched over by gods. However all of these scenes are painted in the Greco-Roman style.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: During the Roman era, the oases, including Al Dakhla, Al Kharga, Al Bahariya, and Al Farafra were the lands of grains as many grains were cultivated in their lands.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: The people of the oasis, or the Wahati people (meaning "of the oasis" in Arabic), are the descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the oasis, Bedouin tribes from Libya and the north coast, and other people from the Nile Valley who came to settle in the oasis. The majority of Wahati people in Bahariya are Muslims.
  • Languages and dialects: Egyptian
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Traditional music is very important to the Wahati people. Flutes, drums, and the simsimeyya (a harp-like instrument) are played at social gatherings, particularly at weddings. Traditional songs sung in rural style are passed down from generation to generation, and new songs are invented as well. Music from Cairo, the greater Middle East, and other parts of the world are now easily accessible to the people of the oasis.

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Arid lands in general are not very well represented on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, and others. These areas are vulnerable to climatic change owing to their low species diversity and, especially near oasis with water sources, are often points of conflict for water access.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Deserts are privileged sites to breath in silence, to find ourselves and to observe the pure beauty of nature, including the stars that are brighting in the night sky, free of light pollution.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

The oasis itself, including its cultivated lands, its palm fields, its lakes and water wells, and its architectonical and archaeological elements.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Geological/Geographical
The main values of Bahariya Oasis are the beauty and quality of the oasis itself, as a picture of human interaction with the desert. Its archaeological rests are very significant. There are other important values as fossil rests: Carcharodontosaurus and Bahariasaurus (meaning "Bahariya lizard") dinosaur found in the Bahariya Formation, which date to about 95 million years ago. It was a huge theropod, it was described by Ernst Stromer in 1934 though the type specimen was destroyed during World War II in 1944. In 2000, an American scientific team conducted by Joshua Smith found the remains of type of dinosaur, the Paralititan stromeri.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Mythical
  • Religious
An oasis could be considered (according to UNESCO) as an image of the garden of Eden. Deserts has also a religious meaning for the local people. All the ancient remains founded (for example, The Valley of the Golden Mummies) show the historical importance of this site. There are also some tradicional rites which are still alive in Bahariya Oasis (see point 6.3). The blue sacred flower of the ancient Egyptians (Nymphaea caerulea) is commonly recorded in Bahariya Oasis.
Authenticity:
The depression was populated since the neolithic, even if there is no archaeological evidence to all times. In el-Haiz, a prehistoric settlement site of hunter-gatherers was found with remains of grindstones, arrowheads, scrapers, chisels, and ostrich eggshells. In Qārat el-Abyaḍ, a Czech team led by Miroslav Bárta discovered a settlement of the Old Kingdom.
Universality:
According to UNESCO criteria and Med-o-Med consideration, Bahariya Oasis: (iii) bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared, (v) is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change, (vi) is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (vii) contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance, (viii) is an outstanding example representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features, (ix) is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals,
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
-Living heritage: the traditional way of farming and the specific irrigation systems came from the Islamic culture. -Archaeological values: The Valley of Golden Mummies, The temple and chapels of Ain el Muftella, The Muzzawaqa Necropolis. -Mythical values and religious: oasis could be considered as a picture of the garden of Eden.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Bahariya Oasis is one of all of the oases of Egypt Desert which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-o-Med.

Bibliography:

http://www.unesco.es -Fakhry, A. The Oases of Egypt, II: Bahriyah and Farafra Oases, Le Caire, Univ. in Cairo Press, c. 2003. -Giddy, L. Egyptian Oases: Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra and Kharga during Pharaonic Times, Warminster, Aris & Philips, 1987. -Jackson, R. At Empire’s Edge: Exploring Rome’s Egyptian Frontier, New Haven et Londres, Yale University Press, 2002. -Thurston, H. Island of the Blessed : the Secrets of Egypt’s Everlasting Oasis, Toronto, Doubleday, 2003. -Vivian, C. The Western Desert of Egypt: an explorer’s handbook, AUC Press, le Caire, 2000. -Wagner, G. Les oasis d’Égypte à l’époque grecque, romaine et byzantine, d’après les documents grecs, Le Caire, Recherches de papyrologie et d’épigraphie grecques, 1987.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías