• Site: Kurkur and Dungul Oases
  • Keywords: Egypt Cultural Landscapes, Kurkur, Dungul and Dineigil Oases, Nubian Tableland, Desert Landscapes, The Yale Toshka Desert Survey, Relict species, Neolithic Site, Predynastic-Early Dynastic Site.


1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Kurkur and Dungul Oasis are included, together, in the Tentative List of UNESCO (“Southern and Smaller Oases, the Western Desert”, date of Submission: 12/06/2003) in category: Natural, and under the criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x). According to Med-o-Med, this site has also enough cultural 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


Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis) are 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 Kurkur and Dungul Oasis represent a good example of the 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 Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis), which could be identified as follows: -Natural heritage components: mountains, hills, palms, and rock and sand formations. -Cultural heritage components: historical trade route, artifacts and archaeological remains (temples, caves, fortresses, and necropolises).


  • Current denomination Kurkur and Dungul Oases.
  • Current denomination Kurkur and Dungul Oases.
  • Original denomination Kurkur and Dungul Oases.
  • Popular denomination Kurkur and Dungul Oases.
  • Address: Kurkur and Dungul Oasis are small uninhabited oasis within spectacular escarpments from the Nubian Tableland to the Lower Nubian Plain in the southern part of the Western Desert.
  • Geographical coordinates: Kurkur Oasis: 23°54'00" N, 32°19'00" E Dungul Oasis: 23°26'00" N, 31°37 00" E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Kurkur and Dungul Oases lie at the edge of the Sinn El-Kaddab Plateau. The distance between the two relict Oases is about 60 km. Kurkur Oasis is considerably larger than Dungul, which consists of two parts: Dungul Oasis proper and Dineigil Oasis. Dineigil is located at the very edge of the escarpment in a high position while Dungul is in a lower position (250 m) in the Wadi Dungul.
  • Access and transport facilities: Kurkur is the hub of several important ancient desert roads, linking the Thebaid, the First and Second Cataract Regions, Kharga Oasis, and points beyond. The Sikket Dehmit — leading to Nag el-Wasiya (the site of the rock inscriptions of the Nubian soldier Tjehemau) — and the Sikket el-Umbarakab — accessing the Bab Kalabsha — link Kurkur with the Nile to the east. The most direct route between Aswan and Kurkur left Aswan at Gebel Tingar, passing beneath Gebel Garra before reaching the Kurkur foreland. The Darb Bitân and the Darb Gallaba, north-south routes roughly paralleling the Nile, bypass the Kom Ombo region, the former accessing Kurkur directly from the north (passing through the Nuq‘ Maneih pan), the latter passing east of Kurkur and linking with the desert road to Kurkur from Gebel Tingar on the west of Aswan. Tracks from Kharga enter Kurkur from the West, and the southern routes out of Kurkur — one passing beneath the Sinn el-Kiddab escarpment, the other crossing the plateau an


  • Owner: Al Wādī al Jadīd - Muḩāfaz̧ah Governorate.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Al Wādī al Jadīd - Muḩāfaz̧ah 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.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: The Yale Toshka Desert Survey represents the first investigation devoted to assessing the presence and extent of evidence for activity in the small oasis of Kurkur during the Predynastic and Pharaonic periods. During the Nubian Salvage Campaign of the 1960’s, an earlier Yale expedition studied Kurkur for about five days, although the expedition achieved considerable results of a geological and climatological nature, its archaeological observations were more modest, and are known only through a number of preliminary reports. Hester and Hobler published some additional archaeological material from Kurkur, as part of an expedition covering a larger area of the Sinn el-Kiddab and its western hinterland.


Extensive late Predynastic-Early Dynastic occupation areas occur in association with the caravan tracks running through the Northwest Wadi , probably the most heavily populated portion of Kurkur from the mid-fourth through the early third millennia BCE. During that period the desert dwellers in the area of Kurkur and Dungul appear to have abandoned more widespread and less densely used campsites and workstations, increasingly focusing their activities on the Northwest Wadi.


5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • 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.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: In the southern part of the Western Desert of Egypt, the Nubian Tableland descends to the East in the direction of the Nile Valley near Aswan and Lake Nasser, with a sharp and spectacular escarpment ("Sinn El-Kaddab") to the Lower Nubian Plain. Within this escarpment, two small, uninhabited oases are situated: Kurkur and Dungul (which includes Dungul and Dineigil Oases). In both oases, geological, archaeological and botanical studies have been carried out, but Wadi Kurkur, closer to Aswan (approximately 60 km) has received much more research attention than Dungul (approximately 160 km). Kurkur Oasis is in the edge of Sinn El-Kadda. The distance between the two relict Oases is about 60 km. Kurkur soils are saline (> 0.5% Cl) under Tamarix nilotica, and in the topsoil under Imperata cylindrica and Juncus rigidus, but practically not saline at all (mostly < 0.1% Cl) under Stipagrostis vulnerans and Alhagi graecorum, and in the deeper soil layers under Imperata cylindrica and Juncus rigidus. Dungul and Dineigil Oases have been formed by the blockage of the drainage lines of Wadi Dungul and the formation of local hollows which were later onened by the breaking of these obstructions. Dungul Oasis is located at about 21 km fronm the mouth of Wadi Dungul, and Dinegil Oais is located south of Dungul Oasis and it is relatively higher in level than this one.
Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis) receive their water as a result of the blockage of drainage lines of an artesian aquifer. Ain El-Gaw spring is a frech water spring in Dineigil Oasis at the base of a grove os H. thebaica and P. dactylifera palms. Its water ha a continual underground source.

The trhee oases (Kurkur, Dungul and Dineigil) are rich in biodiversity. Palm groves (three species) and extensive growth of Acacia groves form the main framework of the perennial plant cover. There are some relict species of hillock builts in Kurlur Oasis, as Fagonia arbica or Tamarix amplexicaulis that are attributed to former more humidclimatic conditions chich no longer exist. The presence os Alhagi and Acacia indicates a subsurface supply of water in contrast to desert plants which might survive on water from sporadic rains. The vegetation of the central part of Kurckur Oasis expands into the mouth. In this part there is a rather dense scrub of A. raddiana and A. ehrenbergiana. Around the wells of the oasis is found a complex composed by P. australis, J. rigidus and T. amplexicaulis. The highlight of the floristic characteristics of Dungul Oasis is the occurrence of the long forgotten palm Medemia argun DC, which grows together with the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and the doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica). It was abundant in Ancient Egyptian times but is now found only in Dungul and in another spot in northern Sudan. It can thus be considered in modern times to be endemic for the Nubian Desert, and also threatened with extinction, although some young individuls are still growing there. The undergrowth in Dungul Oasis is formed of dense salt tolerant grass, Imperata cylindrica, with 50-70% cover. Dineigil vegetation’s is much richer and ticker than Dungul vegetation’s. It comprises trhee communities dominated by Alhagi maroum, Juncus rigidus and Imperata cylindrica. Around the Ain El-Gaw spring P. dactylifera and H. thebaica palms are found.


The fauna of this area needs further studies, but there is some evidence that these Oases are the very last refuges of viable populations of the highly threatened dorcas gazelle Gazella dorcas, and maybe also the highly vulnerable and extremely rare Sand Cat Felis margarita, in the Western Desert of Egypt.

Land uses and economical activities:
Archaeological remains reflect ancient uses in this site that are related with human activities. The site of Nuq‘ Maneih is a clay pan (playa) ca. 50 km west of the Nile, and ca. 20 km north of the point at which a traveler heading north on the caravan tracks through the North Wadi of Kurkur would descend the escarpment at the rear of Gebel Garra. The pan is situated between the high desert plateau to the west Gebel Barqa (Figure 18a, 18b) to the east. Scooped out of the middle desert surface by aeolian action, even today the vast plain with heights to east and west is the site of omnipresent afternoon whirlwinds that continue the eldritch erosion of Nuq‘ Maneih. This slight depression has long been the site of occasional pools of water, fed by desert deluges flowing through the small wadis that converge on Nuq‘ Maneih. Until relatively recently, the area has been used for seasonal pasturage and for growing crops after significant rainfall.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The two Oases and the area in between comprise a great variety of landscape features and habitat diversity that have to be carefully assessed, to ensure the conservation of the ecosystem. Of special importance is the fascinating white limestone erosion-bounded Dineigil and Dungul Oases. In spite of almost rainlessness, these two Oases are rich in biodiversity and in threatened species (Medemia argun is only found in Dungul). Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis) also contain many important Neolithic sites which are so far well preserved.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

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

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

Libo-Nubian handmade ceramics appear in a wide range of forms and fabrics, the latter including but not limited to low-fired silt with coarse organic temper, limestone-tempered silt and various locally-derived desert clays, often shale-tempere. Lithic material includes flint and quartz implements, wide expanses of the site are covered by animal bones, sometimes in association with butchering tools such as flint choppers. Charcoal is present, probably originating in ancient cooking fires. The large numbers of stone artifacts at the site include mortars (“metates,” Arabic raḥḥay), rubbing stones (“manos,” Arabic ḥajar er-raḥḥay), spherical pounding stones, celts (Figure 10), and bowls.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    The two Oases also contain many important Neolithic sites which are so far well preserved. The main concentrations of archaeological remains at Kurkur are in the Main Wadi near the modern wells, in the Northwest Wadi, and sparse and widely scattered material in the eastern foreland. Together these sites have yielded evidence for Predynastic through Roman and early modern activity at Kurkur Oasis. The Predynastic-Early Dynastic Site Near the Mouth of the Northwest Wadi In the southern portion of the Northwest Wadi are the extensive surface remains of a Late Predynastic-Early Dynastic period habitation site, the densest portion thereof adjoining a large phytogenic mound. An initial examination of the site has revealed a deflated desert surface covered by the remains of a food preparation area, the original surface of the site preserved in the lower portion of the phytogenic mound. The principal archaeological material comprised pottery, flint, quartz, bone, stone, wood, ostrich eggshell, charcoal and other hearth remains, and ochre. A short distance up-wadi is an even more widespread habitation site revealing considerable activity during the Late Predynastic Period, and extending through the early Middle Kingdom, with important assemblages of Nilotic Egyptian, Nubian, and Saharan remains. In addition to A-group material (Figure 12),15 considerable quantities of Nubian ceramic material from the time of the Old Kingdom through the early Middle Kingdom are present.

  • Historical routes:

    The Darb Bitân passes just to the west of Nuq‘ Maneih, ascending the gebel through Wadi Wa’ir on its way south to Kurkur Oasis, the Darb Gallaba passes to the east of Gebel Barqa. Lying between two major routes connecting the Rayayna Desert to the north and Kurkur to the south, two areas revealing considerable interaction between Nilotic Egyptian, Saharan, and Nubian cultures during the Predynastic Period, Nuq‘ Maneih provides important information about groups living between two major nodes of Predynastic cultural interaction.

C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: These oases consist mainly in archaeological remains and are uninhabited.
  • Languages and dialects: These oases are uninhabited.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: These oases are uninhabited.

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. Specially important in this point are the threatened species of Dungul region as Medemia argun DC.
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 oases themselves, their threatened palms, and their archaeological remains.



  • Aesthetic
  • Geological/Geographical
  • Living heritage
Tangible values of Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis) are the beauty of the landscapes and their geographical conditions (hills, rock and sand formations...), also their botanical particularities, already described, as the type of palms preserved in the site. But the main value of these oases are the archaeological remains and its ceramics described above that show an ancient interaccion between human being and these sites.


  • Historical
  • Mythical
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 in the site show its historical importance and social significance.
There is evidence for activity in the small oasis of Kurkur and its surroundings (Dungul and Dineigil Oases) during the Predynastic and Pharaonic periods, but nowadays they are uninhabited.
According to UNESCO criteria and Med-O-Med considerations, Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis): (iii) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which has disappeared, (vii) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance,
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
-Archaeological values: archaeological remains (including different styles of ceramic) of Predinastic and Pharaonic period are founded in these Oases. -Mythical and religious values: an oasis could be considered as a picture of the garden of Eden. -Hystorical values: The Darb Bitân passes just to the west of Nuq‘ Maneih, ascending the gebel through Wadi Wa’ir on its way south to Kurkur Oasis, the Darb Gallaba passes to the east of Gebel Barqa. Lying between two major routes connecting the Rayayna Desert to the north and Kurkur to the south, two areas revealing considerable interaction between Nilotic Egyptian, Saharan, and Nubian cultures during the Predynastic Period, Nuq‘ Maneih provides important information about groups living between two major nodes of Predynastic cultural interaction.


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

Kurkur and Dungul Oases (including Dineigil Oasis) are some of all the oases of Egypt Desert which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.


http://www.unesco.es http://www.ask-aladdin.com/Egyptian_Oasis/ http://books.google.es/books?id=VLjafeXa3gMC&pg=PA145&dq=qattara+depression&hl=en&ei=MfxSToORFPPE0AGs3OmzCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=qattara%20depression&f=true http://RAMSAR.wetlands.org/ToolsforParties/WetlandDirectories/ADirectoryofAfricaWetlands/tabid/824/Default.aspx http://www.geografiainfo.es/nombres_geograficos/name.php?uni=-462679&fid=1623&c=egyp -Giddy, L. Egyptian Oases: Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra and Kharga during Pharaonic Times, Warminster, Aris & Philips, 1987. -Hughes, R. H. and J. S. Hughes. 1992. A Directory of African Wetlands. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. ISBN-10: 2880329493. -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.