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In connection with the Nile may be fittingly mentioned the Oases, for it is probable that, in addition to the springs which are found in these natural depressions in the desert, a quantity of water finds its way to them by underground channels from the Nile. The Egyptian word for “Oasis” is w i, ut, or perhaps uaḥet ; from this was derived the Coptic orage, and the Arabic ! (plur. elaba). In Ptolemaïc times seven oases were enumerated,* and their hieroglyphic names are as follows :
doo Dimmi, 1. KENEMET mm
Ut-res "Oasis of the South.”
4. Ur-MeụT OM og «Oasis of the North.” 5. SEKHET-ÅMIT .2.0.1409948
6. UT omy
1. The Oasis of Kenemet is called to-day AlKhârga, and lies almost due west of the town of Esna, at a distance of about four days' journey ; it is best known by the name of the “Great Oasis.” Population in
* The texts are given by Dimichen in Die Oasen der Libyschen Wuste; Strassburg, 1877.
1897, 7,200. The name “Oasis of the South” was given to it to distinguish it from the “Oasis of the North.” The ancient name of the chief town was Hebt,
, and the principal object of interest in the Oasis is the ruined ancient Egyptian temple, wherein the god Åmen-Rā was worshipped. The temple was founded by Darius I. Hystaspes (B.C. 521–486), and finished by Darius II. Nothus (B.C. 425-405), and restored by Nectanebus I. (B.C. 378–360), the first king of the XXXth dynasty. The scenes on the walls represent these kings making offerings and adoring a number of the great gods and goddesses of Egypt, e.g., Ànien-Rā, Mut, Temu, Uatchit, Menthu, Rā. Harmachis, Khensu, Khnemu, Isis, Osiris, Anḥer-Shu, Nephthys, etc. Among the inscriptions worthy of special interest are the famous Hymn to the Sun-god which was inscribed on the walls of a small chamber in the temple, and a text written in the so-called enigmatical writing. It is interesting to note too the rare prenomen ( olla Settu-Rā, which is here applied to one of the Darius kings (Brugsch, Reise, pl. VIII.). In other parts of the Oasis are a number of ruins of Roman and Christian buildings, and, as political offenders were banished there by the various rulers of Egypt, and Christians fled there for refuge, this is not to be wondered at; the ruins of a Roman fort suggest that the Oasis was used for garrison purposes at one period.
2. The Oasis of Tchestcheset is called to-day Dakhlah, and lies to the west of Al-Khârga, at a distance of about four days' journey; it is best known by the name of Oasis Minor. Population in 1897, 17,090. The chief town of this Oasis was called de la Auset Åāþet, “the seat of the Moon-god," and the principal object of worship was the god Åmen-Rā
“Amen-Rā, lord of the country of the Moon.” The ruins prove that the temple was founded and restored by Titus and other Roman Emperors.
3. The Oasis of Farâfra lies to the north-west of the Great Oasis, and there seems to be little doubt that it represents the Ta-åḥet of the Egyptian texts; it lies about half-way between the Oasis of Baḥarîyah and Dâkhlah. Population, 1897, 542. The god worshipped there was called Åmsu-Ámen.
4. The Oasis of Bahariyah lies to the north-east of the Oases of Farâfra and Dâkhlah, at a distance of about four days' journey from the Fayyûm. The ruins there belong chiefly to the Roman period. The Arabic name “Northern Oasis" seems to be a translation of its old Egyptian name, “ Oasis of the North.” Population in 1897, 6,082.
5. The Oasis of Siwa, better known by the name of the Oasis of Jupiter Ammon, is the most northerly of all the Oases, and lies west of Cairo at a distance of about sixteen days' journey. Population in 1897, 5,200. The god worshipped there was Amen-Rā. The name given to it by the Egyptians, Sekhet-Åmit, means the “field of the palm trees," and the many thousands of loads of dates which are exported annually justify the selection of this name. In very early times a temple dedicated to the god Ammon or Ámen stood here, and the reputation of its priests was so wide-spread that it tempted Alexander the Great to visit it in order that he might consult the famous oracle. Christianity is said to have been preached in this oasis by one of the Apostles.
6. The Oasis. This oasis has not been identified, but it lay most probably at no great distance from the Oasis of Siwa, and it may have formed part of the Sekhet-Amit. Dümichen suggests (op. cit., p. 33) that it may be the Oasis of Araj, which is a journey of two days from Siwa. On the other hand it may be the Oasis of Ad-Daila, which has been recently discovered.
7. Sekhet-hemam, or the “Salt-field,” is no doubt to be identified with the Wâdî Națrûn or Natron Valley.
Other Oases are :
The Oasis of Kûrkûr lies at a distance of about 70 miles west of Aswân, but the most direct road to it from the Nile starts at Ar-Rakabah, or Contra Ombos. This Oasis was used chiefly as a halting place for caravans on their way to Esna from the Oasis of Selîma, where, when the slave trade was in a flourishing state, so many desert routes converged. From Kůrkûr a road runs to Al-Khârga. Between Kûrkûr and Dângûn, a little to the north of the latter place, is a large salt plain, from which large quantities of rock salt were brought into the village of Al-^Azîz, to the north of Aswân, and sold in the Aswân bazaar.
The Oasis of Selîma, which is in the Sûdân, lies due west of the village of Tankûr, and west of a ridge of mountains which are about 85 miles from the Nile, in 21° 14' 19" lat. N., and in long. 27° 19'. The Oasis consists of two parts: the first has a diameter of about 800 feet, and contains many date trees and tamarisks; the second has a diameter of 1,000 feet, and is equally fertile. A marsh full of reeds lies between them. When Cailliaud visited the Oasis between 1819 and 1822, there were only 300 or 400 trees there. A little to the south-west of the southern portion he saw the remains of a small square house, which was said to be the home of a princess called Selîma, who was the head of a terrible band of warriors. There were no ancient Egyptian ruins to be seen at Selîma Oasis in Cailliaud's time. During the first half of the 19th century Selîma was a most important place for caravans, and it formed a point of convergence of all the great slave and trade routes of North-East and Central Africa. The roads from Al-Fâsher and Al-'Obêd * in the south met here, the road from Berber in the east joined them at this place, and the great caravan road to the Oases of Khârga, Dâkhla, and Siwa started here and ended in
The determinative of the word for oasis in Egyptian (hr) indicates that the inhabitants of the oases were not Egyptians, but it is quite certain that as early as the time of Usertsen I, a king of the XIIth dynasty, the inhabitants paid tribute to the kings of Egypt. Rameses the Great kept a number of troops stationed in the largest of the oases, and it is probably from the officers and soldiers who went there from Egypt that the inhabitants learned to know and worship Egyptian gods. Between the oases and Egypt there must have been a very considerable trade, for the wine of Kenem, and the dates of Sekhet-Amit, and the salt of Sekhet-hewam, were famous throughout the Nile Valley of Egypt.