Dakhla al-Qasr

Qasr Dakhla is a fortified medieval Islamic town in Egypt and one of the seven oasis in the country's western desert. It's the oldest continuously inhabited settlement and the best preserved of its type in the world. 

The Islamic town, al-Qasr (meaning 'the Fortress') was probably founded around the end of the 12th century A.D. by the Ayyubids, over the remains of an earlier Roman Period settlement. During that era the fortified town was the capital of the oasis, constructed in a defensive position against marauding invaders from the south and west.  Its streets were divided into quarters which could be closed off at night by barred gates.

The narrow covered streets have changed little since medieval times.  A three-story mudbrick minaret rising 21m above the Mosque of Nasr ed-Din, erected during the Ayyubid rule, is one of the landmarks of this town.  Wooden lintels over the entrances bear inscriptions from the Noble Quran and attached to the Mosque is the madrasa where the Scripture was taught to children.  Though now slightly renovated, it's still used as a school and a public meeting place.

The cool, dark and twisting alleyways of the old town offer respite from the scorching heat and consist of ornately carved beams and lintels which decorate the entrances to houses. The oldest inscription dates back to 1518 on the Beit Ibrahim.   Al-Qasr had a thriving community since antiquity. The town still has around 700 inhabitants, many of whom are craftsmen, their traditional profession, from a time gone by.

Today the town is renowned for its traditional earthenware pots and palm-leaf basketry. However, villagers who have moved out of the old town are no longer allowed to return as the Ministry of Antiquities eventually hopes to turn their deserted homes into a tourism feature. Also, no new buildings are permitted to be constructed to maintain the little town's medieval look and to keep the environment healthy. 

For many visitors, Dakhla al-Qasr is a memorable tourist spot. An old town with many streets in excellent condition, it offers the best illustration of the oasis' past.

Although modern "progress" has been very gentle on Al-Qasr, the old quarters are almost completely abandoned. The old Al-Qasr is beautiful and offers great protection against the summer heat, while the few modern houses need electric air-conditioning to stay pleasant.

El-Qasr Dakhla Oasis

Recently in modern times, perhaps a decade ago, archaeologists collected hundreds of skulls for research from the old tombs of this town. What they discovered was amazing; a proof that although we live longer lives today, cancer is far more rampant now than it ever was hundreds of years ago in this town.  Out of 650 skeleton bones of the human body, only one showed distinct signs of bone cancer which was obviously a secondary cancer spread onto the bones from a primary malignancy.  Other than this single skeleton, non of the other 600 plus skeletons showed any signs of cancer.  Compared to this, today in the modern era, at least a hundred individuals (if not more) out of every 600 would be stricken with some kind of malignancy at sometime in life. 

Some more absolutely gorgeous images of Dakhla al-Qasr.