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New Valley: the oldest and the newest
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 11 - 09 - 2012

In Egypt, there is a fascinating desert area that has many cultural and historic features and environmental and archaeological wonders, which attract many tourists and explorers from throughout the world.
If you make a tour in the New Valley Governorate, in the south-west of Egypt's Western Desert, you will encounter all the natural and manmade attractions of this desert area. It extends to the Libyan and Sudanese borders, and includes five administrative centres: the Oases of Kharga, Dakhla and Farafra, Baris, and Balat.
The New Valley Governorate is the governorate noted for attracting a diversity of tourists from numerous countries. It also hosts many international competitions, such as the Pharaohs' Rally, which is held annually in the month of October. Next October the governorate also awaits the arrival of 30 Egyptian and foreign cyclists in the ‘Challenge to Pass Egypt' competition in a bid to reactivate tourism.
New Valley is one of the newest governorates in modern Egypt but the oldest in terms of its antiquities throughout the historic period and its pre-historic relics. It includes the celebrated El-Gilf El-Kebir, which contains many prehistoric cave paintings of man, notably the famous swimmers (commemorating when there was a vast lake in this area, still evident in the shells and marine fossils found there). There are also depictions of animals that have long become extinct in the Western Desert, such as the giraffe.
In Kharga Oasis, there is the Hibis temple from the sixth century BC, dedicated to the worship of Amoun-Re, Mut and Khunso.
To the south of Kharga there are further temples and Roman fortresses as well as the Islamic antiquities in Dakhla Oasis and its historic and picturesque town of al-Qasr. There are also Roman antiquities, such as the first century AD Deir el-Hagar Temple.
The New Valley has become a destination for international geologists, especially after the discovery in 2008 of the ancient meteorite site in the East Uweinat Desert – the Kamil Crater – which is a protected area.
The New Valley is renowned for the work of its artists and craftspeople, such as el-Qasr village at Kharga famous for its clay products and sculpture and el-Bashindi in el-Dahkla noted for its woven carpets. (The village is named after Pasha Hindi, a mediaeval sheikh, whose tomb is found here as well as many Roman tombs.)
Until 1979, the New Valley area was prohibited to foreign visitors and when it was opened to tourists in 1980 there was only one hotel at that time.
Subsequently the tourism movement started to flourish and now there are 20 hotels there, which are distinguished from other governorates by their innovative and attractive designs and concepts, such as environmentally friendly buildings and pioneering and award-winning eco-lodges.


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