Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 March 2020
This chapter will review the evidence of early oasis development in Western Egypt and Eastern Libya, broadly following the course of the ‘route of the oases’, running west from the Nile to Siwa, then onwards to Awjila and al-Jufra in Libya, where it met the major north-south route from the Mediterranean to Garamantian Fazzan and beyond to Chad. The evidence presented for pre-Islamic oasis development is particularly strong in this part of the Sahara; indeed the origins of agriculture at some of the Egyptian oases went back to the third millennium BC and the route as a whole seems to have been well-developed by the fifth century BC.
We suggest that the ultimate origins of oasis agriculture in the Western Desert are to be sought in the Nile Valley and the Fayum, with a package of plants and irrigation techniques first developed there, then adopted in the oasis depressions of the Western Desert – notably Kharga, Dakhla, Farfara, Bahariya and Siwa (Fig. 3.1).