Before arriving to Mut, the most populous center of the oasis of Dakhla in the Egyptian Western Desert is the little medieval jewel of El-Qasr. It lies between the fresh vegetation growing at its southern edge and the delicate pink and white cliffs protecting it from the north and surrounding a large part of the oasis. The adobe walls have already lost almost all the polychrome plaster decoration that used to cover them, but their enduring vestiges speak of a rich past of commerce, schools, life. The elaborate woodwork of the doorposts and the solitude of the patios tell about a history beginning with the Roman military origins of the place which rose to the range of a cultural center in the Ottoman period (1516-1798). Of course there are also some scattered stones with hieroglyphic inscriptions from unidentifiable ancient temples. The inhabitants used to produce olive oil, exported corn and dates, and worked as carpenters and blacksmiths. It was just recently depopulated. Although there is some governmental program of maintenance and you can see scattered groups of masons repairing the walls or simply protecting themselves from the sun, El-Qasr will barely survive this neglect. Nowadays its only hope is in selling to the highly contradictory tourism its soul to save its body (or vice versa).

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