Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 February 2008
Issue No. 883
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Desolate. This is the feeling Dush casts on its visitors. Looking at the horizon, it is very difficult to imagine how this barren land was once a bustling border town known as Kysis. Mohamed El-Hebeishy discovers one of the last tourist frontiers.

Dush is located at the junction of five desert routes, among which are the infamous slave trade route of Darb Al-Arbain as well as the route of Darb Al-Dush, which connects the Desert Oases to the Nile Valley. With craftsmen and merchants, markets and inns, wine from the finest oases vineyards and spices from sub-Saharan Africa, Kysis pulsed with life. It is said that when the town reached its zenith during the Roman era, grains cultivated in Kysis were exported to other communities in the desert, the Nile Valley, and perhaps even as far as Rome. If you find this difficult to believe, take a stroll around and you will find yourself literally walking on shattered pottery rather than sand. Archaeologists excavating the site were stunned by the number of artefacts they found -- coins, pottery, jewellery and even letters. Such abundance aided us with a wealth of information about what life was once like in the heavily garrisoned desert stronghold.

With a fort guarding the bustling markets, green fields and busy schools, Kysis was in need of a temple. Between 81 and 96 BC, a sandstone temple was erected in honour of Osiris, the ancient Egyptian God of regeneration. The temple was built to the order of the Roman Emperor Domitian, and it was enlarged twice in the first and second centuries AD during the reign of fellow Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Though only a few decorations adorn the walls, it is strongly believed that once upon a time the whole Temple of Dush was fully covered with gold.

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

By Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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