qasr el sagha

qasr el sagha, the Golden Fortress, is an unusual Middle Kingdom building situated north of the lake, halfway up the escarpment.

At one time the northern shore of Lake Qarun stood close to_ the temple. The temple is constructed of limestone slabs fitted together like a jig-saw puzzle, complete with oblique comer joints.

It is a marvel of construction so well built that it still stands, as it has for centuries, without the help of any mortar.Never completed, it has a series of rooms, with one completely enclosed and without an entrance.

The function of this unusual building is unclear, but it certainly had a strategic view of the Surrounding area.

qasr el sagha

Be sure to find the peephole in the east door.

Caton-Thompson, who excavated in the Fayoum in the 1930s, believed it to be a funeral site and

that burial chambers exist there.

Since the slab-like structure is similar to the slabs mined in the nearby quarries, could it have been built by the miners?

qasr el sagha stands on a small, flat,natural platform on the side of the north- ¢l’11 escarpment and below it are extensive remains of the village that once stood nearby.

The area is well worth exploring, for in addition to the village to the southWest there is evidence of an ancient l’0adway, a causeway, hand-hewn rock Caves, and several prehistoric villages.

The prehistoric sites are located on the Hat qasr el sagha plain to the south of the temple.

Judging from the ground litter, the northern villages seem to have been inhabited by hunters while the southem sites, nearer the ancient lake, seem to have been inhabited by farmers and fishermen.

qasr el sagha

Quay

Almost immediately to the southeast of qasr el sagha (about 700 meters/0.4 mile) there is a large amount of rock.

Gertrude Caton-Thompson believed this was a dump site for the rock mined at Widan al- Faras that was either awaiting transport to the Nile Valley or used to build a monument onthe site.

Today we believe it to bean ancient quay that was used to ship the basalt slabs mined at

Widan al-Faras across the lake.

Discovered by Georg Schweinfurth in l884, and sometimes referred to as Schweinfurth’s Temple, the area was also studied by Sir Flinders Petrie, Hanbury Brown, and Gertrude Caton-Thompson.

It is 24.6 km (15 miles) to Qasr al-Sagha from the main road.

A controversial new paved road has been proposed. The joumey, as of 2008, takes about an hour

and requires a 4×4. The beginning of the track to Qasr el-Sagha and Dimeh is on the left, or north, side of the Cairo-Fayoum road, 1.3 km (0.8 miles) beyond the Kom Aushim Museum, just after a small bridge. Follow the track 3 km (1.9 miles) to a fork and bear right. You are on the graded road to Qasr el-Sagha. It passes through quarries, then desert. It is wash-board and uncomfortable. At 20 to 21 km (12.5 miles) from the beginning of the road, the destinations are in sight. Ahead,

Dimeh rises out of the desert floor like the monoliths of Stonehenge.

A little to the right, halfway up a flat-topped peak on the scarp, is the temple of qasr al Sagha. At

the right, below the summit of Gebel Deir Abu Lifa, are the barely visible ruins of the monastery. Continuing on, at 22.5 km (14 miles) there is a sign for qasr al  sagha, and at 24.6 (15.2) the road bears right. The road climbs up the scarp to qasr al sagha and a parking space directly in front of the monument awaits.

qasr el sagha

Deir Abu Lifa

Two kilometers (1.2 miles) northeast of qasr el sagha, high on the southeastern slope of the escarpment where it protrudes into the plain, are the ruins of the rock-hewn Deir Abu Lifa, Monastery of Father Lifa.

Probably founded by St. Panoukhius, the monastery was in use from the seventh through to the ninth century and was a haven for Christians during troubled times.

The entrance to the monastery is cut into the mountain.

Inscriptions date the monastery to as early as 686.

Predictably, Fayoumi legend relates that there is buried treasure at this monastery, for when the monks of the Fayoum abandoned nearby monasteries it is claimed they took their possessions and buried them at Deir Abu Lifa. Henri Munier and André Pochan visited the monastery in 1936.

 

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