The fortress-town of el-Deir, also known as Deir el-Ganayim, lies at the foot of the eastern escarpment about 20km north of el-Kharga, where it guarded the main desert route towards Farshut and the Nile Valley. It is one of the most impressive Roman fortresses in North Kharga.
The huge enclosure measures 73m square and had twelve round towers interspersed along its thick mudbrick walls. The towers were interconnected by a parapet running along the top, accessible via staircases inside the fortress. Entrances to the fortress were on the northern, eastern and western walls but it is the southern wall which is the best preserved, still rising to a height of around 10m. The interior is now empty apart from a few rooms on the southern side of the courtyard and the plastered walls of these rooms still contain a wealth of modern graffiti left by British soldiers who were stationed nearby during the First World War, as well as many Arabic, Coptic and Turkish names. In the centre of the courtyard a deep well provided the inhabitants with water which was also channelled through an ingenious system of underground conduits to the outbuildings and cultivated fields beyond. Although never excavated, the fortress is thought to date from the reign of Diocletian at the end of the 3rd century AD.
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