El-Kharga (meaning the outer oasis) is the southernmost of Egypt's five western oases. It is located in the Libyan Desert, about 200 km to the west of the Nile valley, and is some 150 km long. It is located in and is the capital of New Valley Governorate. This oasis, which was known as the 'Southern Oasis' to the Ancient Egyptians, is the largest of the oases in the Libyan desert of Egypt and "consists of a depression about 160km long and from 20km to 80km wide." Its population is over 100,000.
Kharga is the most modernized of Egypt's western oases. The main town is a highly functional town with all modern facilities, and virtually nothing left of old architecture. Although framed by the oasis, there is no oasis feeling to it; unlike all other oases in this part of Egypt. There are extensive thorn palm, acacia, buffalo thorn and jujube forests in the oasis surrounding the modern town of Kharga. Many remnant wildlife species inhabit this region.
The Darb el-Arbain trade route, passing through Kharga in the south and Asyut in the north, was a long caravan route running north-south between Middle Egypt and the Sudan. It was used from as early as the Old Kingdom of Egypt for the transport and trade of gold, ivory, spices, wheat, animals and plants. The maximum extent of the Darb el-Arbain was northward from Kobbei, 25 miles north of al-Fashir, passing through the desert, through Bir Natrum and Wadi Howar, and ending in Egypt.
All the oases have always been crossroads of caravan routes converging from the barren desert. In the case of Kharga, this is made particularly evident by the presence of a chain of fortresses that the Romans built to protect the Darb el-Arbain. The forts vary for size and function, some being just small outposts, some guarding large settlements complete with cultivation. Some were installed where earlier settlements already existed, while others were probably founded anew. All of them are made of mud bricks, but some also contain small stone temples with inscribed walls.
Described by Herodotus as a road "traversed ... in forty days," the Darb el-Arbain became by his time an important land route facilitating trade between Nubia and Egypt. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the Forty Days Road.
As part of a caravan proceeding to Dafur, the English explorer W.G. Browne paused for several days at Kharga, leaving with the rest of the group 7 June 1793. At the time a Gindi was stationed at Kharga, "belonging to Ibrahim-bey-el-kebir, to whom those villages appertain; and to [this official] is entrusted the management of what relates to the caravan during the time of its stay there."
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kharga_Oasis