Home Geospatial Applications Archaeology Application of GIS to describe historical urban development of Kharga City, Egypt

Application of GIS to describe historical urban development of Kharga City, Egypt

Arch Ashraf M S Mahrous
Assistant Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering AL-Minia University, Egypt
[email protected]

Prof Eng Mojmir Kyselka
Faculty of Architecture, VUT Brno, Czech republic

Dr Peter Spièa
Associate Prof, Arch. Dept. Faculty of Civil Slovak Technical University

The Cities are like trees; both of them grow under natural limits. These limits affect in the formulation of a city’s master plan. The historical urban development of cities is usually used for defining the main direction of a city’s development. One of the objectives of any master plan is to guide urban development by studing the natural properties of the city borders and to determine a suitable direction of city growth. (Antar Korain 1997, P. 153). Rodgers has suggested that the second part of a master plan must be a historical background of the city, aiming to define the effective factors in urban development. (A K Alam, 1983). The historical background should include general information for understanding the effective factors on the city’s form. (Antar Korain 1997, P. 157). The need for GIS is driven by factors such as population growth and urbanisation, which in turn create various types of geo-referenced data. Information of this kind lends itself well to the analytical capabilities of GIS. (Henk J. Scholten and John C. H. Stillwell, 1990, P. 30). GIS has the ability to create, store, edit, visualise, analyse, and present the data which is needed for carrying out the historical and future studies of the urban growth of the city.

This paper aims at supporting the master plan of Kharga City by defining the main direction of growth of Kharga City by analysing its old and recent historical urban growth.

The old historical growth
The oases area, in Egypt’s western desert, has played a significant role over various ages of the old Egyptian history. Kharga’s long history and ancient civilisation is described in several monuments going back to many ages starting from B.C. until the Islamic age.

The 2nd dynasty (5000 B.C.) had registered in Gabal El-Tayer monuments that Kharga was famous for its agricultural activity.

In the Pharaonic era Kharga oasis was called a “plough “,the Dakhla oasis was termed as “southern oasis”, while Farafra oasis was named a “cow”, which clearly speaks of welfare-as such areas were fully cultivated. Kharga and Dakhla oases, in the Pharaonic era, were one region affiliated to “Thani” region near Suhag serving the as vital defense front-line of Egypt to stand against any offensive either from the west or the south. The 26th Pharaonic dynasty(650:565B.C.) constructed Hebas temple in Kharga whereas the 27th dynasty (since 522 B.C.) built the Ghewata temple.

Persian Qambiz invaded Egypt in the 6th Century B.C.,but the King the first Dara had finished the engraving of Hebas and Ghewata temples which were like castles, overlooking any invaders coming through the Darb AL Arbaen. 

In the Greek-Roman era, agriculture had developed.The Romans had dug wells in fertile lands which were known as “Roman eyes”. The Romans also had created in architectural field, during Antonus’s reign at the beginning of the 2nd century many monuments that had been built such as the AL-Nadoura temple, EL-Dear fortressand the, Qaser AL-Zian temple. (Ashraf M. S. Mahrous, 1998)

In third and fourth centuries B.C., when Roman suppression towards of Christians increased, too many of Egypt’s Copts (Christians) fled to such oases, EL-Bagawat cemetery and church, Aen Mostfa AL-Kashef monastery, AL-Monera monastery, and Shams AL-Dean monastery all indicate Christian presence on Kharga at the time of advent of Islam to Egypt.

Fig. (1): Development curve of land uses areas

Since the Islam’s entry into Egypt life started to become stable and safe.Simplicity of life was the main feature of the oases, which were considered separated for mainstream Egyptians life. It was named “nomad’s life” until the beginning of the domination republicans in Egypt.

The recent historical growth: –
It was clear that old history had been preserved on the walls of temples and monuments. But recent history must be preserved on computer systems in a digital form, which is the modern view. The next section explains as to how to create a comprehensive historical background and define the main direction of urban growth of the Kharga City using the GIS techniques.

Fig. (1-A): enlargement of the lower right corner


Creating base-map and database for Kharga City
The base-map has been created as a set of theme map-each one describes different land-use.The base-map consists of a total of 7322 land parcels, each of them has been joined with its attribute record in the database that contains for each parcel, tabular data such as ID-Cod, land-use activity, its area, its perimeter, number of floors, total floor area, construction state, registration number in the governat cadastre, building tax collection method, ownership, construction material, number of people in the building, and the year of construction,…. etc.

Experimental Work with ArcView GIS: –
To analyse a historical growth of a city using GIS techniques, we use the following procedures: –

Merging all themes into each other for carrying out the land-use map for the whole of the Kharga City.

“Merge themes together” operation in “Geo-processing” tool has been used to merge all land use themes. This operation appends the features of the merged themes into a single theme, the attributes are retained because the attributes of each land use theme have the same names. The output file of this operation is the all land-use theme, which has been named as “Kharga Land Use (KLU)”.

Dissolving features of land-use map
Construction time of each building is the individual indicator for knowing the historical growth of the city. Therefore, dissolving features of KLU theme based on the “Year of Construction” attribute is the operation used-a Geo-processing tool- to create the Historical Land Use (HLU) theme by carrying out some additional fields in the output tabular data file such as average, sum, minimum, maximum of each field attribute, etc.

This theme is presented by the “Graduated Color legend” type, according to the classification of the Construction Year attribute field. The range of construction field has been divided into 10 grades; each grade is presents one decade starting from 1900 to 2000, in addition to two grades presenting the constructed buildings since b.c. and also the under-construction buildings.

Fig. (2): The historical land use map (HLU) and Kharga land use (KLU)

Querying and summarizing data
The attributes data of KLU theme has been summarised for the development of Land use areas, and peoples activities shown in Fig. 1, and Fig. 3 respectively. The summarising operation depended on the Count of parcels, Sum-Area, and Sum-People in each land use activity. This operation has been repeated for each decade, selected on the basis of querying operation. 
Presenting the result as charts, tables, and figures
Fig. 1 and 3 have been drawn using Microsoft Excel software with the resultant data of querying and summarising operations in ArcView GIS. Figure 2 has been derived by using ArcView GIS as a layout of achieved maps.

Fig. (3): Development curve of people’s activities in Kharga City

Result and discussion
Historical Land use development:
Fig. 1 shows that according to the registration of cadastre- the largest area of total land use is used for palm agriculture and agricultural field during the twentieth century. However, these land uses had been developed only during the fourth and the seventh decades of the last century. This is a fact because in 1958 the first construction caravan had arrived to Kharga and then it was changed into the capital city of the new valley governorat. At that time the urban area of Kharga was limited to the old-Kharga site. Aen AL-Dar well was the main water source for agriculture and drinking in addition to some wells which served as water source for agriculture at Aan AL-Shakh, Aen AL-Gadida, Aen AL-Malek, Aen AL-Kalaa, AL-Berba, and AL-Khalefa. This construction caravan developed the wells and doubled the agricultural land from 2 Km2 to 4 Km2 In addition the palm land was increased from 3.8 Km2 to 4.3 Km2. Since 1970 until now, the extension development of agriculture and palm Standstill and the Kharga oasis have begun to change to city-form. The curve also shows that land-use of public services has developed more than other land uses, the reason for this also is the arrival of construction the caravan. It is quite clear -in Fig. 1- that since 1910 to 2002 the area of houses land-use is nearly equal to the area of streets land-use. In addition, the development of such houses or streets land uses is more homogenous than other land uses where the individual affecting factor has been the rate of increasing population. Fig. 1-A – an enlargement of the lower right corner of Fig. 1- shows that emergency, educational, and management land uses have experienced growth as well as the others.

As shown in Fig. 2 each color degree in the legend of historical land use map indicates one decade and each color in the legend of Kharga Land Use map shows one land use.

During 1900-1920 the Kharga oasis has been divided into two parts, (see 1 in fig.2) the first part is agricultural land beside the monuments at the northward part of the city. The second part is residential land with agricultural land in the southward segment of the city. This is explained by the fact that during 1900-1920 people had continued farming the cultivated area –which was occupied since B.C. till the beginning of the nineteenth century-using the wells beside the monuments and started farming the land beside the residential site. It means that the people’s activity was only farming during this decade.

During 1921-1940 rresidential neighborhood-now named “Old Kharga”- had been built into two parts of the city (see 2) using clay as an appropriate material for the hot climate. The houses assimilated each other. This neighborhood is going vanishing as residents are replacing the old houses by new limited-story buildings without following any planning principles.

Since 1941-1960, with the arrival of first construction caravan, great changes have been occurred in land use areas. Agriculture land use has been extended northward and southward of the city (see 3). The management buildings had built in between the two parts of city (see 4), At the same time the new residential site for caravan of construction had been selected near the management buildings (see 5). The old Kharga neighborhood had extended in all directions (see 6). Durig 1961-1980 Kharga land-use pattern began to become an urbanised area. It started to take the form of a city where the local government developed and created public services, health and luxury facilities and religious places etc. in addition to the residential sites that had grown in all directions of the city (see 7). 

During 1981-2002 the land had been registered, as owned by the government. Therefore the residential growth was limited to the roles of the governorat and the residential society under different administrations. In other words, the governorat built the houses by financing through housing bank, then the people dwelt in them and paid the cost of buildings on monthly installment basis. This system was applied on AL-AMAL, AL-Zohur, and AL-Marwa sites (see 8). According to the second system, the governorat specified an area for every residential society, then the society divides the area and specifics parcels for each member who paid the price the of parcel by the way of monthly installment . This system was applied to Engineers’ land, farmers’ land, AL-Slam’s Land, and AL-Mohafza’s land (see 9). Most of these sites are under construction. The industrial and workshops and crafts areas have been specified in west direction around the Kharga-Dakhla road. Some of the parcels have been built, and most of them are under-construction (see 10 in fig.2). In the tourist field, the governorat and private companies have built hotels such as AL-Kharga Hotel, AL-Waha hotel, Hamad Allah Hotel, AL-Dar AL-Bidaa Hotel and AL-Rouad Hotel. Regarding transportation, the governorat has built a railroad system joining Kharga with Safaga on the Red Sea beach for the export of phosphates from Abou Tartour. It also joins the Kharga City with its villages for public travel. 

Development of Public activites: Fig. 3 shows that during 1900-1960 the main activity of the people was in the field of agriculture until the change from an oasis to city took place. Then administrative jobs became the main activity of the people, morever, people working in educational services out numbered those working in the agricultural field since 1980s.

Conclusion and recommendation
On the basis of our research presented in this paper we conclude that: though urban planning has used computer model and information system but the local governorat use a traditional methods for the planning process and it also depended on a few inexpert engineers for urban planning of Kharga city. The GIS technique is a powerful tool for analysing the historical urban development. 

The year 1958 was turning point for Kharga City when all land use of the city was been developed as well as before. In 1958 the construction caravan developed the wells and doubled the agricultural land from 2 Km2 to 4 Km2. In addition, It increased the palm land from 3.8 Km2 to 4.3 Km2. The main growth direction of Kharga City is northward to southward, the city has grown around two centers: the agricultural land and the archaeological monuments. During the twentieth century the area of houses land uses is nearly equalise the area of streets land uses. Since 1970 until now, the extension development of agriculture and palm Standstill and the Kharga oasis have been undergoing a continuous process of urbanisation. Urban planning management of Kharga City doesn’t obey any planning principles and the land parcels specialisation process can be considered as a random method of land distribution. Thus we strongly recommend that the local government to transfer the urban planning process to such specialists as the National Planning Institute or the universities of planning.


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The authors gratefully thank everybody who, through advice, review, or assistance with the preparation of this paper or the Ph. D. thesis of the first author, have helped tremendously. Ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Feilmayr graciously extended help and advice in connection the library of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Technical University, Vienna, Austria. Similarly, the first author deeply acknowledges advice from received Obrat. Dipl-Ing. Leopold Riedl, at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Technical University, Vienna, Austria who helped him during learning the techniques of GIS. The Authors thank Assistant Prof. Dr. Antar A. Korin, at Minia University, Egypt, for sending references, comments, and greatly beneficial advice.