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What Is an Oasis?


A spring-fed oasis town in Egypt

Photo of the Dakhla Oasis in Egypt

Argenberg on Flickr.com

An oasis is lush green area in the midst of a desert, centered around a natural spring or a well. In many cases, the oasis will be the only place where trees such as date palms grow for miles around. Caravans in desert areas such as Africa's Sahara or the dry regions of Central Asia depended on each oasis for food and water, both for the camels and their drivers, during difficult desert crossings.

Many of the major cities of the Silk Road sprang up around oases, such as Samarkand, Merv, and Yarkand.

The term "oasis" comes from the Egyptian word wh't, which became the Coptic ouahe, and then the Greek oasis. Some scholars believe that the Greek historian Herodotus was the first to borrow this word from Egypt.

Because an oasis is such a welcome sight and a haven for desert travelers, the word is now used in English to indicate any sort of relaxing stopping point - particularly bars, with their promise of liquid refreshments.

Pronunciation: "oh-A-sis"

"As soon as the camels picked up the first scent of the green oasis ahead, they perked up their ears and began to trot."

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