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Dakhla  to Farafra via Darb Abu Minqar (one day)





Total Km

Ezbet Mahub

Gharb Mahub

Abu Minqar









Farafra arch











Dakhla to Farafra is a 310 kilometer(194 mile) journey (from Gharb Mahub) over the longest, most desolate drive of the loop between the four oases. This was the first road paved in the New Valley scheme to join Farafra to Dakhla.

   The modern village of Gharb Mahub, created as [art of the New Valley project, is 30 kilometers (1807 miles) from Qasr Dakhla. It is a Bedouin settlement and has a fine hot spring near the road called Bir Ashra, Well Ten. This village was once outside the Dakhla Oasis, but now has become a part of it. Just beyond Gharb Mahub the road was under construction for over ten years before it was finally completed.

Ezbat Mahub and Migma

Founded in the century, Ezbat Mahub is located on the road Farafra, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Qasr. The families here came with the Sanusi from the Gebel al-Akhdar in Tripolitania to establish and Muhammad al-Mahub.

   The nondescript village of Migma appears on the right 8 kilometers (5 miles) later. Then, for over 200 kilometers (125 miles) there is nothing. Flat, soft sand sits on either side of the road, the pink and white escarpment keeps you company on the right, and finally the eastern edge of the Great Sand Sea becomes visible on the left. With no car behind as far as the eye can see, no oncoming traffic, and a silence that can be heard, you might feel yourself to be at the end of the earth. This is a pastel environment, with a big, pale blue sky forming the backdrop.

Naqb al-lgla (Pass of the Ox)

N 26 00 920 E27 55 842

This pass is not a pass in the manner we have come to understand in the Western Desert, but a small hill. It received its name from the carcass of a mummified cow that had wandered into the desert, locls say from Farafra. Placing it upright atop the small hill it overlooked the road, a lonely sentinel serving as a reminder that the desert can kill.

Abu Minqar

Abu Minqar, Place of the Beak, comes into view a good 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) before you reach it. It shimmers ina liquid mirage, the only dark spot in the entire landscape. The Romans cultivated the area around Abu Minqar and some of  their plowed fields can still seen in autline.

   Abu Minqar is 230 kilometers (143 miles) from Qasr Dakhla and only 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Libyan border to the west. It sits at the eastern edge of the Great Sand Sea.

   Where once this was a major checkpoint in the Western Desert, with a border patrol  that asked for passports and car papers  in 1998 no checkpoint existed. Instead  the small village at Abu Minqar  with a restaurant and first aid station has grown into a community. It, too, is under development, for underground water also exists here. Homesteaders are given ten free feddans and house with free electricity  and water.

   From the checkpoint it is only 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) to the base of the escarpment. As the road snakes its way to the top take time to look back on the fine view, for a few kilometers later the road plunges down again and you are in the Farafra Depression.

   As short distance after the descent into Farafra  is Belle Vue at N 26 32 444 and E 27 51 853. It looks like a great place to camp and is certainly a great place to go off road and explore. At Belle Vue you are 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the arch at Qasr Farafra. There are a number of villages and small garden oases before the arch. They are all described below in Tour #2.

To Qasr Farafra from Bahariya Oasis (2-4 hours)





Total Km

Sheikh Abdullah Muhammad
Crystal Mountain





Naqb al-Sillim
White Desert (middle)
Qasr farafra checkpoint











The road  between Bahariya and Farafra was paved in 1978. Until that time the Darb. al-Bahariya (if coming from Bahariya it is called Darb al-Farafra) and the difficult Naqb al-sellim were used. Those old caravan routes lie to the southeast (left) of the modern road and, with a good guide, offer an off-road alternative route to Farafra. When almost to the Farafra escarpment a single, lonely roadsign in English and Arabic marks the kilometers as 125. (N27 26 208 E 28 27 645.)

   This itinerary is for the paved road. Once out of the Bahariya Depression, the scenery changes dramatically. Where Bahariya was all yellow sand and black-topped hills, this new area is dotted with white chalk cliffs, a taste of the majestic chalk escarpments that await the visitor in Farafra.

Qarat Sheikh Abdullah Muhammad

Qarat Sheikh Abdulla Muhammad is located 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) drom the top of the escarpment leading out of Bahariya. This tiny spot on the right side of the road might at a distance be mistaken for a checkpoint, but is thought by some to be the final resting place of a prominent Sanusi sheikh from Farafra. In truth, the sheikh is buried on the Darb al-Bahariya, the old route from Bahariya to Farafra about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the southeast. Once the new road was built, someone throught to move the site so pilgrims  wishing favors from the sheikh would have easier access. The new location has been carefully tended: flages fly from small wooden masts, saplings have been planted in the hope of offering shade, and there is a zir filled with water available for any passing stranger. There is also a prayer cirle outlined by rocks on the ground for Muslims to pray.

Crystal Mountain

Three kilometers (1.8 miles) beyond the sheikh's tomb is a small mountain less than ten meters (32 feet) from the left-hand side of the road. Just beyond the mountain, on the western side, as the road goes, is a small quartz crystal rock with a large hole in the center. This is Gebel al-Izaz, Crystal Mountain, also known locally as Hagar al-Makhrum, Rock with a Hole. There are plenty of quartz crystals lying about and several mountains in the area are laced with the mineral.

Naqb al-Sillim

The Naqb al-Sillim, Pass of the Stairs, appears 50 kilometers (30 miles) after ascending the escarpment  at Bahariya and 24 kilometers (15 miles) after Crystal Mountain. This is the main pass descending the escarpment into Farafra Depression. Actually, the original Naqb al-Sillim is the pass to the southeast along the Darb al-Bahariya N 27 25 088 E 28   26 853. This pass ws just renamed the same thing when the new road was built. Just before the descent is a very tall communications tower which serves as a good landmark while offroad in the Fafafra desert. Beside it is one of the dozens of First Aid Stations recently erected along the desert routes.

Twin Peaks

As the roadway tumbles down the slope, a series of outlier hills, sometimes called sugarloaves because of their bowl-like shape, creates a dramatic backdrop to the southeast (left) of the road . This area is called Aqabat, 'the difficult.' At the end of the sugarloaves, isolated through easily recognized by its two flat-topped peaks, sits Twin Peaks, one of the most prominent landmarks in Farafra. See illustration on P.169.

White Desert and lnselbergs

After 10  kilometers (6.2 miles) the famous and beautiful white chalk of Farafra Depression comes into view. Prominent steep-sided hills, standing alone and rising from the level plain, they continue along the escarpment to the northwest (right) of the main road for 20 kilometers (12.5 miles). White, and of a considerable height, the inselbergs rise majestically in this area and together with the white Desert, comprise one of the unique natural wonders of Egypt. It is hoped that they will someday be the centerpieces of a National Park.  

   There are inselbergs on other planets in our solar system and scientists have come to the Western Desert to better under-stand the function of these outstanding conical hills on Mars. On Earth, they are created when plateaus begin to break-down. Then, areas that are topped with bedrock remain behind. Erosion continues around them until they become free standing, steep-sided, flat-topped, or conical, hills. These shapes vary based on the aridity of the area. In semi-arid deserts, where water aids erosion, they tend to crumble on one or more sides. In hyper-arid deserts, like the Western Desert, where win alone is doing the job, they do not.

   With a 4x4 or dirt bike you can detour off the road, driving beside and between the rocks. Even to walk between the peaks is a memorable experience. Dominating the inselbergs are massive monoliths, which are worth exploring


Each oasis has its own personality and are so different from one another it is amazing that they are in the same desert. Kharga bustles. Dakhla is pastoral. Baharyia seems tranquil. But Farafra is haunting .One always feels there is something Farafra wants to tell us, like it has a deep secret it wants to share, but we have to work to find it. It is most isolated oasis and most difficult to reach; yet, there is evidence to support the theory that it binds the entire Western Desert together. It had little to offer pharaoh, caliph, or king, remaining isolated for centuries; yet it is on way to everywhere. If you are in the deep desert, Farafra is always nearby. The joy of Farafra its simplicity.



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