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                                 Farafra Oasis Tours

The tours

For  travelers to Farafra it is wise to stay on the main road and only venture into the desert with a local guide. Farafra is one the most beautiful places in the world but, like many beautiful things, it can be deadly. It is far into the Western Desert, hundreds of kilometrs from a large city with modern services, and unlike Bahariya, where the depression is long and narrow and a trek in direction from the main road is hemmed by the escarpment, the main road in Farafra hugs the northwestern escarpment, leaving the rest of this large depression uninhabited, a true wilderness. The eastern and western scarps are so far apart that they cannot serve as markers. The south has no end, but stretches on forever to places that have seldom seen human footsteps. For the professional as well as the amateur desert traveler, misjudgment in such a place can lead to disaster. It isn't easy to keep one's bearings amid the dunes and rock-strewn plains of such a place. And heading in the wrong direction can become a life threatening situation.


Tour # 1

Qasr Farafra

Qasr Farafra was once the only inhabited village in the entire depression. Never heavily populated, in 1819, there were 180 people in Qasr with a total of 600 throughout the oasis. In 1874, there were just 345 people living in III houses. By 1892, the population had grown to 542. In 1936, about 600. In 1968, I,II8. In 1993, there were 3,000 in Qasr and a total of 5,000 in the entire oasis. The village sits atop a 10 meter (32 foot) hill of hard white chalk which rises gently from the desert floor.

   Qasr Farafa is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the southwestern escarpment and 54 kilometers (33 miles) from the northeastern one. The main road passes Qasr Farafra along the bottom of the hill. It is here that new building are growing at a rapid rate. There is cafeteria, a bus stop, and several small kiosk-type restaurants which offer ful, canned beef, cheese, and bottled water. And there is a hotel.


Badr's Museum

Badr is a local artist and entrepreneur who has fared rather well in recent years. His original small but interesting museum, which was located in the village of Qasr itself, has been abandoned for a wonderful mudbrick structure that the built himself. Inside is everything from taxidermy to sculpture, and paintings are on display.  It is Badr who is responsible for the unique wall decorations found in the village.


The Fortress

The fortress of  Farafra dominates the top of the hill. Like its counterparts in other oases, it was once a walled city used by the inhabitants as protection from invaders. The villagers would hasten to the fortress for safety, each family occupying a designated room where they had stored provisions. At other times, a single occupant guarded the interior. Cailliaud records the fortress was 35feet high and 350 feet in circumference in 1819. In 1909, when Harding King visited the oasis, the fortress had around 125 rooms (earlier travelers record as many as 226 rooms) and the tower was still standing. Damaged by heavy rain, the fortress began to crumble in the 1950s and collapsed considerably in 1958. Currently it has two large entrances and, uniquely amongst buildings of this type, it is still partially inhabited.

   Harding King believed the fortress was originally erected by the Romans and was much the same as the fortresses in Kharga Oasis. He is probably correct. In the fifteenth century, probably when desert raids intensified, it was either enlarged or rebuilt. By the time King visited the oasis the fortress was empty, guarded by a single watchman who was responsible for protecting the goods of the various families that used it as storehouse.

   Beyond the fortress the square widens and  to the left once stood the mosque. This was  an old Sanusi mosque, with a stone in one of the corners that acted as a sun dial. When the people built a new mosque at the bottom of the hill, they saw no reason to keep the old one, so they tore it down. What a pity!


Bir Sitta

N27  04  273  E  27  55  738

Bir Sitta is the hot spring designated by the people for tourists to use. Do not jump into the spring within the vicinity of Qasr. The road leading to the bir is 3.3 kilometers (2 miles) from the beginning of the road to the Military Intelligence Camp. Turn right. The bir is visible  at the top of the hill to the left of the new hotel. 


Goshna and Gifrin

Suburban sprawl has reached Farafra and the once empty oasis of Goshna is now crowded with homes. Some of them are owned by foreigners who find the oasis a perfect place to spend their vacations. The open plain that once separated Goshna from Farafra has all but disappeared.

   Gifrin is still empty. Gifrin has a proper track exiting Qasr by a left-hand turn opposite the café along the main road (see map).  


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