Farafra Oasis Travel Guide
Al Farafra is a small oasis located in Egypt's western desert. It's one of the most isolated oases of the governorate of Al-Wadi Al-Gadid in Southern Egypt. Maybe this is why the people who live in Farafra are still famous today for practicing their old traditions and customs.
Farafra has gained the attention of tourists during the last few years because of its unique magic and because the oasis can be the starting point for many interesting tours in the Western Desert of Egypt like the white desert, the black desert the Crystal Mountains.
The location of the Farafra Oasis
The Farafra Oasis is located in the western desert of Egypt inside the borders of the governorate of Al-Wadi Al-Gadid, the largest governorate in Egypt in terms of space.
The Farafra is 170 kilometers away from the Bahaerya Oasis, 627 kilometers away from Cairo, and 370 kilometers to the South West of Marsa Matruh and the Mediterranean Sea
The History of Farafra
Historians believed that the oasis of Farafra went through three phases in prehistoric times when the oasis was exposed to a set of heavy rains. This was proof that Farafra hosted inhabitants since the prehistoric era when these rains attracted many Egyptians to go and live in the Farafra.
Some other historians believe that the Farafra was the connection point between the Libyan Desert and the Egyptian desert. With many trading routes between the Western Desert and the Nile Valley, Farafra was one of the most important transit points for the caravans
The Farafra Oasis had a role as well in the Pharos' time as this small oasis was mentioned in many ancient Egyptian texts, especially during the reign of the 10th dynasty in the 21st BC. Farafra was called "Ana Akhet", or the land of the cow as a symbol of fertility about the ancient god Hathor and it was best described as the city of conquest or invasion because of its remoteness.
In the new kingdom, there was some evidence that Ramses II used to import stones from the Farafra Oasis to be used in constructing his many temples in Luxor precisely. However, no mining locations have ever been discovered in the Farafra.
During the Roman era, the oasis, including Al Dakhla, Al Kharga, Al Bahareya, and Al Farafra was the land of grains as many grains were cultivated in the lands of the oasis. The Romans left some monuments in the Farafra like the Qaser Al Farafra, the Farafra Palace and Qaser Abu Monqar, and some other rock-cut tombs. There are also the ruins of a Roman Temple.
In the Coptic time, Egyptian Copts used to escape the aggressiveness and assaults of the Romans and go to the Farafra and the other oasis as well. The Copts left some ruins in Farafra that prove they had a sort of civilization there.
After the Arab conquest of Egypt, the trade of dates and olives between the Farafra oasis and the Nile Valley flourished tremendously. Camel caravans were used to carry the goods and products of the Farafra to the district of Dirot in the Nile Valley. The caravans used to go back to the Farafra full of cloth, tea, and all the products of the Nile Valley.
The family of Mohamed Ali gave some attention to the oasis and the Farafra among them. This was why Khedive Ismail sent the German scientist, Gerhard Rudolf, to see if the Farafra hosted a river that contained no water. Rudolf tried to pass through the western desert to reach Farafra but he was never able to do so. However, he spent three months, with his caravan, in the Egyptian desert and oasis. Rudolf published an interesting study concerning his stay in the deserts of Egypt and this publication worked as a reference for anyone who wanted to explore the Western Desert
Just before the end of the 19th century, a Senusi worship site, a Muslim political-religious system that was established in Libya and the Sudan region and was founded in Mecca in 1837, was built in the Farafra. This made many Senusis emigrate from the Libyan desert to the Farafra. The Senusis remained in the Farafra until the beginning of the 20th century. Even today, many original inhabitants who belong to the Farafra Oasis have the name Senusi and have some Senusi origins.
The Farafra Oasis today
Today Farafra has a population of more than 20 thousand people. However, most of them originate from the Nile Valley and they came to Farafra to work as farmers. There is also an important agriculture project in Farafra covering more than 10 thousand Hectares near a well called Bir Qarawein.
Until recently, all the routes going from to the Farafra Oasis, or from Al Bahareya or Al Dakhla, were not paved and travelers used to suffer a lot to reach this unique oasis.
However, nowadays there is a good network of roads that connects Farafra with other oases of the Western Desert and with the Nile Valley as well.
The capital and the most important town in the Farafra Oasis is the city of Qaser Farafra. This is the most ancient part of the Farafra Oasis and in the 19th century, Qaser Farafra was the only inhabited city in the Western Desert with a population of only 200 people.
Many tourists choose Farafra today as it started being famous worldwide for its quietness and warm weather. People from the United States and Europe come to the Oasis to escape the cold weather in their homeland. They also visit the Farafra to enjoy the wonders of the Western Desert.
Water wells in Farafra
Due to its geographical location and geological formation, the Farafra Oasis enjoys having several natural water wells. There are more than 100 wells spread all over the lands of the Farafra. Most of these wells are used in the aggregation of the cultivated land in the oasis.
Some of the wells in Farafra have become a favorite touristic destination.
Bir Sitta, (well number 6 in Arabic), Bir Sab'a (well number 7), and Bir Athnain wa ishrin (well number#22) are the most important wells in the Farafra Oasis. Because of their warm temperature and the slight percentage of Sulfurous in their water, these wells are very favorable for swimming and relaxation.
There is also a huge lake and a well with the name of Abu Nus located 15 kilometers to the north of the Farafra Oasis. This area has also become a major touristic attraction as well.
The white desert
The white desert is the most popular and interesting area in the Western Desert. The white desert became a protected area in 2002. It occupies a surface area of around three thousand kilometers.
On the road that goes between Farafra and Baharya, one can see the first bizarre rock formation in the white desert. Some rocks look like animals, and mushrooms, and some rocks have totally strange shapes.
As the saying goes" Nature is the art of god". The white desert is clear evidence of the ability of the god to form his universe. Maybe this is why the "finger of God" is located in the white desert. The finger of god or "Al Qubar", the Chisel, is a 20 meters high rock formation that can be seen from far away even from the paved road, and the locals like to call it the finger of God as it looks like a huge finger rising from the sand.
No one would ever believe that this white desert was covered with a sea in ancient times and the white chalk that formed all these rocks was deposited from this sea. If one takes a closer look at the rocks of the white desert, he can notice that there are seashells in the halls of the rocks.
To the northeast of the white desert, there is an area called Aqabat, or "obstacles" in English. Of course, this name had a reason and this area is full of obstructions that face anyone who wants to pass through. In the middle of this area, lies the mountain of Twin Peaks which is an important landmark for travelers.
In the western section of the white desert, which is much less visited than the East section because of the poor conditions of the roads leading to it, there is the ancient site of Wadi Al Ubayid or the white valley.
The black desert and the crystal mountain
The black desert mainly consists of mountains formed primarily out of numerous volcanoes small black stones and rocks. However, these rocks lay on an orange-brown background. As many people would say" The black desert is not as black in comparison to the white color of the white desert"
Most of the tourists who go to the White and black deserts usually would like to visit the famous crystal mountain. In contradiction to its name, the rocks in this mountain are not crystals, they are rather Barite which is a substance that is less hard than crystals.
Crystal Mountain has an interesting story. The Egyptian government broke parts of this mountain to construct the road between the Bahareya Oasis and the Farafra Oasis. This made the crystal rocks appear and it turned this area into a famous touristic site.