Farafra Oasis Egypt

Farafra is the nearest oasis to the White Desert. People usually visit this desert from Bahariya and miss out on seeing Farafra. Which is a pity as Farafra has a special charm all of its own. 

The Farafronies have had their number swelled in recent years by the new valleys settlement scheme. Wells were drilled to supply with water these new farms and the population has increased considerably from a few thousand in the 1980s to over 15,000 today.
Many of these people live in the new hamlets that surround the main town of Qasr Farafra which now has around 5000 inhabitants.
This has led to an increase in the number of shops on the highway as you drive through- always a useful thing for resupplying a desert journey.

As you walk around Farafra with its low, tin-roofed buildings it is hard to picture it in Roman or even Ottoman times. At first sight, it seems as if the old mud walled, originally Roman, a fortress in town has fallen into disrepair, largely washed away by freak rainfall since the 1950s.

The other mud fortresses- notably in Dakhla Oasis are uninhabited- but despite its parlous state of repair the Farafra fortress still has a few families thus providing a unique sense of continuity to the ancient past of the oases.

Crafts of Farafra

Unlike Siwa, with its jewelry, and Dakhla and Kharga with their ceramics, there is no great craft tradition celebrated in Farafra apart from the spinning of wool- both from camels and sheep. Unusually, both for Egypt and the world in general, spinning is considered a male occupation.

Heavy fellows can be seen strolling the main street twirling a spindle and bobbin as they chat with friends and drink a glass of mint tea. Knitting, too, as amongst sailors, is an occupation practiced by men as well as a few liberated women in Farafra.

Hot Springs

As in Bahariya, Farafra is well endowed with hot springs. What could be more relaxing than soaking away the desert sand after a hard safari through the White Desert? Bir Sitta, Well Six, is particularly good for travellers, especially if suffering a few aches and pains from the new experience of camel riding. The large hot bath contains traces of sulphur which are said to aid muscle and joint recovery.

Farafra has its own institutionsbut they are people rather than places. There is the ubiquitous ‘Mr Socks’ a relative of the Bedouin Badawi clan who bombs around on his moped with a wooden crate full of hand knitted socks and other useful Bedouin type apparel.

The socks are great for the desert at night and good for padding around oasis hotels when you do not want a stray mosquito going for your ankles.

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