Djara Cave

Rohlfs Cave - Djarra Cave - Gara Cave


Useful Information

Location: Abu Muhariq Plateau, next to an old camel track, connecting Farafra and Assiut.
Open: no restrictions.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light:  
Dimension: Main Chamber: L=30 m, W=30 m, H=7 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Gerhard Rohlfs (1875): Drei Monate in der libyschen Wüste, Cassel 1875.
G.A. Brook, N. S. Embabi, M. M. Ashour, R. L. Edwards, H. Cheng, J. B. Cowart, A. A. Dabous (2002):
Djara Cave in the Western Desert of Egypt: Morphology and evidence of Quaternary climatic change,
Cave and Karst Science 29 (2): 57-66.
Erich Claßen, Karin Kindermann, Andreas Pastoors, Heiko Riemer (2001):
Djara 90/1 - Felsbildhöhle und Fundplatz eines holozänen Gunstraums der Nordost-Sahara (Ägypten),
Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 2001. Deutsch - German researchgate
R. Kuper (1996): Between the Oases and the Nile - Djara: Rohlfs' cave in the Western Desert,
In: L. Krzyzaniak/K. Kroeper/M. Kobusiewicz (eds.) Interregional Contacts in the Later Prehistory of Northeastern Africa. Studies in African Archaeology 5. Poznan: 81-91.
Address:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

24-DEC-1873 discovered by the German explorer Gerhard Rohlfs during his famous expedition.
1897 rediscovered by the geologist Hugh J.L. Beadnell who led a survey of Farafra oasis.
1990 first official archaeological survey and test excavation.
1999 ACACIA expedition surveys and documents cave pictures.
2000 ACACIA expedition surveys and documents cave pictures.

Description

Djara cave is rather famous, as it is one of the very few well decorated caves in Egypt. It is located the middle of the Western Desert, on a limestone plateau, next to an old camel track connecting Farafra and Assiut. There is a shallow doline, partly filled by desert sand. On one side is the cave entrance leading down a steep slope into the main chamber. Descriptions of the chamber differ, but it is rather huge and has numerous speleothems. The cave is easy to visit, many parts have a level floor, covered by the sand of the desert. The visit is a little strenuous because the cave is warm and very humid. Light is required and a helmet is a good idea too.

The cave is also famous for its cave art, engravings depicting game and people. They were made during the Holocene wet phase, when this area was occupied by early hunters/gatherers. Remains on the surface were dated by C-14 to be 8600-6000 BP. The Djara region, an area with a size of almost 5 by 10 km, was inhabited during this time. It was wetter, so life was possible, but there was not enough rain for the growth of flowstone. In earlier wet phases the amount of rain was much higher, and the speleothems were formed during these periods. They are dated by the 18O method to be mostly of marine isotope stage 5 age.

After the climate changed, and the people had left the area, the cave was forgotten for millennia. It was rediscovered in 1873 by the German explorer Gerhard Rohlfs during his famous expedition. According to his travelogue he was led to a spacious dripstone cave by a local Bedouin. He describes a spacious dripstone cave with magnificent stalactites near a place called Djara. Almost 25 years later the geologist Hugh J.L. Beadnell led a survey of Farafra oasis. He stumbled upon the cave by accident on his way from Farafra to Assuit. He also noted the presence of stone tools scattered around its entrance.

The cave was obviously known to the locals all the time, so the "discovery" by westerners is actually not that big a thing. None of them examined the cave very well, neither did they write a detailed description. Beadnell noted the presence of stone tools scattered around its entrance. Nevertheless it was not revisited for a very long time. In 1990 the first official archaeological surveys and test excavation occurred, but Hugh J.L. Beadnells stone tools had disappeared. Around 2000 it was finally scientifically explored, and since then it is possible to visit the cave again. Even a sign was placed, written on a stone, and a trail marked with two rows of rocks. Otherwise, the cave is undeveloped. The visit is a two-day desert trip from Bahariya, which must be organized in advance. The trip must be registered at the police station, which is normally done by your operator. Until today officials kept limiting access due to its proximity to trouble spots in the Western Desert. The cave originally had a cave book where visitors left comments, but unfortunately it was stolen around 2010. In 2018 a road was planned from Farafra to Assuit, passing right by the cave.