Farafra is a good place to do souvenir shopping. The Al-Hayah NGO
, trains women and girls from the oasis to make traditional handicrafts. They weave rugs from sheep and camel wool on big wooden looms, embroider Galabiyas with Bedouin designs, and make baskets and mats from palm fronds
The women learn the skills at the NGO and then work from home to sell their goods and get an income. The designs are beautiful and can be bought from the bazaar at Badawiya Hotel. Here you can also buy camel wool socks, gloves and scarves knitted by Mr Socks, who has been famous in Farafra for many years.
At Al-Hayah old crafts are being revived. Skills which had almost been lost are being taught again and passed on. Aiming to help the local community to keep its traditions going and especially to empower women, the NGO ( Non Governmental Organization ) currently employs 25 women and has many more keen to be involved. Started 4 years ago the women involved receive a small wage in return for working 5 hours a day making handicrafts which are sold in the Badawiya bazaars in Farafra and Dakhla. Almost all the materials used are sourced locally. The only exceptions are the beads which are used to embroider onto galabiyas (the long dresses) and shirts and the wool that is used for knitting. Though the sheep come from Farafra the wool is not processed in the oasis. It is bought from the families that own the sheep and sent in its raw state to Cairo to be carded and spun before returning to Farafra to be transformed into a variety of items.
Al-Hayah also encourages awareness of the environment that Farafra is so dependent on. They enable women from the oasis to go into the desert and see what the tourists see. For many women the day trip with Al- Hayah is the first time they have ever seen the unbelievably beautiful landscape they live so close to. Greater awareness brings greater respect. Al-Hayah works with the local authorities in Farafra to improve rubbish collection and to encourage sorting of rubbish. They provided several free bins for each family so that rubbish could be separated at home before being collected. They also organise the annual Clean Up trip to the White Desert in co-operation with Badawiya Expedition Travel. This is a 6 day trip where volunteers from Farafra and Cairo go into the desert and collect litter left by rally drivers and less responsibly-minded tourist groups. It is usually in late April or early May. Al-Hayah also runs health-care workshops and organises talks on women's health issues. Everyday there is a literacy class that anyone can attend, which helps local people especially the usually less well educated women to learn to read and write.
All this is in addition to producing a variety of very attractive handicrafts. They make bags and purses, kilims and carpets, embroider shirts and dresses, make baskets and do intricate beadwork.