Pharoah is an odd settlement in many ways, but is one of the larger settlements on the surface of Mars. Situated in the Cydonian Highlands, after initial colonisation it rapidly became a destination for New Agers, Alien Conspiracy Theorists and religious fringe groups, notably the Church of the Heavenly Stigmata. There were also legitimate miners of course, and a few legitimate academic interests.

Pharoah is generally reached by Strat Bat, and there is actually a short monorail leading the few kilometres from the landing area into a large airlock constructed inside the rock.

Passengers disembark into a second airlock waiting area. Once everyone has cleared the monorail the waiting area doors open up into a large well-lit hallway. Carved right through the Martian rock the hallway leads gently downwards with walls covered colorful murals depicting all sorts of scenes out of famous works of science fiction. After a 200 meter walk the hall ends and opens up into the Pharoah Round About.

With miners and prospectors generally living out in the surrounding highlands, Pharoah itself bustles with an atmosphere that is part college campus and part science fiction convention, and the visitor is soon approached by numerous people trying to hand them religious pamphlets or sell them the latest New Age alien miracle device. The streets of Pharoah are paved with the non-stick resin common to roads throughout the solar system, but the center of the Round About is composed of red cobblestones laid out in an intricate design. At its centre is a large open-sided pyramid that doubles as a central gazebo and much of the area around the pyramid is covered in food carts, portable mini-shops and information kiosks. The area is crowded but the people are friendly if a bit odd.

Pharoah is a mix of clear domes and subterranean spaces. In this case it means that the Round About and most of the settlement proper is under ground, but high overhead stands a large clear dome that lets in natural light. Heading out of the Round About are four wide boulevards going north, south, east, and west. West heads back to the monorail station. North dead ends after four hundred meters and consists of the primary residential district. Heading southward is Grand Boulevard lined with shops and restaurants for over a kilometer . The eastern most street is called Fellowship Boulevard. It is lined with a mix of apartments and small shops for several hundred meters before these give way to bare rock and unfinished pavement.

Pharoah is notoriously the jumping off point for a number off ill considered ‘archaeological’ expeditions to investigate several nearby locations, including the Face of Mars, a reputed Alien City, and any number of alleged Pyramids. It also does a trade in gawkers and gullible tourists, and so has a significant transient population, which is likely to expand due to the construction of several new hab domes. Total population is large for a Mars settlement, and is approaching 3000 souls.

The serious business of Pharoah is of course servicing the several mining camps dotting the region, which produce, among other things, Gold. There are also a number of scientific stations mainly concerned with the ongoing seeding experiments as part of the terraforming programme in Chryse Planitia.


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