El-Fayoum Oasis is located around 60 miles southwest of Cairo. It has a highly rich legacy of flora and wildlife, as well as antiquities, and a branch of the Nile river passes through it, making it one of Egypt’s most attractive and productive places. In addition, the Egyptian government has proclaimed two places to be protected: Lake Qarun and Wadi Rayan National Parks. Madinat al-Fayoum, Tamiya, Sinnuris, Ibshawai, Yusuf al Siddiq, and Its are the six administrative centers of the Fayoum, which encompass around 157 villages and 1565 subdistricts with a population of over 3 million people. The entire area is 4678 square kilometers. The total cultivated area is 1437 square kilometers.
The northern section of the Fayum depression is completely below sea level, and it contains Lake Qarun, which is 42 meters below sea level. On the northwest, the depression is bordered by a steep limestone scarp (Qatrani mountain). Wadi al Rayyan, a minor depression to the southwest of The Fayoum, drops 40 meters below sea level. There is no natural water source or soil in this area, but water has lately been channeled in to produce two enormous lakes.
Fayoum was known by numerous different names over the centuries until it was given its current name. In ancient Egypt, Fayoum was known as “Shedet” in the meaning of the lakeside in the Old Kingdom, and “Ta – She” in the term of the lake in the Middle Kingdom. The present name of the city is derived from Coptic ” Pa-Ym,” from which the proper name Payom, meaning the Sea or the Lake, is derived, which in turn is derived from late Egyptian Pa y-m, a reference to the neighboring Lake Moeris. After the Arab occupation of Egypt, it was given the name Al Fayoum.
Fayoum has a hot, dry climate with only a little rain in the winter. In January, the temperature ranges between 12 and 20 degrees (high) and 5 and 10 degrees (low), while the average yearly rainfall is about 17 millimetres.
Getting there and around:
Some of the attractions of El-Fayum oasis, such as Tunis Village, Lake Qarun, Wadi El-Rayan, Mudawara mountain, and the Magic lake, are accessible by regular cars, whereas Wadi El-Hitan and the attractions north of Lake Qarun, such as the petrified forest, Qasr Qarun, Qatrani mountains, and Dimet El-Sebaa, are only accessible by 4WD.
Best time to visit:
For wildlife viewing: during the winter months to see the migration of birds.
October through April are the best months for hiking, trekking, and sandboarding because the desert can get quite hot in the summer.
All year round, for relaxing near the lakes.
September through July are the best months for fishing.
Lake Qaroun, one of the most important old natural lakes, 20 kilometers from Fayoum, is a popular spot for fishing, water sports, and bird watching. Several bird species, animals, and reptiles may be found here, and it’s not far from Qasr Qaroun and Qasr El-Sagha.
In 1962, an Egyptian author and his Swiss spouse visited Tunis Village, fell deeply in love with it, and decided to establish a house and a pottery studio to resuscitate the Fayoum pottery industry and teach pottery manufacturing to the future generations. Not to mention promoting eco-tourism in the region.
Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area:
It is a 42-kilometer-deep natural depression located approximately 2 hours from Cairo. It consists of two man-made lakes connected by a canal and a waterfall, which were produced by agricultural run-off water from the Fayoum oasis. A vast area of desert with many sand dunes, as well as a diversity of bird species and several rare, near-extinction animals such as Dorcas gazelles, Ruppell’s Sand Fox, and Fennec Fox, make up the terrain.
Mudawara Mountain may be found just a few hundred meters south of Wadi El Rayyan Road. You may either park by the side of the road or drive across the desert to the foot of the sculpture. There are three main peaks on the mountain, with a few humps rising to the west. The eastern edge is a small rock spire with an unexpected hole cut into its peak. It has such a small footprint that it isn’t even detected by Google Earth. Surprisingly, it is the most difficult mountain to climb and is most likely below sea level.
The mountain has a beautiful view and an open position, with the spread of so-called “angel holes,” which mimic the region’s petrified coins. The area’s surface is characterised by a refractive crack and was formerly filled with water as part of a large lake, “At the conclusion of the Pleistocene epoch – one of the geological periods – where the lake began to dry sequentially, gradually.”
Protectorate of Wadi El-Hitan (Valley of Whales):
Consider seeing 5000-year-old tombs and temples to be looking into antiquity. Imagine 40 million-year-old whales! Wadi Al-Hitan, located 150 miles southwest of Cairo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains remains of the ancient Tethys Sea, when Egypt was submerged and sea cows, crocodiles, and turtles swam. Its most notable standout feature, however, is the insight it gives into the development of whales.
Whale relatives walked on land while hunting in shallow waters fifty million years ago, much like sea otters do now. Archeocetes (ancient whales) adopted a more marine lifestyle during the following 10 million years. The Wadi Al Hitan Fossil and Climate Change Museum opened in 2016 and features outstanding displays in English and Arabic that describe the area’s climatic changes over time and how land-based animals evolved to return to the sea. However, the fossils are not just on exhibit. Along a walking route filled with invertebrate fossils and bone fragments, whole skeletons of Basilosaurus and Dorudon are on exhibit, some of which still have tiny hind limbs not found in current whales. Only approximately 1000 people visit Wadi Al-Hitan each year. Access is via a sand-blown road that requires 4WD vehicles. Our driver delighted in providing us an extra excitement by taking us off-road to traverse sand dunes and displaying his vehicle acrobatics.
The Magic Lake:
The Magic Lake is one of Egypt’s most stunning lakes, with views of sand dunes. Around the lake, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. The Magic Lake is a stunning lake in Fayoum’s Wadi El Rayan. Because it changes colours many times a day depending on the time of year and the quantity of sunshine it gets, it was given the moniker “Magic Lake.” It is a breathtakingly stunning desert setting. Hiking and sandboarding are popular activities near Magic Lake, as well as swimming in the lake itself. Minerals in the lake are thought to aid in the treatment of rheumatism patients.
It’s a wonderful setting for a great journey.
One of the most fascinating and fossil-rich mountains in the Western Desert, Mount Qatrani is a 350-meter-high sandstone peak that serves as a prominent landmark for tourists and hikers in Fayoum.
The Petrified forest:
The world’s biggest petrified forest is found in the Gabal Qatrani mountain range to the north of Lake Qarun. It is home to trees that are about 40 meters tall and have been ossified for thousands of years. The petrified forest is made up of the remains of a forest that once existed 40 million years ago. The trees are petrified down to their tiniest features, and they even include marshy vegetation and aquatic ferns. Except for Antarctica, this type of petrified wood may be found on every continent. The United States, Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Ukraine all have well-known petrified wood locations.
The Gabal Qatrani mountain open-air museum is currently located in a petrified forest. Petrified trees, fossilized whales, elephants, Phiomia, Palaeomastodon, Arsinoitherium, crocodiles, snakes, and other well-preserved fossils were among the geological relics discovered in the Fayum oasis desert. The museum, which was erected in early 2018 and will be inaugurated soon, exhibits both marine and terrestrial fossils.
Qasr Qarun (Qarun Palace):
The Arabic name Qasr Qarun means “the Palace of Qarun.” This is a well-preserved Ptolemaic temple that has been dated to the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BC) but cannot be exactly dated due to the lack of inscriptions. Built of yellow limestone blocks, it is mostly complete. However, the façade has been partially repaired and portions of the interior structure have been strengthened by the Antiquities Department.
It may look modest from the outside, but it is a true maze of chambers, hallways, cellars, tunnels, stairways, upper rooms of various sizes and levels, and countless nooks and crannies, making it an intriguing site to explore. There are no inscriptions, but the winged sun flies above the entrance, and there is a relief of two figures on the ceiling (reachable by one of two square spiral staircases): the crocodile deity Sobek on the left, and a king on the right. From the roof, you can see the desert to the south and west, the cultivated area to the north and east, the desert escarpment, and (depending on the light) the lake to the north.
Qasr El-Sagha Temple:
An incomplete temple from the Middle Ancient Egyptian Kingdom that offers beautiful views of Qarun Lake, the Sand Dunes, and Qatrani Mountain.
Karanis (Kom Oshim Museum):
The Ptolemies built one of the biggest Greco-Roman cities in Fayoum in the third century B.C. Two temples devoted to the crocodile gods (Sobek) and a Roman bath are all that remain in the city today. It also includes a fascinating museum with a diverse collection of glassware, jewelry, and ceramics unearthed on the property.
About 3 kilometers away, Lake Qaroun is about 3 kilometers away. It was originally a stopover for trade caravans on their way to the Western Desert. It has several ruins of Greek structures, including the ruins of a tiny stone temple. There are still traces of the ancient city’s walls and roadways. Two lion-headed sculptures were discovered in 2012, demonstrating how much of Egypt’s riches remain undiscovered.
Built by Snefru, Khufu’s father, the Maidum pyramid can be said to be one of the first efforts to create a pyramid and the first Egyptian pyramid to feature an above-ground burial chamber elegantly adorned with arch-shaped walls. It used to be an eight-level building, but just three floors have survived the years.
Bird watching (especially during the winter months)
- Lake Qaroun
- Wadi El-Rayan
- Wadi El-Hitan.
- Wadi El-Rayan.
- Petrified Forest.
- Gabal El-Mudawara.
- Dimet El-Sebaa.
- At Wadi El-Hitan, you can either take your own tent or rent one from there (with a toilet facility).
- At Gabal El-Medawara, you have to take care of your sleeping arrangements (no toilet facilities).
- It’s an oasis, so sand dunes are all over the place, pick your spot and get some adrenaline rushing out of you. The most famous sand boarding spot is “Qoussour El-Arab”.
Camel Trekking & Horse back-riding
- Mainly in Lake Qaroun
- Full-Day Qatrany Mountain, Qasr El-Sagha, Dimet El-Sebaa, and the Petrified Forest.
- Barbecuing, gazing at the stars, camping at the Whales Valley, and hiking at the break of dawn (2 days 1 night).
- Qosor El-Arab sand-boarding, hiking Gabal El-Mudawara, spending sunset by the Magic Lake & camping (2 days 1 night)
- Full day Wadi El-Hitan, Wadi El-Rayan, Tunis Village, Lake Qarun, and Mudawara mountain.
- 2 days 1 night – Wadi El-Hitan, Wadi El-Rayan, and the Magic Lake.
Not to miss
- December 21st of each year: to witness the Pharaonic phenomena as mentioned above.
- Glazed Pottery
- Palm Products
- Carpets & Kilims
- Silk Carpets