Our exquisite world is full of amazing places. No matter how a travel bug you are, there will always be a beautiful destination that you may have missed. And, that is actually perfect because you will still find something to quench your thirst for exploration. To the whole world, Egypt is an interesting country to explore. The history of Egypt extends back to very ancient times, giving us more treasures to value. However, Cairo tends to take the most hype, for it is the capital of Egypt and the largest city. It is definitely amazing and all, but Egypt actually has more than the Great Pyramids of Giza and Cairo Tower. One of those neglected cities is Fayoum; it lies at the South of Cairo and is only 90 Km away. This city bears a lot of historical evidence as well as entertaining locations.
Take an insight into the splendor of Fayoum and we are sure it is going to be your next destination.
THE HISTORY OF EGYPT
The civilization of Egypt has started from more than a few centuries ago. Through all those years, the ancient Egyptians left the world a bunch of monuments and history to discover. That is exactly what people come from all over the world to Egypt for; the Pharaonic culture. The three Great Pyramids of Giza always steal the attention of tourists. Along come the ancient museums of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. Besides, there is so much curiosity in the Nile River and how it came to be what it is. For a more modern history, people go for Cairo Tower and Downtown.
Aside from all of the amazing treasures that Egypt holds, there is Al Fayoum. This city is not as modernized as Cairo is. Probably, that played a great part in the attraction and rebelling of tourists. But, the truth is; every exquisite thing is appealing enough to tourists. And, despite its unpopularity, Al Fayoum actually has a long history and is full of attractions people are unaware of. Surprisingly, the strategic location of Al Fayoum makes it one of the oldest cities in Egypt. Archaeologists have come to term with evidence that dates back to the ancient times.
ALL ABOUT AL FAYOUM CITY
The city of Fayoum lies in the southwest of Cairo, about 90 or 100 kilometers away. Middle Egypt is the name of the location in which Al Fayoum lies. Al Fayoum Oasis is actually the capital of the Governorate of Al Fayoum. The ancient Egyptians used to call this area Shedet. On the other hand, different cultures used to call this city with different names. For example, the Greeks referred to it by either Krocodilopolis or Crocodilopolis while the Romans used to call it Arsinoë.
The Story behind the Greek’s Reference to Fayoum
The reason behind the Greek’s reference goes back to the Bible. According to an exegete of the 10th century, there was a verse stating Pithom, a biblical city, existed. This city was home to a cult known to worship crocodiles; the cult of Sobek. The latter was actually the god of crocodiles. That was the main reason that the Greeks called it Crocodilopolis, meaning the City of the Crocodiles. The area actually had crocodiles inhabited there.
The citizens of the city worshipped a specific crocodile, named Petsuchos. They regarded it as a sacred crocodile and kept it in a special temple pond. Priests and holy figures used to feed him the food that the visitors provided.
The Ancient History of the City of Fayoum
Al Fayoum city has been around since the ancient times and archaeologists have found evidence. One of the most significant evidence was the fact that ancient Egyptians called it Shedet before it became Al Fayoum. It is also popular for being home to several death masks and mummy portraits. The Romans were actually the painters of those portraits when they resided during the occupation period. They preferred the cremation of dead bodies while the Egyptians buried the bodies instead of burning them.
PYRAMIDS OF AL FAYOUM CITY
Egypt is popular for being a home to the oldest pyramids in history. However, people are most familiar with the Great Pyramids of Giza that lies in the capital. In fact, Egypt houses several pyramids across its different cities and Al Fayoum City is no exception. It contains four pyramids that are landmarks and sites of attraction.
This pyramid is one of the most prominent attractions in the oasis. Some sources claim that is was the very first attempt to build a pyramid. Others declare that it was the first one in Egypt to own a burial chamber above the ground. This chamber belongs to Pharaoh Snefru- Khufu’s father- and is full of beautiful decorations and the walls are arch-shaped. On the other hand, the pyramid itself belonged to Pharaoh Huni. Despite being an attraction in the city, it actually partially collapsed. When the pyramid first came into being into was a huge one that consisted of eight levels. Due to the weather and other factors, only three levels remained throughout the years. Archaeologists and engineers suggest that the reason for the collapse was not because of natural elements. They believe that the use of construction materials was what escorted to the destruction.
As the usual, pyramids in Egypt always belonged to ancient Egyptians or Pharaohs. This one, Hawara Pyramid, belonged to Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The pyramid actually lies at the entrance of Al Fayoum Oasis, making it hard for you to not notice. It has an eroded exterior that was the result of other constructions. Hawara Pyramid is mainly mud bricks; the outer layer of the stones was taken to be used for different constructions. For that reason, the eroded part took place.
Pharaoh Senusert II was the builder of Al Lahun pyramid during the Old Kingdom. The pyramid sits in the South Eastern part of the Hawara Pyramid. Like its fellow pyramid, mud bricks are what make the whole pyramid up. This pyramid is popular for containing multiple papyrus documents that were mainly medical. The ancient Egyptians kept them in the pyramid and they were a proof of their cleverness in almost every field.
Another Senusert built another pyramid in the same area. But, this time, it is Senusret I and he built the Lisht Pyramid. Mud brick was the core formation of this pyramid as well; however, it has not survived for too long. Despite its destruction, people are aware of its precise location. The pyramid is famous for having tombs that sit nearby. Archaeologists discovered those tombs as well as the oldest versions of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.
SIGNIFICANT PLACES IN AL FAYOUM CITY
People usually refer to Al Fayoum by Oasis because ponds surround the area, making it look like an oasis. However, the waters are not actually springs like those of the oasis, but they stem from the Nile River. The waters of the river reach the oasis through plenty of canals that exist since the ancient times. Those elements helped in making the area an attractive one and a touristic destination. Over and beyond, the city is home to several imperative archaeological sites; they are a bit small yet many. Formerly being Crocodilopolis, Al Fayoum embraces vast areas that used to be the Ptolemaic cities.
To let things take an entertaining twist, Al Fayoum is also home to adventurous and impulsive trips. If you love to embark on spontaneous journeys, Al Fayoum should be your ultimate destination. It has wide areas where you can have fun in deserts, lakes, and more. Check them out and we are pretty sure you’ll get in terms with something that piques your interest.
Wadi El Hitan- The Valley of Whales
The word “El Hitan” is an Arabic word that means Whale in English. The whole place literally means the Valley of Whales. The Valley of Whales is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Long centuries ago, the valley had no existence. Instead, it was a sea that possessed a wide array of aquatic life, including whales for sure. Throughout the years, the water went dry and the marine life was no longer there. It left behind the skeletons of whales as well as fossils. For that reason, it is currently known as the Valley of Whales. The place is also full of rock formations that people usually enjoy watching when the dawn breaks. Moreover, the valley has a place called Garet Gohannam that contains a museum. Wadi El Hitan Museum is its name and it owns hundreds of skeletons of extinct whales.
Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area
This valley is actually another significant site to look out for in Al Fayoum City. It sits about two hours away from the Western Desert and it is 42 km below the sea level. The whole place is basically two lakes, not natural ones though. The lakes are man-made and are created through agricultural methods. The waters of the lake stem from the oasis of Al Fayoum. The first lake joins the second through a channel and a waterfall. Over and beyond, the valley is full of landscapes that attract people. Wadi El Rayan is basically a vast area of desert that possesses several sand dunes. What makes the place interesting is the bird species that reside in the valley along with rare and extinct animals. Those animals include Fennec Fox, Ruppell’s Sand Fox, and Dorcas Gazelles.
Qaroun Lake is another site of attraction. It lies only twenty kilometers away from the city and is one of the ancient natural lakes. This natural lake gives room to more than a few practices, including water sports, fishing, and watching the birds. Qaroun Lake is actually the second largest lake in Egypt after Nasser Lake. It is also a home to rare species of birds, animals, and reptiles. Besides, it spills into the Wadi Rayan Protected Area as its main sources, forming waterfalls and cascades.
It seems like this city owns multiple places that a lot of people are unaware of. Tunis Village is one of those places. This village is basically a drowsy rural community that the oasis embraces. However, that does not make it a boring place, for it has an astonishingly blooming art scene. Around the village lies Mohamed Abla Art Center; a site of attraction for the art gurus. The center provides courses in different art disciplines like pottery, painting, and photography. Pottery is the most significant course in this art center; in fact, it is so all around the city.
The reason behind the significance of pottery dates back to an old story that took place in the early 60’s. To be more precise, in 1962, an Egyptian poet and his Swiss wife arrived in Tunis Village. They were fond of the place and decided to build their own house. Since they were both into art, they build a workshop for teaching pottery as well. The couple believed that the city needed to learn about this art as well as teach it to generations after. Interestingly, their decision helped in supporting the economy of the tourism around the area. The art center attracts people from different cultures.
The word “Qasr” actually means Palace. However, this building was mainly a temple. It was small in size, but it extends to Gebel Qatrani. Oblique corners are what actually hold the temple together and there is no cement in the structure. The temple is, in point of fact, uninscribed, so there is no evidence to refer us to its history. Its story is mysterious in terms of the builder, who it belonged to, its function, and when the construction was. On the other hand, the temple makes way to the Petrified Forest, another interesting yet frightening place in Al Fayoum. It also overlooks Qaroun Lake and Qatrani Mountain. Recently, a German-Polish archaeological mission is investigating the site, claiming that it dates back to the Middle Kingdom.
Qatrani mountain is another landmark in the area. People refer to it in Arabic as Gebal Qatrani and it is 350 meters high. It lies in the Western Desert and rich in fossils. The mountain is basically sandstones that make up a high structure. It is also one of the significant destinations for hikers and those who embark on impulsive journeys.
The Petrified Forest of Fayoum
We have already mentioned the existence of this forest; you can see or reach it through Qasr El-Sagha. More accurately, the forest lies in the northern part of Qaroun Lake and close to Qatrani Mountain. The most interesting thing about this forest is that it’s the largest petrified one in the world. It actually houses multiple trees that reach up to 40 meters in height. They have been around for thousands of years. Sadly, the forest is not as it used to be; what you can see now is only the fossilized remains. But, the trees and their trunks are still there. In fact, visitors have the capability to watch the growth patterns of the trees as well. This area has extremely high levels of oxygen, escorting the forest to rapidly grow in a short time.
Seeing towers of pigeons is something you’ll be familiar with while in Egypt. It is a tradition that Egyptians love keeping until our day; however, not everyone understands this custom. Egyptians do not actually keep those pigeons in the tower as pets. Conversely, they just feed them and the pigeons keep coming back to the same place for food. Those towers are actually tall structures where agricultural settlements surround them.
Qasr Qaroun is the Arabic equivalent of Qaroun’s Palace. Since the oasis is a place for impulsive travelers, Qasr Qaroun serves a great purpose for them. It was the focal point of which the hiking and rambling starts and ends. The palace lies across the Western Desert and people use caravans to hike to Bahareya Oasis.
Inside the palace lies Dionysus temple; an ancient temple that belonged to the Ptolemaic era. Ancient Egyptians built the temple as a dedication to the God Sobek and worshipped that divine figure there. People show interest in this landmark as it showcases an annual miracle. The temple is very dark from the inside; people can barely see anything inside it. On the 21st of December of each year, the Wonder of the Sun takes place. It is an astronomical pharaonic miracle where the sun gets in the perfect angle to lighten the temple from the insides. It’s the only time when people get inside the temple and behold the history lying within its walls.
Karanis (Kom Oshim)
In the third century B.C, the Ptolemies built the largest Greco-Roman city during that time. This city was Karanis or Kom Oshim, according to the Egyptians. The city was mainly an agricultural settlement that maintained farming. Besides, the Roman soldiers used to retire and settle in that city. This area is no longer a whole city like it once was. Instead, there are only two temples that remain there along with a museum. One temple is actually a shrine for worshipping Sobek, the Crocodile gods. On the other hand, the second temple was mainly a Roman bath. Finally, the museum that sits there shows a wide array of artistic stuff and more that the site holds. This includes pottery, glassware, as well as jewelry.
Gabal El Medawara is actually a mountain. It offers a terrific scenery since it overlooks the Magic Lake. Probably that is why some people refer to it as the Magic Mountain. This mountain sits right beside Wadi El Rayan as well as Qaroun Lake. It is the perfect place for almost every taste. For example, nature lovers would definitely fall in love with it since it provides room for amazing photos. On the other hand, it is a great option for hiking and camping. Travelers who camp and hike there will also realize that it’s a perfect spot for gazing the stars at night.
It is the lake which the Magic Mountain overlooks. The Magic Lake is one of the most stunning lakes in Al Fayoum; it overlooks incredible scenery of sand dunes. People usually go there to freshen up after a long hike; they enjoy watching the marvelous sunsets and the birds.
Al-Nazla Pottery Village
Remember the Egyptian Poet and his Swiss wife who built the art center of pottery? Well, their plan to make the art of pottery-making a common activity in Al Fayoum succeeded. Not only is the area popular with this activity, but it also has a village dedicated to this art. This place is Al Nazla Pottery Village and some people call it the Village of the Potters. Residents of this area still hand-make the pottery; you can either purchase these items or watch their making process live. They also fire the potteries in ovens that are near to the area. Over and beyond, the village is also incredibly picturesque; it has more than a few attractive landmarks to enjoy.
St. Gabriel Monastery
Aur was a Coptic Christian Bishop who existed during the 4th century. He was the one who built Saint Gabriel Monastery in Al Fayoum. This monastery was a dedication to Archangel Gabriel; the structure underwent reconstruction for more than a few times. It is famous for its wood-panel paintings and is one of the most noticeable attractions around the oasis.
Dimet El Sebaa was a stop station where traders of caravans head for rest before reaching the Western Desert. It sits about three kilometers away from Qaroun Lake. It is also house to the ruins of some Greek constructions that used to exist around the area. In this location, archaeologists discovered two heads sculptures of lions in 2012. They predicted that Egypt has too many treasures that are probably still undiscovered. Ever since this discovery, the area became famous as an avenue of lions. The word Sebaa means Lions in English as well. The Ptolemaics were the builders of this area and they seem to have left behind plenty of artifacts. Visitors and travelers have access to the place; however, they are not allowed to remove any of the artifacts.
Obelisk of Senusret
Senusret seemed to have had lots of structures that belonged to him in Al Fayoum. Sources also claim that he was an active builder. The Obelisk is actually one of those structures. It is a structure made of red granite and is almost 13 meters in height. His activities include placing Obelisks all around Egypt; some of them exist in Cairo in the district of Heliopolis.
ACTIVITIES TO DO IN AL FAYOUM CITY
Obviously, the city contains plenty of attraction sites that people can enjoy. It has also been famous for several activities that travelers always enjoy doing. These activities include hiking, camping, stargazing, camel trekking, sandboarding, fishing, horseback riding, and birds watching.
So, whenever Egypt becomes your destination, do not miss the chance of visiting the most attractive cities such as Fayoum.