PARADISE IN THE DESERT
Some 130 km south west of Cairo, is a green, quiet place, called Fayoum, the nearest of the
six Oases in Egypt, a winter weekend resort for Cairenes. The Oasis' main source of water, is
Birket Qaroun (Lake Qarun, with its shores covered in palm groves where rare species of
birds live, and the vast cultivated land and orchards all over the region, thanks to this, the
oasis became known as the "gardens and the fruit orchard of Egypt".
On Egypt's map, The Oasis of Fayoum is The bud while the stem is the Nile"
The name Fayoum originates from the hieroglyphic word Ba-yam, which meant "the
Sea", a reference to its great Lake Qaroun, numerous water wheels are counted as the
city's landmark (introduced by the Ptolemies in the 3rd century BC).
It is connected with the Nile by "Bahr Youssef" meaning "Josef's Canal", which was dug in
antiquity, during the Pharaonic period, exactly during the reign of the 12 th dynasty' Pharaohs,
who built elaborate temples and tombs in the region in the form of mud brick pyramids. Near
the entrance to the Fayoum is Meidum, principally known on account of a curiously shaped
pyramid (dating back to the 4 th dynasty), which dominates the site. Its present shape is due to
the partial collapse of the pyramid, caused either by an earthquake or by some architectural
error.in and near the city too, it can be visited the ruins of the legendary Labyrinth, to the
south-east of the city lie respectively Howara pyramid of Amenmhet III and the Lahun
Pyramid of Sesostris II (both kings of the 12 th dynasty) both pyramids built of mud-brick
around a natural rock core. Some 0 km south-west of the city of Maadi, lies the Temple of
Amenmhet III, fronted by a partly buried sphinx avenue. Shydit was the earlier name given to
the area, later was known during the Greco-Roman period as Crocodoplis (the city of the
crocodile), since the principal god of the region was "Sobek" the crocodile god. Apart from
the historic significance, Fayoum, with its neighbouring desert and Qarun lake covering an
area of 233 sq.kms, provide excellent facilities for fishing, relaxing by the famous wadi EL-
Rayyan waterfalls, which is a unique characteristic of Fayoum. Not to be found anywhere else
Wadi Al-Hitan, or the Valley of the Whales, is an expanse of desert littered with
fossils and located behind a mountain known as Gabal Gar Gohannam (The Mountain
Next to Hell). It is true that, in the light of the setting sun, the mountain seems ablaze
with an eerie red light.
Wadi Al-Hitan is also near the Al-Qatrani mountain range, well known for its value as
a geological site: "Of all the important sites in Egypt, Al-Qatrani is the object of the
most studies because it used to be a jungle, populated by all kinds of mammals. The
whole area, about 150km of the desert today, is an open-air geological museum," notes
Mohammadein Hassan, a geologist and a ranger in the Wadi Al-Rayan protectorate.
Hassan adds that this area is famous worldwide for its rare vertebrate fossils and mega-