In the middle of the vast desert of Egypt, you’ll find one of Egypt’s greatest kept secrets. It is one of Egypt’s oldest cities, Al-Fayoum. In Ancient Egypt, it was called Shedet, its modern name comes from Coptic, meaning the Sea or the Lake, referring to Lake Qarun that lays nearby.
Laying 100 Km southwest of Cairo, you’ll find Al-Fayoum, where you’ll find the one and only waterfall in Egypt…yes, a waterfall in the desert. This place is called Wadi El Rayan, located at Fayoum Oasis, about 65 Km away from the city itself.
Interesting facts about Al-Fayoum
Al Fayoum was called by the Greeks “Crocodile City,” as it was the most significant center of the cult of the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, in Latin, it is “Krokodilopolis.”It is also the source of the famous death masks or mummy portraits; they come from Al-Fayoum.
In the old days, the whole Fayoum region used to be covered with Lake Qarun that is known as Lake Moeris, which is connected to the Nile via Bahr Yussef. This lake is the magical type; it changes color during the day, depending on the amount of sun exposure.
If you are a passionate bird watcher then you must visit the world’s most ancient lake, it has over 88 species of birds, from flamingos to ducks, it is incredible to watch! There is also a thriving cultural arts hub overlooking Lake Qarun, called Tunis village; you have to see it if you are into the arts.
Al-Fayoum Ancient story
There is also an ancient story connected to this lake, once upon a time the city used to worship a tamed sacred crocodile named Petsuchos “the son Soukhos,” it lived in a special temple pond that is believed to be Lake Qarun or Moeris now. The priests fed the crocodile with food given to them by the visitors, and when it died, they replaced the crocodile with another one.
How did whales get into the desert ?
One more very amusing place in Fayoum is Wadi El Hitan (Valley of the whales)…you read that right, whales in the middle of the desert! It is an open-air museum that is considered to be a depiction of the evolution of life. They found skeletons of hundreds of gigantic whales and sharks filling the desert valley that goes back to 40 million years ago.
This means one of two things, either that once upon time whales used to live on land as they found that the skeletons had tiny limbs but might not be enough for them to walk, or that this whole place used to be water. I Kind of support the first option because imagine how fun a walking whale would look?
What to do in Al-Fayoum?
Congratulations, you just knew about one of Egypt’s greatest kept secrets. There are a lot of amusing things to see in Fayoum, you’ll be mind-blown, and there are also a lot of amusing things to do, like sandboarding! As it is not so far from Cairo, you can have a free day during your vacation in Egypt and go explore this magical place.