Al Fayoum Travel Guide
About The City Of Al Fayoum
Sometimes known as ‘the garden of Egypt’, technically Al-Fayoum is an oasis. Separated from the River Nile by a narrow stretch of desert, this fertile basin of land has a large lake, Birket Qarun on its northern side which is fed by the Bahr Yusef, a tributary of the Nile. Al-Fayoum is included in the Nile Valley sites on this website because it is easily accessible from Beni Suef to the south, or Cairo to the north.
This large fertile basin, about 70km wide and 60km long, is often referred to as an oasis, though technically it’s watered not by springs but by the Nile via hundreds of capillary canals, many dug in ancient times. The area harbors a number of important archaeological sites, as the pharaohs built pleasure palaces here and the Greeks, who believed the crocodiles in Lake Qarun were sacred, built temples where pilgrims could feed the beasts.
The region is famous for its lush fields and orchards, so it’s a good place to revel in fresh produce, and the lake is a popular weekend spot for vacationing Cairenes.
As a visitor, you’ll deal primarily with two towns in the oasis. Medinat al-Fayoum, a city of half a million, is built along one of the largest canals and offers the usual Egyptian urban chaos. It’s the main transit hub and has all the services you might need, including hotels. The downtown area is along the Bahr Yusuf, the main canal through the oasis. The village of Tunis, an arts colony on the west edge of Al-Fayoum, is the more typical place to spend the night – or on the nearby shores of Lake Qarun.
The capital town of Al-Fayoum region, Medinet el-Fayoum, was known in ancient times as Shedyt. Later called Crocodilonpolis by the Greeks, it was associated with the name Arsinoe during the Roman era (being in the Arsinoite nome). The town makes a good base for exploring the Fayoum area, as all of the roads converge in its center. The Bahr Yusef is the main waterway, and there are many canals which flow from this ancient irrigation channel, taking water throughout the oasis and their bridges give Medinet el-Fayoum, some say, the feel of a miniature Venice.