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Only Here

Only In Al Fayoum

Adding to the many attractions that a traveler can enjoy here in Al Fayoum there some sights that can be seen only here.

1) Wadi Al-Hittan

Wadi Al-Hitan, “Whale Valley is a paleontological site in the Fayoum Governorate of Egypt, some 150 km southwest of Cairo. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005 for its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of a whale, the archaeoceti (a now extinct sub-order of whales).

The site reveals evidence for the explanation of one of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of whales: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal.

No other place in the world yields the number, concentration, and quality of such fossils, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. This is why it was added by the UNESCO to the list of protected World Heritage sites. 

The fossils found at the site may not be the oldest but their great concentration in the area and the degree of their preservation is to the extent that even some stomach contents are intact.

The presence of fossils of other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles, and rays found at Wadi El-Hitan makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time, adding to its justification to be cited as a Heritage site.

2) Fayoum Mummy Portraits

Al Fayoum is the source of some famous death masks or mummy portraits painted during the Roman occupation of the area. The Egyptians continued their practice of burying their dead, despite the Roman preference for cremation.

While under the control of the Roman Empire, Egyptian death masks were painted on wood in a pigmented wax technique called encaustic—the Al Fayoum mummy portraits represent this technique.

While previously believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, modern studies conclude that the Al Fayoum portraits instead represent mostly native Egyptians, reflecting the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city.