Faiyum is one of the 27th governorates we have in Egypt. It is located 100 kilometres to the southwest of Cairo, in the middle of Egypt. Al Faiyum governorate is one of the oldest Egyptian cities. In the past, rulers chose it for its strategic location. Its name has different spellings in English e.g Fayum, Faiyum or Al Faiyūm. The Faiyum governorate enjoys year-round moderate weather, is one of Egypt’s 7 oases. It homes several attractions of different eras: Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic. The nature of this city is marvellous. Faiyum is famous for dunes, palm trees, lakes and valleys, wild animals and bird species. Really, the unspoiled land nature and rich history make it a place worth discovering!
Ancient History of Faiyum
There are some pieces of evidence that habitation began in the fifth millennium, and the pharaoh of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC) established a settlement called Shedet (Medinet el-Fayyum) in this place. It was the most significant centre of the cult of the crocodile god Sobek. In consequence, the Greeks called it “Crocodile City” (Krokodeilópolis). The city worshipped a tamed sacred crocodile called Koine Petsuchos, “the Son of Soukhos”. The Petsoukhos lived in a special temple pond and was fed by the priests with food provided by visitors.
Under the Ptolemaic Kingdom, the city was for a while called Ptolemais Euergétis (Koinē Greek: Πτολεμαῒς Εὐεργέτις). Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309–246 BC) renamed the city Arsinoë and the whole Nome after the name of his sister-wife Arsinoe II (316–270 or 268), who was deified after her death as part of the Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great, the official religion of the kingdom.
Under the Roman Empire, Arsinoë became part of the province of Arcadia Aegypti. To distinguish it from other cities of the same name, they called it “Arsinoë in Arcadia”.
With the arrival of Christianity, Arsinoë became the seat of a bishopric, a suffragan of Oxyrhynchus, the capital of the province and the metropolitan see. Michel Le Quien gives the names of several bishops of Arsinoë, nearly all of them associated with one heresy or another.
Most Popular Attractions in Faiyum Governorate
Wadi El-Hitan Protected Area
The Valley of Wales is a UNESCO World Heritage site. According to theories, this valley was formed more than a million years ago; and, originally, was a sea with a wide variety of marine life. It has some fossils and skeletons of now extinct whales, along with rock formations. There is a Wadi El-Hitan museum located near Garet Gohannam north-west of Wadi El-Rayan that has hundreds of skeletons of now extinct whales as well.
Archaeologists think that the Maidum pyramid is the first very attempt to build a regular pyramid during Ancient Egypt. According to them, it is the first Egyptian pyramid to have a burial chamber above ground. This pyramid is beautifully decorated with arch-shaped walls, built by Snefru, father of Khufu. It was once an eight levels structure, now only three levels have made it through the years.
In 1962 an Egyptian poet came to Tunis Village with his Swiss wife, they fell in love with it and decided to build a house and a pottery workshop to revive the pottery industry in Faiyum Governorate and teach pottery making to generations after. Not only that but supporting eco-tourism in the area.
Another scenic hiking option overlooking the Magic Lake, and a great place to camp and to marvel at the stars.
One of the most beautiful lakes in Faiyum overlooking dunes. This is your chance to freshen up after a long day of hiking, and to witness one of the most eye-catching sunsets.
Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area
is a natural depression 42 km below sea level, only 2 hours drive from the Western Desert. It’s basically two man-made lakes created by agricultural run-off water from Faiyum oasis, that were joint together by a channel and a waterfall. Home to the beautiful landscape, a wide piece desert with multiple dunes, also to a diversity of bird species, and several rare, near extinction animals such as Dorcas Gazelles, Ruppell’s Sand Fox and Fennec Fox.
One of the most interesting rich in fossils mountains in the Western Desert, which is a 350 meters high sandstone mountain and a major landmark for travellers and hikers in Fayoum.
The Petrified Forest of Fayoum
Situated in the north of Lake Qaroun in Gabal Qatrani is the largest petrified forest in the world, home to 40 meters high trees that have survived in ossified form for thousands of years.
During ancient times Qasr Qaroun was the point from which starts or ends the trek across the Western Desert to Bahareya Oasis using caravans. The main temple of Qasr Qaroun is usually very dark from the inside. Astonishingly, on December 21st of each year, an astronomical miracle happens when the sun lightens the inside of the temple. They call this phenomenon “Wonder of the Sun”.
Qasr El-Sagha Temple
Qasr El-Sagha Temple is an unfinished one. It dates back to the Middle Kingdom. This temple has a beautiful view over Qaroun Lake and Qatrani Mountain.
Lake Quaroun lies 20 Km from Fayoum. It is one of the most important ancient natural lakes. The Ancient Egyptians used to practice fishing, water sports, and bird watching in it. Additionally, it is home to several bird species, mammals, & reptiles, and not far from Qasr Qaroun & Qasr El-Sagha.
Karanis (Kom Oshim)
Once one of the largest Greco-Roman cites in Fayoum built by the Ptolemies in the third century B.C. What remains today of the city is two temples dedicated to the crocodile gods (Sobek) and a Roman bath. It also has an interesting museum displaying a wide range of glassware, jewellery and pottery discovered on site.
Situated 3 kilometres from Lake Qaroun. It was once used as a station for trade caravans heading towards the Western Desert. It has some remains of Greek constructions such as the ruins of a small temple built from stone. Traces of walls and roads of the ancient city are still existent. In 2012, two lion heads sculptures were found, which shows how much treasures in Egypt are still unexplored.
This is the place to watch Pottery-Making live and is a landmark.