Explore Fayoum .. Where History Meets Nature

1 April 2023

Full Day Trip to north lake Qarun in Fayoum Gebel Qatrani

The combination of stunning landscape and the proximity to Cairo make the Fayoum an attractive travel destination. Fayoum provides plentiful activities for tourists who like to explore its nature and rural life: From bird watching, boat trips, hiking, horse riding, swimming to safari desert trips.

This Blog about my private tour visit to north lake Qarun in Fayoum , i made this day during Ramadan time.Thanks to Allah the day wasn't hard .

it was amazing day , we start at 11:00 morning from Fayoum passing fayoum greens tawards north lake way from the new touristic road .

we Passing Mandara, Abshway, Aboksah ,Tunis village, Bayoum hotel, Lurette hotel and the enterance of lake Qaroun.

so i wrote this blog to share this experience and adventure to show more about things to do in Fayoum .

The Qatrani area lies within the Fayoum Depression, North Western Desert, Egypt, forming a part of the Qarun Protected Area (QPA). It has a marvelous natural heritage with numerous outstanding characteristics. The geodiversity of the Qatrani area is chiefly owing to the diverse rock types ranging from the Eocene to the Quaternary periods, the climate, and the miscellaneous geological typescripts, demonstrating the Earthʼs evolution.

Lake Qarun (Lake Moeris )

Lake Moeris is an ancient lake, nowadays Known as Lake Qarun, in the northwest of the Faiyum Oasis, 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Cairo, Egypt. It persists in modern times as a smaller lake called Birket Qarun. The lake's surface is 140 ft (43 m) below sea-level, and covers about 78 square miles (200 km2). The Lake is in the Fayoum Province, 40 km in length, 5.7 km in width and 34 to 43 m below sea level with a mean depth of 4.2 m. Groundwater appears to be continuously seeping from a number of sub-surface springs at the lake bottom. A gently sloping sand-plain extends from the lakeshore northwards and upwards to reach sea level at 7 km north of the shoreline. Lake Moeris was freshwater in prehistory. In 2300 BC, the waterway from the Nile to the natural lake was widened and deepened to make a canal which is now known as the Bahr Yussef. This canal fed into the lake. This was meant to serve three purposes: control the flooding of the Nile, regulate the water level of the Nile during dry seasons, and serve the surrounding area with irrigation. There is evidence of ancient Egyptian pharaohs of the twelfth dynasty using the natural lake of Faiyum as a reservoir to store surpluses of water for use during the dry periods. The Qarun Lake today, 45 meters below sea level, has a surface area of 214 square kilometers. It has a maximum depth of just over 8 meters (west of Golden Horn Island) and a volume of 800 million cubic meters. It is 42 kilometers long and 9 kilometers wide at its broadest point. 

About 370 million cubic meters of drainage water reach the lake annually, and as the lake level now stays fairly constant and there are no known outlets, this figure is also taken as the annual rate of evaporation. If follows that, if the water supply to the lake were cut off, it would dry up in two years. The high rate of evaporation has led to a concentration of salts, the lake is now as saline as the seawater, with a ratio of around 34.5 parts per thousand, said to be growing at the rate of 0.4 parts per year. For comparison, sea water ranges between 34 and 37 per thousand, while Jordans Dead Sea has between 300 and 330 per thousand. The water is less salty in the East and the South of the lake, where the two main canals bring in fresh water.

The northern side of Lake Qarun

The northern side of Lake Qarun, around Gebal Qatrani, hosts one of the world’s most complete fossil records of terrestrial primates and marshland mammals, critical to our understanding of human evolution. Discoveries continue to be made and studied by scientists.

Bird Watching Tour In Fayoum

Watermelon Valley in Fayoum | Cannonballs

This valley in Fayoum was called the Valley of the Watermelon because it contains rounded stones that resemble the shape of a watermelon, but are larger in size. These round stones have become one of the secrets that have not been revealed how they were formed until now, as geologists have developed more than one theory, but the theories that have been developed do not justify their multiple colors such as scarlet, pink and brown. And woven around these rocks many legends and myths, as some residents of Fayoum still believe that these rocks are actually watermelons petrified with the passage of millions of years.

Watermelon Valley in Fayoum | Cannonballs

Watermelon Valley “Wadi El Battikh”

Meteoric water may have invaded the Drunka Formation in association with shelf progradation during the Early Eocene, or during the development of a Middle Eocene unconformity. Replacement of carbonate mud by microcrystalline quartz was the dominant chertification process, but fossils were replaced in part by fine-grained equant megaquartz, quartzine and chalcedony; the last of these occurs in places as beekite. Opal A-secreting marine organisms are the inferred source of silica, but none are preserved.

Watermelon Valley “Wadi El Battikh

Watermelon Valley “Wadi El Battikh

 There is no compelling evidence of an opal-CT precursor, so quartz may have formed by direct precipitation. Self-organization processes of enigmatic character established the spacing pattern of the nodules and also the Liesegang-banded internal structure of the chert nodules.

Watermelon Valley “Wadi El Battikh

Wadi El Battikh Mellon Valley in Fayoum

 Nodules grew chiefly by diffusive supply of silica, although one locality has elongate nodules that grew when there was some porewater advection. Chertification patterns and δ18O values of both calcite and quartz indicate that nodule growth was complex and variable. Some nodules probably grew from the centre outwards. Many nodules, however, initially grew simultaneously across the entire nodule, but late-stage growth was predominantly at the outer margins or at selective internal sites.

Qasr el- Sagha Temple

Middle Kingdom (2280-1778 BC) building, discovered by Schweinfurth in 1884, at the foot of a steep desert escarpment. The temple is constructed of limestone slabs fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle complete with oblique corner joints. It has a series of rooms with one completely enclosed and having no entrance. The function of this unusual building is unclear, but it certainly had a strategic view of the surrounding area. Below the site there are extensive remains of the village that once stood nearby.

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Qasr el- Sagha Temple North lake Qaroun in Fayoum

Thought to be dedicated to Sobek the Crocodile God and situated circa 3 miles North of Lake Qarun near Fayoum on a lower outcrop of Mount Qatrani, 180 feet plus above the shoreline that once came to its feet and is now over 3 miles distant

Dimieh El Sebaa (Soknopaious Nesos)

An excursion to Dimeh al-Siba (Dime, Dimia, and nearby Qasr al-Sagha) on the northern side of Birkat Qarun is one of the most interesting in the Fayoum, rewarding and memorable as much for the desert and lake scenery as for the historical interest of the sites themselves. Even those without the slightest interest in antiquities will enjoy this trip and cannot fail to be impressed by the magnificent, lonely ruins of Dimeh.

Dimieh El Sebaa (Soknopaious Nesos)

The ruins lay in the desert north of Lake Qarun in the Fayoum, far from the inhabited and cultivated areas. For this reason, the archaeological site (660 x 350 meters) is quite well preserved but was pillaged of its stones and treasures including hundreds of papyri in Greek and Demotic, today found in collections and museums worldwide. The site is famous for its papyri among scholars, but also among tourists and visitors for its impressive conservation of the templar area; the white mudbrick enclosure walls (temenos) are still standing 15 meters in height. They are a veritable landmark in the desert, visible from the south shore of the lake in clear days.

The site is now part of the North Lake Qarun Park and thanks to newly built paved roads is easily accessible to visitors all year round.

Soknopaiou Nesos was the ancient Greek name of the site in the Hellenistic period, but its origin dates back the time of the pharaohs, when it was know as Ta may Sobek neb Pay pa ntr aa, "The Island of Sobek, the Lord of the Island, the Great God".

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions, was a Ptolemaic city believed to be founded by Ptolemy II in the third century BC, on a site that shows evidence of habitation from the Neolithic period. Today, it is more isolated, but during ptolemaic times it was at the shore of the much larger lake, situated at the edge of Moeris Bay and thebeginning of the caravan routes into the Western Desert. A view of the temple area at Dimeh Petrified Forest.

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions Soknopaious Nesos

According to Caton-Thompson, it was Ptolemy who reduced the size of the lake to provide land for the settlement of retired Macedonian soldiers and their families. The town served as a port, and was perhaps at one time located on an island, judging by its Ptolemaic name Soknopaiou Nesos, meaning Island of Soknopaios (from the Egyptian Sobek-en-Pai). However, some scholars maintain that it was in fact never an island. Today, the site is 65 meters higher and 2.5 kilometers beyond the water's edge.

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions Soknopaious Nesos

During the troubles of the Roman Period, Dimeh reached its zenith and its ultimate decline. Although Roman soldiers were stationed there, no documents suggest that they made it their permanent home. It was on the fringe of the desert away from the cultivated lands on the south side of the lake, so it was rather of a frontier outpost. Retired Roman soldiers preferred to live in the villages to the south like Philadelpha and Karanis.

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions Soknopaious Nesos

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions Soknopaious Nesos

The Road of the Lions leading up to the ruins of Dimeh Goods from the Fayoum were transported across the lake by boat to be unloaded at the docks of Dimeh, stored, or carried up the Avenue of the Lions, assessed for a customs fee, and reloaded on animals for desert caravans. These caravans moved north over Gebel Qatrani and probably via Wadi Natrun to the Mediterranean and on to Rome.

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions Soknopaious Nesos

Some of the ruins at sunset at Dimeh During this period of Egyptian history (as at other times), the country had a reputation throughout the Mediterranean of being plagued by desert bandits. Here at Soknopiaou Nesos, as in other desert outposts in the Western and Eastern deserts, and along the northern coast, security systems were in place to protect caravans, but they did not always succeed. 

Dimeh was inhabited for six centuries and was finally abandoned by the middle of the third century AD. The ruins of Dimeh al-Siba contain the two temples, houses, underground chambers, streets and ten meter high walls that are sometimes up to five meters thick. The walls themselves are a testament to the survivability of mudbrick in the desert environment. The ground is strewn with debris. An uncountable number of shards cover the entire temple mound. They are all over the place. One can even find, we are told, ancient fish hooks, pottery and coins. The city itself was spread out over a great distance through the desert, and the mudbrick walls that are still standing did not contain the entire town, but only the temple area. To the north were the agricultural fields, separated by long irrigation canals. To the south was the Gate of Soknopaios, at the end of the Avenue of the Lions, which ran down to the edge of the lake where the docks were located. Today, one can still see the remains of this road, which ends about a kilometer to the south of the ruins at a quay. The quay has two limestone piers and steps leading south, presumably to the water's edge.

The houses are located along the processional Avenue of the Lions, inside the walls, and on the plain surrounding the temple mound. At one time they reached several stories, had painted walls similar to those recently excavated at Amheida in the Dakhla Oasis, and had underground chambers which were used for storage.

On the east side of the road, the squat, white, mud-brick remains of a large building are particularly interesting. In the center, a passageway leads down into a perfectly preserved set of cellars. The first chamber has a marvelous mudbrick dome. The others are vaulted, and with their intact plaster finish, look modern. They are also somewhat of a refuge on a hot day, as they remain relatively cool.

Deir Abu Leefa north of Lake Qarun in Fayoum

The Monastery was probably founded by St. Panoukhius about 686 A.D and was in use from the 7th through the 9th centuries. It served as a haven for Christians seeking persecution. Immediately behind the Qasr El Sagha temple, and visible on the cliff face of the upper portions of the Deir Abu Lifa member giant cross-bedded sandstone, are a similar series of small man-made caves probably used for meditation. The monastery is typical primitive, its entrance is cut into the mountain and consisting of small caves carved into cliff sides that can be difficult to reach.

Deir Abu Leefa is a town and archaeological site located to the north of Lake Qarun in the Fayoum region in Egypt. It is home to a number of archaeological sites, including a large Coptic monastery. The monastery is believed to have been founded by the monk Abu Leefa i. The site also includes a number of other ruins, including a Roman fort and a number of ancient tombs. The area is a popular destination for tourists, with many visitors taking boat trips on the lake to view the ruins.

The area has been the subject of archaeological research since the 19th century. Excavations have revealed a number of artefacts, including pottery, coins, and statues. In addition, a number of hieroglyphic inscriptions have been discovered at the site. There have also been a number of more recent archaeological projects, including a survey of the area carried out by the University of Oxford in 2009.

World’s Oldest Paved Road

World’s Oldest Paved Road in fayoum

The Lake Moeris Quarry Road

The Lake Moeris Quarry Road is recognized as the oldest surviving paved road in the world. Dating from the Old Kingdom period in Egypt, it transported basalt blocks from the quarry to a quay on the shores of ancient Lake Moeris.

The road’s main trunk runs along the foot of the Gebel el-Qatrani escarpment, below the quarry and is joined in several places by short branches coming from different parts of the quarry.  The pavement has a uniform width of about 2 m.  It is made from a single course of dry-laid, unshaped pieces of whatever stone was close at hand: basalt and sandstone near the quarry, and sandstone, limestone and silicified wood elsewhere. The total length of the road, including all its branches is nearly 12 km, the last ten of which follow a nearly straight and mostly downward course from Widan el-Faras to its final destination on the shore of an ancient and now extinct lake.  The ancient road stands elevated partially above the desert due to relative wind erosion estimated at 3 cm a century.

Petrified Forest in Fayoum

The Petrified Forest is the remnants of a forest that grew 35 million years ago. The trees are perfectly petrified, down to their smallest details and include marshy plants and aquatic ferns as well.

Petrified Forest in fayoum

The Petrified forest is now the location of Jebel Qatrani-museum open air Museum.  The Museum laid up in 2018 to display geological artifacts millions of years old found in Fayoum desert, including Petrified trees, fossilized Whales, Aegyptopithecus, elephants, Phiomia, Palaeomastodon, Arsinoitherium, crocodiles, snakes and many other well preserved fossils.

Petrified Forest in fayoum

Petrified Forest in fayoum

According to UNESCO criteria and Med-O-Med considerations, Fayoum Oasis and the Qaroun Lake: (v) is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change, (vi) is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (vii) contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance, (viii) is an outstanding example representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features, (ix) is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals, (x) contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

UNESCO is currently considering this area as a World Heritage site. Until now only three percent of the area has been excavated. Last year the excavations uncovered a complete fossil of a prehistoric whale species. This has not been found elsewhere in the world.

Shakshouk village overlooking lake Qaroun Faiyum

Explore Nort Lake Qaroun with Fayoum Travel Guide!

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