How to get there: The oasis is located 85 km southwest of Cairo. You can get there by bus or minibus from the station on Tahrir Square in Cairo (about 104 km). The route is called: “El Fayyum” (الفيوم). The road takes about three hours, because from Tahrir to the pyramids Cairo stands in endless traffic jams, after Giza the road is clear. The center is the city of El Fayyum (الفيوم), on the territory of the oasis there is Karun Lake, also known as Merida (Meridovo Lake). The modern lake is only a small part; for unknown reasons, the lake dried up and decreased several times. The history of the lake is described in the Qur’an: in the days of the prophet Moses (Musa) there lived a man from the people of Moses named Karun (in the Bible he is called Korah), Allah gave him wealth and power, but he became proud and publicly declared that all that he got, was obtained exclusively by his own knowledge and strength. The Most High punished the rich man, the earth opened up and swallowed Karuna along with his wealth, home and minions, and a lake formed from above.
The first settlements along the shores of the lake arose 5-6 thousand years BC. and Fayyum has always been a developed center, the favorable climate and the incredible picturesque nature of the lake conquered me. The oasis is surrounded by the Libyan desert, and therefore looks even more amazing and beautiful – after a long, withered landscape, palm groves and the smell of fresh green pleasantly delight both the eye and nose. Under the pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom, palaces were erected in Fayum in honor of the main local god, of course, with the head of a crocodile (there were a lot of them in the lake). For example, the famous palace “Labyrinth”, as well as the pyramid of the pharaoh Amenemkhet III (the pyramid of Havar). Although almost nothing has been preserved, but Fayoum is known throughout the world for the outstanding Greco-Roman encaustic of the 1st-3rd centuries. AD under the general name “Fayum portraits” – the best examples of ancient painting. The portrait of a boy named Eftikhiy made a lasting impression on me when I met him, being about the same age as the portrait. In the case of young Euthychus, it further depresses me that the Fayum portraits are funeral portraits of the townspeople, who at that time had replaced the masks on the sarcophagi. So the big-eyed Euthychus died a little baby. 23 portraits are kept in Moscow at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. In total, about 900 were found and it was a truly grandiose find – such a large burial place of “ordinary” people. Although much was lost, for example, at the end of the 19th century, the locals used some of the portraits for kindling to keep warm at night in the desert, while archaeologist Flinders Pitri arrived in time and took it away. In Fayyum there was also a city with the funny Greek name Crocodilopolis, in honor of the same crocodile god. Would you like to be a crocodile or crocodile? What to see now:
- Karun Lake (in the title photo for the post);
- The city of El Fayyum. A traditional provincial Egyptian city, which in itself is interesting. In the center are water wheels supplying water to the irrigation canal. These wheels, noriya, or in Arabic “naura” (ناعورة) – the only in Egypt, are the generally accepted symbol of Fayyum.
- The Hawara Pyramid is an unusual structure unlike traditional pyramids. Located a few kilometers from El Fayyum and reminds me of a huge petrified bear. Or a black stone block smoothed by the winds.
- Wadi al-Khitan (وادي الحيتان – Valley of the Whales) – well-preserved skeletons of ancient whales right at the excavation site lie in the desert.
- Wadi Ryan is a national reserve, famous for its waterfalls several meters high. The most interesting thing in the reserve in the winter is because it is here that birds fly for wintering.
- Karanis is a Greco-Roman city in the northeast of the oasis, modern Kom Aushim. There are ruins of the temple in which the mummy of a crocodile was discovered. There is no mummy itself, the temple almost did not survive.
The list can be continued, I did not list all the ancient Egyptian ruins, but it should be borne in mind that the ruins are, as a rule, little preserved and I describe longer than tourists look around this pile of stones. But Fayyum is an interesting place for a day trip. The lake, the reserve, the skeletons of whales, the black pyramid and the city with water wheels are worth the day spent on them. Well, thickets, thickets, this is an oasis.