Wadi Al-Hitan (Valley of the Whales) is located in the Western Desert of Egypt, 150 kilometers from Cairo, in the El-Fayoum Mustafa, in the territory of the Wadi El-Rayan Nature Reserve. Wadi al-Hitan is considered one of the most unique places on Earth due to the fossilized skeletons of ancient whales discovered here, belonging to the long-disappeared suborder of the Archeoceeta, as well as the fossils of prehistoric sharks, crocodiles, sea turtles, stingrays, algae, huge ferns, horsetails and mangroves .
Since the discovery of the first fossilized remains in Wadi Al-Hitan in 1902-1903, archaeological excavations funded by the National Geographic Community and the University of Michigan have not stopped. Numerous findings have confirmed the hypothesis of scientists, that 50-40 million years ago the territory of one of the driest regions of the world was covered by the waters of the ancient Tethys Ocean, at the bottom of which a powerful layer of organic sediments formed. Then the ocean receded, and a desert formed in its place.
For millions of years, the skeletons of ancient whales were hidden under a thick layer of sand, but over time, constantly blowing winds exposed the fossilized remains of prehistoric animals. The amount, preservation and concentration of fossils found in the Valley of Whales is truly unique – some samples even retained the contents of their stomachs. These fossils illustrate one of the most significant stages in the evolution of life on Earth – the origin of whales from land animals.
Among the paleontological finds discovered in Wadi Al-Hitan are the skeletons of giant basilosaurus whales (the length of the largest of the found skeletons is 21 meters), as well as the remains of dorudons – cetaceans, reaching 3-5 meters in length. Scientists have found that the bodies of these animals had a streamlined shape, like that of modern whales, but powerful skulls with teeth in their structure still resembled predatory land mammals. In addition, the ancient whales had rudiments of the hind limbs, which also proves their descent from animals that lived on land.
The landscape surrounding the Valley of the Whales makes no less impression than archaeological finds – remnants of the most bizarre forms, sandstone cliffs and high dunes. The Whale Valley is especially beautiful at sunset – the rays of the setting sun paint the rocks in a wide variety of colors – red, orange, gold, crimson, creating truly fantastic views. Wadi al-Hitan is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world who want to see the fossilized remains of ancient whales, hold a huge tooth of a prehistoric shark in their hands and admire the magnificent scenery.
The first fossil museum in the Middle East has been opened in Wadi Al Hitan, a collection of which contains a large collection of fossilized skeletons and bones of ancient whales and other prehistoric animals. The central place in the museum is occupied by a twenty-meter skeleton of a basilosaurus, whose age is 37 million years.
In 2005, the Wadi Al-Hitan (Whales Valley) was included in the UNESCO World heritage list for “outstanding universal value demonstrating the evolution of whales and the beauty of the natural environment”
Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley)
Address: Wadi El Rayan Protected Area, Al Fayyum Governorate, 150 kilometers southwest of Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +20 84 830535
Fax: +20 84 830535
Web: fayoumegypt.com/the-valley -of-the-whales-wadi-hitan
Getting there : Cairo International Airport – 150 km Cairo city – 150 km El Fayyum city – 80 km You can only get to Wadi Al Hitan by car or taxi, which can be taken in Cairo. It’s better to use an SUV, because after El-Fayoum road becomes bumpy in the archaeological zone of movement of the vehicle is prohibited