• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Faiyum Oasis: The Heart-Shaped Hidden Garden of Egypt


Jan 20, 2023

In TV exhibits and films, if an oasis is proven, it’s normally both a mirage or some tiny pool of water subsequent to a palm tree in the course of the desert. We may very well be forgiven for pondering that every one oases are like this – however we’d be flawed. Some oases are large. Faiyum Oasis in Egypt isn’t only one small pool of water however a set of many lakes and canals, in addition to the fertile lands that encompass them. In fact, this being Egypt, Faiyum Oasis isn’t only a website of pure magnificence, it has its personal fascinating historical past as effectively.

What’s Faiyum Oasis?

Faiyum Oasis could be discovered to the west of the Nile, round 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Cairo in Egypt. It’s a basin within the desert that’s between 490 and 656 sq. miles (1,270 km 2 and 1,700 km 2) in measurement, with its backside laying round 150 toes (45 meters) under sea degree.

In contrast to most true oases, Faiyum Oasis doesn’t get its water from a spring or effectively. As a substitute, it will get its water from a channel of the Nile, the Bahr Yussef. The fertile lands of the oasis have been fashioned by mud which was introduced down and dumped by the Bahr Yussef. A number of canals department off from the river to irrigate the encompassing lands. The waters drain into the big saltwater Lake Moeris.

Moreover the attractive lakes and fertile agricultural land, Faiyum Oasis is famed for its nice year-round local weather, assortment of water wheels, and numerous historic websites.

The Faiyum Oasis space of Egypt has supported human life for greater than 8,000 years. ( NASA Earth Observatory )

The Historical past of Faiyum Oasis

The historical past of Faiyum Oasis goes again hundreds of thousands of years. Through the late Miocene interval, the Mediterranean Sea was going by way of the Messinian Salinity Disaster. This was a interval throughout which a lot of the Mediterranean Sea had dried up.

Throughout this era, the Faiyum Oasis was only a dry hole in the course of the desert, and the Nile merely flowed previous it into the underside of a canyon that was positioned the place town of Cairo stands immediately. When the Messinian Salinity Disaster ended, the formation of Faiyum Oasis started.

When the Mediterranean re-filled, what was the Nile canyon turned an arm of the ocean that reached far inland. By the centuries, this arm of the ocean constructed up with silt and have become what is named the Nile River Valley immediately. Over time, the silt continued to construct up, inflicting the Nile to flood.  

This silt build-up led to the Bahr Youssef periodically overflowing into the Faiyum Oasis basin. The basin flooded and shortly the world was stuffed with marshes and splendid vegetation.

The fertile land quickly attracted folks. There may be proof that the world was inhabited throughout the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. These folks developed their very own cultures, referred to as the Qaroun, Faiyum, and Moeris. Once they settled within the space, they turned the primary folks in Egypt to apply agriculture. Faiyum, Egypt was based round 4000 BC and is likely one of the oldest regularly occupied cities on this planet.

A wide view of the desert and lake at Faiyum Oasis (Abdelrahman / Adobe Stock)

A large view of the desert and lake at Faiyum Oasis ( Abdelrahman / Adobe Inventory)

Faiyum Oasis and the Historical Egyptians

The primary written document of the lake comes from round 3000 BC, throughout the reign of Menes, the founding father of historic Egypt’s first dynasty. Throughout this era, increasingly more settlements arose alongside the banks of Faiyum Oasis because the pharaohs of the Previous Empire inspired agriculture.

Whereas Faiyum Oasis had all the time been an essential agricultural middle of historic Egypt, it turned much more essential throughout the twelfth dynasty (1901-1802 BC). Throughout this era, Egypt’s capital moved to Lisht, a spot very near the Nile, and it was deemed clever to capitalize on the world’s agricultural potential as a lot as potential.

First, the waterway that ran from the Nile to the lake was widened and deepened, creating the canal that’s now referred to as the Bahr Yussef, which fed into the lake. This helped to do three issues. It helped to manage the flooding of the Nile (essential with Lishte so close by), regulated the Nile’s water degree throughout dry seasons, and irrigated the encompassing farmland by way of a community of canals that have been added to the Bahr Yussef.

The work was begun by Senusert II and completed by his grandson, Amenemhat III. Moreover the creation of the canals, the lake at Faiyum was become an enormous reservoir that saved additional water prepared for dry durations.

It was an enormous endeavor, the most important of its variety for the time. The Egyptians have been so profitable that, for a very long time, basic geographers and vacationers recorded that the lake was the results of synthetic excavation.

Numerous Egyptian pharaohs all through the twelfth dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty targeted their guidelines on the world surrounding Faiyum Oasis. Quite a few royal pyramids and tombs have been constructed. The pharaohs who have been deemed answerable for the oasis’s success, particularly Amenemhat III, have been deified.

The world even acquired its personal god and cult, the cult of Sobek. Within the many settlements that had sprung up within the space, temples have been devoted to manifestations of Sobek, the crocodile god . These settlements usually revolved across the cult. Monks have been main gamers within the settlement’s social and financial lives. They might arrange non secular festivals and organize the buying of products from native farmers.

Detail of the sculpture of the crocodile-headed God Sobek and Pharaoh Amenhotep III from the 18th Dynasty, 1550-1292 BC (Beth Camp / CC BY 2.0)

Element of the sculpture of the crocodile-headed God Sobek and Pharaoh Amenhotep III from the 18th Dynasty, 1550-1292 BC (Beth Camp / CC BY 2.0 )

Faiyum Oasis Decline

Finally, the Egyptian Empire fell and was changed by Roman Egypt. Greco-Roman Egypt was maybe essentially the most affluent interval within the historical past of Faiyum Oasis. Because of the 463 sq. miles (1200 km²) of arable land added to the world by the Ptolemies, the Faiyum Oasis was one of many Roman world’s main breadbaskets. The Romans carried on these works and continued to reclaim land throughout the first and second centuries AD. As they reclaimed increasingly more land, the lake started to shrink ever quicker.

From the third century onwards, the world went into decline. Lots of the once-prosperous settlements within the Faiyum Oasis space have been deserted. This abandonment led to the system of canals falling right into a state of disrepair.

From the center of the sixth century and all through the Center Ages, the Arabs who had conquered the area labored tirelessly to return it to its former glory. Large restoration works have been carried out to unblock the canals, dig new ones and construct dykes to assist irrigation. Flooded areas have been dredged and bridges have been constructed.

These works took centuries to finish, however by the rule of Mohamed Ali within the 14th century, the Faiyum Oasis was as soon as once more referred to as the “backyard of Egypt”.

This led to at least one extra downfall. The world started to endure from overpopulation and over-salination. Right now, Lake Qaroun , all that’s left of the previous prehistoric lake fed by the Nile, is now simply as saline because the Mediterranean.

Lake Qaroun is all that remains of the prehistoric lake, and is now a saltwater lake (Amr Hassanein / Adobe Stock)

Lake Qaroun is all that continues to be of the prehistoric lake, and is now a saltwater lake ( Amr Hassanein / Adobe Inventory)

Faiyum Oasis in Fashionable Occasions

Faiyum has remained an essential area of Egypt effectively into fashionable occasions. In 1910, over 400 sq. miles (1,000 km 2) of Faiyum Oasis was used for agriculture, predominantly for cereals and cotton.

A lot of the harm finished to the world prior to now was mounted by the development of the Aswan Low Dam . The dam introduced in a fuller provide of water, which allowed one other 20,000 acres (80 km 2) of land to be cultivated between 1903 and 1905. The world turned identified for its figs, grapes, olives, and roses, in addition to its personal breed of sheep.

The Aswan Low Dam in Faiyum Oasis has helped the area remain the garden of Egypt (Remih / CC BY SA 3.0)

The Aswan Low Dam in Faiyum Oasis has helped the world stay the backyard of Egypt (Remih / CC BY SA 3.0 )

Right now, Faiyum Oasis is considerably of a vacationer hotspot. Whereas most individuals affiliate Egypt with historic pyramids and huge swathes of desert, the oasis exhibits a way more idyllic aspect to the nation.

Moreover all of the farmland, the fertile soil of Faiyum Oasis has led to some areas of excellent pure magnificence. Wadi El Rayan is a protected nationwide park virtually 700 sq. miles in measurement. It’s made up of an higher and decrease man-made lake, related by Egypt’s largest waterfall. It additionally contains transferring dunes, sulfur springs, and mountains.

The Wadi El Rayan National Park in Faiyum Oasis includes Egypt’s largest waterfall. (Rowaydaabdelgwad / CC BY SA 4.0)

The Wadi El Rayan Nationwide Park in Faiyum Oasis contains Egypt’s largest waterfall. (Rowaydaabdelgwad / CC BY SA 4.0 )

The Waterwheels of Faiyum Oasis

Within the third century BC, Ptolemaic engineers launched a whole lot of waterwheels to Faiyum Oasis. These used the topography of the land to elevate water into the varied irrigation channels by utilizing the pure power of the world’s fast-moving streams.

Amazingly, the area continues to be residence to round 200 of those water wheels that also redistribute the water from the Bahr Yussef to at the present time. Right now, they’ve turn out to be an essential vacationer attraction, particularly for historical past buffs within the metropolis of Faiyum.

The ancient waterwheels in the city of Faiyum (juliegomoll / CC BY 2.0)

The traditional waterwheels within the metropolis of Faiyum (juliegomoll / CC BY 2.0 )

Wadi Al Hitan

Maybe unsurprisingly for an space with a historical past that dates again hundreds of thousands of years, Faiyum Oasis is rife with fossils. Right now, most of the fossils could be discovered at The Valley of Whales , also referred to as Wadi Al Hitan.

The world is residence to the skeletons of a whole lot of big whales and sharks, in addition to a seemingly infinite variety of fossils. These skeletons have confirmed invaluable within the research of the mammalian evolution.

The fossils embrace these of the earliest, and long-extinct, suborder of whales, the Archaeoceti. The fossils inform the story of how the primary whales emerged and the way they went from being a land-based animal to ocean-dwelling.

Fossils of the Basilosaurus (from the Archaeoceti suborder) present how this superb 60-foot-long whale had two small hind limbs. These tiny limbs would have been ineffective for motion, and it’s believed they provide evolutionary proof of how whales transitioned from land to sea.

The Valley of the Whales in Faiyum Oasis contains an incredible number of fossils that have given insight into evolutionary development. (AhmedMosaad / CC BY SA 4.0)

The Valley of the Whales in Faiyum Oasis incorporates an unbelievable variety of fossils which have given perception into evolutionary improvement. (AhmedMosaad / CC BY SA 4.0 )


For hundreds of years, Faiyum Oasis has been on the coronary heart of Egyptian agriculture. Like most of the historic wonders that Egypt is residence to, the oasis’s canals and waterworks are a testomony to the creativity and ingenuity of our ancestors.

Nonetheless, Faiyum Oasis can also be a warning of the drastic environmental affect people usually have on their surroundings. Faiyum Oasis began as an arid desert, however due to the method of nature turned a backyard of lots, attracting its first human settlers. Over time, as settlers turned more and more grasping, the world fell into decline.

This necessitated the nice waterworks of the traditional Egyptians to be constructed. Till the Romans moved in and as soon as once more overexploited the world, inflicting it to as soon as once more fall into decline. When the Arabs moved in, they spent centuries repairing the harm, solely to finally fall into the identical lure and trigger one other interval of decline.

Right now, whereas the world continues to be used for agriculture, it has turn out to be most well-known as a vacationer attraction. Hopefully, with its UNESCO World Heritage standing and recognition as an space of excellent magnificence, Faiyum Oasis will lastly get the respect and safety it deserves.

Prime picture: The Faiyum Oasis extends for a whole lot of miles, and has enabled life and civilization within the Nile River Valley. Supply: Nader / Adobe Inventory

By Robbie Mitchell

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