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The Fayum is separated from the Nile Valley only by a thin ridge and contains a large lake called Birket Qarun, around which the life of this area always has rotated. Geological studies concluded that the area of the Fayum underwent significant and turbulent changes in its climate and geography. The region is famous for fossils found in the desert. Shells of various sizes and skeletons of whales, sharks, crocodiles, giant turtles and large mammals have been discovered in the desert north of the lake.

During the Pharaonic period, especially during the Middle Kingdom, the region became of considerable importance. The vicinity of the Nile depression made an artificial regulation of the level of the lake possible and large monuments were built around its shore. The sites of Lahun and Hawara on the ridge dividing the Fayum from the valley were chosen for the construction of two pyramids, both of which are now in ruins. The funerary complex at Hawara, built by the XII Dynasty King Amenhotep III, consisted of a pyramid and a large temple.

Today Lake Qarun is much smaller than in the past but still is a place of great beauty. Artificial lakes and small waterfalls were created in the southern region of Wadi Raiyan. The Fayum is only a few kilometers south of Cairo and an ideal destination for a one-day excursion. A 4X4 is recommended to visit the main archaeological and natural sites.

Places of Interest

Pyramid of Hawara
The pyramid of Hawara was built by Amenemhet III and became one of the most visited sites of the ancient World. Herodos claimed to have counted three thousand chambers in the funeral complex.

Medinet El-Fayum
Originally named Crocodilopolis and the center place to worship the crocodile God Sobek. In the 12th Dynasty crocodiles were adorned with gold and fed with honey cakes and meat by the priests.

A landmark of Fayum are the seven waterwheels, once surrounded by Mangos, Palm trees and willows. There are still approximately 200 of the oversized wooden waterwheels located throughout the Oasis.

The Temple of Stones
The Temple of Stones, or the Temple of Dionysias was a Roman fort built in the 3rd Century BC for God Sobek. Of all the temples of Fayum, this temple still has an intact roof. The temple consists of fourteen rooms on either side of a central corridor that leads to three chapels. Thermal Baths decorated with frescos and glassworks were discovered in 1948, but are once again swallowed by sand.

The Pyramid of Maidum
This pyramid was originally a seven step pyramid, which was later enlarged with another step. The ledges were filled up and a smooth outer covering turned it into a true pyramid.

The Pyramid of Maidum is a large structure surrounded by debris from the casing that collapsed during the centuries. It is believed that Huni, the last ruler of the 3rd Dynasty, began building the Maidum Pyramid and that it was completed by his son Sneferu who was the first king of the 4th Dynasty. The pyramid has a height of 42 meters, its base measures 144 square meters. The entrance is on the north side with a thirty meters stairway. A passageway descends 57 meters downwards into the pyramid’s foundation. The walls are lined in limestone. The construction timber is still visible.

A cementary with important and large mastabas lies near the pyramid. North of the Maidum Pyramid are the remains of the Seila step pyramid made of limestone and dated to the 2nd Dynasty.

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