fayoum oasis tours

Hamuli

fayoum oasis tours Hamuli is another Greco-Roman site discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in their exploration of the fayoum oasis tours in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Little of the ancient site or of the Coptic monastery, Deir Archangel Michael, remains.

All lie under a modem village.

In 1910, a collection of ancient Coptic documents, known as the Hamuli Manuscripts and dating from 823 to 914, were discovered by farmers digging for fertilizer in this ruin.

The manuscripts are currently in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City.

Hamuli is south of Qasr Qarun and in the desert. It is difficult to find and requires a guide.

Ask at any of the villages south of the village of Qarun or north of Barins.

fayoum oasis tours

Fayoum oasis tours
Fayoum oasis tours

Widan al-Faras- fayoum oasis tours

Widan (or Qadan) al-Faras (Ears of the Horse) is two conical outlier buttes capped by black basalt standing about 340 meters (1,088 ft) above sea level that have existed for over 25 million years, maybe longer.

From the top, one can see a grand panorama from Lahun in the east across to Wadi Rayyan in the southwest. Widan al-Faras was once an Old Kingdom quarry.

Here the pharaoh’s workmen mined the precious basalt that was used to make potsand statues or line the floors and walls of Old Kingdom mortuary temples.

At Widan al-Faras, the Oligocene basalt that caps the mountains was easy to extract, for it broke off from the hillside and fell onto the desert floor in large chunks.

It simply had to be loaded onto sleds and transported down the escarpment to the waiting boats at the quay at Qasr al-Sagha. 

The roadway that led to the eight ancient quarries was constructed of basalt stone and petrified wood during the Old Kingdom.

This quarry road begins at Qasr al-Sagha (unpaved at this point), turns north, and climbs the escarpment.

It goes across the plain and directly to Widan al-Faras, 8 km (5 miles) away. Then it skirts the second escarpment to Gebel Qatrani.

At points the 11-km (6.8-mile) long road is 3 meters (7 ft) wide, but, on average, it is about 2 meters (6.5 ft) in width and has a number of branches.

The quarries, with their camps, tools, and workshops, and the paved road may be the oldest such sites in the world and are certainly the last of the Old Kingdom road-building quarries left in Egypt. Because it was left out of the Lake Qarun nature reserve, miners are quarrying the basalt once again.

To stop the destruction of this national treasure, its inclusion in the Protected Area is under consideration.

the world, and observations tell us just how the ancient Egyptians created it. Scientists used this road to measure the erosion of the desert. Once Hat with the surrounding desert, the road now stands nearly 1 meter (3 ft) above the surface.

Scientists estimate that the wind takes away 3 cm (1.2 inches) per century. The

iirst archaeological survey of the quarries was conducted in 2005.

fayoum oasis tours

 fayoum oasis tours

Umm al-Sawan

Located 20 km (12.4 miles) northeast of Widan al-Faras are the gypsum (alabaster) quarries called Umm al-Sawan (Mother of Marble).

Used by the ancient Egyptians of the First through the Fourth Dynasty, the site is complete and includes workshops and quarrymen’s camps.

The tools found in the quarry are of stone mined at the Chephren Quarries in the southeast corner of the Westem Desert and include picks and drills made of chert and mauls made of dolerite. Above the workshops are several hundred stone circles that are probably the foundations of buildings.

Excavators are not sure whether these or the rock shelters in the area are the workers’ homes. The site was first located by Gertrude Caton-Thompson in 1928.

 fayoum oasis tours

Gebel Qatrani

Gebel Qatrani sits atop the northern scarp enclosing the Fayoum Depression. It is made of sandstone and clays and topped by a thick bed of hard black basalt.

Many fossils exist here.

 fayoum oasis tours

Abu Ballas

To the northwest is Abu Ballas, Father of Pots, first discovered by Prince Kamal alDin in his desert wanderings early in the twentieth century.

Located on the caravan trail that linked Wadi Rayyan and points south with Wadi Natrun and points north, Abu Ballas was obviously a major station where caravans stopped to rest.

It sits 64 km (38 miles) from Qasr al-Sagha in the middle of the desert.

The pots scattered around this area date from the Roman era and consist mainly of smashed amphorae. There are two other sites named Abu Ballas, both southwest of Dakhla on the way to

 fayoum oasis tours

fayoum oasis tours

It is easier to reach these sites from the Bahariya Desert Road, because descending the escarpment above Qasr al-Sagha is safer than ascending it. But one must not enter that part of the desert without a good guide.

To reach these sites from below the escarpment, put Qasr al-Sagha at your back and face the lake. There are three tracks in front of you: the original track veering left, a second that cuts off from this track and heads slightly to the right to Dimeh, seen in the distance at about one o’clock, and a third track that turns right.

The third track is the old quarry road to Widan al-Faras. Follow the third track.

One kilometer from Qasr al-Sagha, the road heads north and passes in front of a modern mud-brick building.

To the right, tucked into the foothills, is a series of uninscribed, hand-hewn rock caves.

Follow the track heading up the scarp, a joumey of 3.3 km (2 miles).

At the top, the ground is strewn with shells and fossils.

On a clear day, the Giza Pyramids are visible to the northeast.Saqqara to the east, and all of the Fayoum to the south. Tum right (east) along the top of the escarpment and look for the Old Kingdom road.

You can’t miss it because the stone and petrified wood stand out and seem out of place.

While you reach it, follow it left.

The trail continues along an ancient quarry road built of stone and petrified wood on its way I0 Widan al-Faras.

To the west, along the cliff, is Gebel Qatrani. Southern Shore of Lake Qarun (still in the Protected Area)

Old Sinnuris Rd. N 29 30 255 A 4 7 N 29 28 978 Duck Island N 29 28 574 Auberge Fayoum N 29 28 083 2 L   ° 4   A > 3 HN 29 27 824 Wadi Rayyan Rd. N 29 24 635

The contrasts those are perpetual in Egypt stand out yet again on the shores of Birket Qarun. Where the northern shore is barren and desolate desert, the southem shore is lush, green, and productive.

While the north is mined for minerals,the south is cultivated for crops. The north is uninhabited while the south is heavily populated.

Because the current southern shore was underwater in ancient times, there are no monuments in the immediate area. It has been developed mainly as a tourist site.

The lake is a popular day-trip for middle Class Egyptians trying to escape the noise and bustle of Cairo, and the beaches in this area are crowded, especially on Fridays and holidays.

The first part of the lake shore is overly developed with day beaches and resorts. One must move beyond the resorts of Alla a Din, Auberge Fayoum, and Panorama and past the village of Shakshuk to the quiet, agricultural lakefront of the westem half of the lake.

Shakshuk, less than a kilometer beyond the Panorama Hotel, is a fishing village.Boats can be hired for a ride on the lake or fllrlp across it to Dimeh.

Vendors are easlllf Spotted as the fishermen unfurl their Sails along the road and hawkers call out for customers.

At the fork in the road at km total km the Egyptian Salts and Minerals sign, bear left, continue for one block, bear left again, and head south.

Continue for about 2 km (1.2 miles) and turn right through the cement arch to drive to the southwestem end of the lake.

Here the new road to Wadi Rayyan that bypasses Shakshuk joins the road. To avoid Shakshuk, take the fork to the left that announces Wadi Rayyan just before the village.

It will join the road from Shakshuk at the cement arch.

A few timeshare beach resorts and electrical wires now mar the landscape of this once pristine area. Otherwise, it is as it was centuries ago.

The serene pastoral atmosphere continues for 20 km (12.5 miles).

High on the hill to the left of the road, on the benchmark of the former lake, rise the two newly developed communities of Ezbat Tunis and Haggar al-Gilf. The Islamic-style homes are the residences of afliuent families who find this section of the Fayoum a good place for a

second home.

Just beyond the village, as the road reaches the crest of a hill, is the road to Wadi Rayyan. Accessible by regular vehicle, simply follow the road to Wadi Rayyan (for details about Rayyan, see below).

At this point, it is only 10 km (6.2 miles) to the end of the lake. There are a few

fayoum oasis tours

 fayoum oasis tours

Medinet Quta

The road north from the village of Qarun leads to the very edge of the scarp, a good place to climb nearly to the top. This is a hike.

Another problem is that an abandoned  car may be vandalized.

However, the trip up the escarpment is a wonder.

There are plenty of small fossils, and probably bigger ones along the edges of the cliff.

The wind howls over the crest of the ridge and can be strong enough to knock one down.

Just below the top of the escarpment there iga ridge riddled with what appear to be white bones. Closer examination reveals large limestone rocks embedded in the soil.

The view is to the south overlooking the Fayoum palm trees, cultivated fields, the giant lake stretched out to the left, the Wadi Rayyan straight ahead, and the beige, empty Western Desert on the right.

After descending the scarp, continue east at the base of the cliff to Medinet Quta.

The only hope of finding it is to ask the farmers.

When they see a car in the in Anetinatinn The Ptolemaic city of Medinet Quta, now a ruin, marked the western edge of the inhabited area of the Fayoum in antiquity.

There are ruins of houses, inscriptions, and furnishings sitting atop a mound at the base of the scarp and the edge of the cultivated land. Little excavation has taken place at this site,

which is difficult to find because the road goes through a present day labyrinth of irrigation ditches, twists and tums, and axle-breaking ruts.

At some points it narrows to a pathway, almost too narrow for a car.

However, you do not need a 4×4 if you are willing to leave your car in a field and hike a bit.

Just keep asking.

Qasr Qarun (Dionysias)

Entrance fee

Qasr Qarun, the ancient Dionysias, stood at the Fayoum tenninus of the caravan rout6

coming north out of the heart of the Western Desert.

It passed through nearby Wadi Rayyan and continued north near the western edge of Birket Qarun.

Here the caravans naused before skirting the lake to climb the escarpment at Naqb al-Garw and continue on to Wadi Natrun. Nearby, along the hills west of Medinet Quta were ancient opper mines, still not located today.

Founded by Greeks in the third century, the community sprawled between a Roman fortress and the temple.

A thriving community for at least a century, it was probably abandoned by the fourth century and that is why it is such a clean site for archaeologists to interpret.

fayoum oasis tours

 fayoum oasis tours

Temple

Built of yellow limestone, the stone temple at Qarun is dedicated to Sobek-Re, yet another fonn of the crocodile god.

It has a good view of the desert to the west. One of the most interesting aspects of this temple is that the roof is still in place, offering a sense of the atmosphere that once prevailed in all the temples of the Westem Desert.

The uninscribed exterior, minus its damaged portico, looks like a square box. The interior of the temple is a labyrinth of rooms and stairways complex enough to be confused by early travelers with the real labyrinth at the Hawara Pyramid.

There are vestibules, a sanctuary, and a few additional chambers.

There is also a stairway to the roof which is worth the climb for the splendid view.

Town

The town spreads north and south of thentemple. It is mostly in ruins but a few structures are worth mentioning.

The Roman bath is a mere outline on the ground as are most of the houses, but a few still stand, at least partially, and some, like the Roman villas in Amheida in Dakhla Oasis, have fresco decorations on the interior walls.

The most noteworthy is located just east of the fortress.

Thermal baths with frescoes were discovered here in 1948, but the desert has l0ng since reclaimed them.

 fayoum oasis tours

Fortress

Located to the northwest of the temple, the fortress, constructed during the reign of Diocletian as protection against the Blernrnyes, Is now a ruin.

Its foundations indicate that it Was similar to the forts still standing in Kharga Oasis along Darb al-Arbain, and it is reasonable to assume the fortress served the same purpose.

Dionysias, an outpost commodity receiving caravans from the Western desert, had to be garrisoned and the caravans bivouacked when they were in the area.

These procedures required organizers and guards. In addition, Dionysias was open to invasion Hom the west.

As the first outpost in the Fayoum, it required good fortifications.

Built of mud brick, it was about 90 by 80 meters (295 by 262 ft) with square towers at each comer and semicircular towers on the sides. Within the ruins of the fortress

are the remains of a Christian basilica.

There are some stone capitals, a few with Corinthian design.

The agricultural land along with a number of canals can be found to the south and southwest of the site. Canals also run north toward Medinet Quta.

Crops included wheat, grapes, olives (producing olive oil), and dates. Factories include( breweries (for beer), vintners, and flowers.

Records indicate that at some poin Roman soldiers for this fortress were probably conscripts. Toward the end of Rome’f rule, soldiers were not as eager to serve Military service became compulsory fo: sons of soldiers and, upon enlistment, al soldiers received tattoos so they could bc identified if they deserted.

 fayoum oasis tours

Local lore maintains that Qasr Qarm

was the home of the pharaoh who now lies at the bottom of the lake and that there is : tunnel under Qarun leading to treasure Dtu’ing the British occupation, Qarun wa garrisoned by a cavalry brigade.

Dionysias was cleared by a Franco-Swis archaeological team in the 1940s and 1950s An epigraphic survey was done in 1976.

fayoum oasis tours

Nazla

Nazla is a potters’ paradise. Located along Masraf al-Wadi, the Valley Drain, one coult almost pass by thinking it just another village.

There is no indication that the far endt of the village sits atop a ravine and that cascading down the slope are the potters workshops and kilns.

It is a magnificent site perhaps the best in the Fayoum.

Today visitors are welcome in the more than twent workshops along the slopes of this unexpected gorge.

It is a joyous experience t watch the potters at work and to visit the nearby kilns where the newly created green-ware is heated into exquisite pots. If you look closely at the houses, you will see that ahnost all of their walls are built out of bro-ken pottery.

To reach the potters, tum off the main road beside the mosque in Nazla. After a short distance, Masraf al-Wadi appears on the right, as do the kilns. You can also approach Nazla via the third route toMedinet Fayoum.

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