7 must-see sights in Fayoum, Egypt

Attractions of El Fayoum

City of Karanis Pyramid Lahun

This site compiles the sights of El Fayoum – photos, descriptions and tips for travelers. The list is based on popular travel guides and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you can find answers to what to see in El Fayoum, where to go, and where to stay in El Fayoum.

City of Karanis

City of Karanis (photo).

Karanis is an ancient Egyptian city famous in its time for agriculture. The second name of the city is Kom Aushim. There were several temples whose appearance dates back to the first millennium BC.

Papyrus were found here – thanks to them, the city became famous all over the world. This happened during one of the expeditions of the University of Michigan. Because of this, Karanis is of considerable value to archaeologists. The city was found in the twenties of the twentieth century.

In addition to papyruses during the archaeological excavations were found objects of everyday life of the ancient Egyptians. It is interesting to note that in Karanis was built a temple to worship the crocodile god and a temple in which the Egyptian gods Pethosuchos and Pneferos were worshipped.

Thus, in the temple of the crocodile there is a secret room where the priests foretold the fate of the people. Scientists have been able to accurately determine the differentiation of the citizens and prove that the city became abandoned only in the fifth century BC.

Coordinates: 29.45634000,30.70953400

Lahun Pyramid

Pyramid of Lahun (photo).

Lahun Pyramid is located on the outskirts of the Egyptian village of El Lahun, which is in the El Fayoum region. Here is the tomb of Senussert II, the fourth pharaoh of the XII dynasty. In contrast to the famous pyramids at Giza, the pyramid of Lahun has a more modest size. The height of the pyramid is about 15 meters, and the shape of the structure reminds hump of a camel.

The pyramid was excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries under the direction of the famous archaeologist Flinders Petrie. The bowels of the tomb have posed scientists many riddles, most of which are still unsolved. For example, the entrance to the tomb was not on the north side but on the south side, which was probably done to protect the tomb from burglars.

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During the excavations were also found the burial of the wife and daughter of Pharaoh, and at some distance from the pyramid of Senusert II the sands concealed the ancient settlement of Cahun, where the builders of the tomb lived. Like all the heritage of Ancient Egypt, the Pyramid of Lahun attracts thousands of tourists who want to touch the history of this mysterious and enigmatic civilization.

Coordinates: 29.23615500,30.97071600

The most popular attractions in El Fayoum with descriptions and photos for all tastes. Choose the best places to visit famous places in El Fayoum on our website.

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What secrets does the Faiyum Oasis hold: the crocodile maze, portraits on mummy sarcophagi, and more

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A huge lake in the middle of the Libyan desert, named after one of the pharaohs, was adorned by two enormous pyramids; on its shore was the largest labyrinth of antiquity. Herodotus and his followers, who visited the oasis of Faiyum, wrote about it. And now, the lake has become much smaller, and the pyramids have disappeared, leaving almost no chance to learn anything about them, and the labyrinth has not yet been found, even by the most persistent enthusiasts. All that remains are mummies – and astonishingly beautiful faiyum portraits.

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Is Lake Merida the work of human hands?

The oasis of El Faiyum is much more generous with riddles than with material support for theories and versions. This amazing place, where waterfalls murmur in the middle of the desert and gardens bear fruit, was once considered one of the wonders of the world. One could fantasize endlessly about how the ancient Egyptians lived here, what surrounded their homes and what traditions filled life four millennia ago; there are more questions than answers in the history of the oasis.

The Nile and the oasis of Faiyum - view from above

El Fayoum is located a few tens of kilometers southwest of Cairo. The Nile, too, does not flow far to the east of this green island. The great river and the land of Fayoum, or more precisely, Lake Qarun, are connected by a canal. The lake is salty and small – in any case, once its area was at least six times larger than the present one, and it itself was a fresh water body and played an important role in the life of the Egyptians. Herodotus claimed that this huge lake was created by the pharaohs. This legend was popular for a long time, especially since the scale and scope of irrigation and drainage works really amazed the imagination. In order to insure themselves against the vagaries of the Nile, which sometimes overflowed too widely and caused floods, or, on the contrary, left untouched arable land, the Egyptians created a canal between the river and the lake located on the territory of the oasis. More precisely, they used the natural watercourse that had existed since ancient times by deepening and widening it. The lake was first mentioned in ancient Egyptian sources around 3000 BC, and the canal was built no later than the XXIV century BC.

J.L. Jerome. View of Medinet El Fayoum.

The canal and lake provided drainage from the west bank of the Nile and were also a constant source of fresh water – a relative rarity for oases that tend to be fed by underground rivers. The canal, later called the Yusuf Canal, was equipped with several dams, an imposing hydraulic structure. Throughout the history of ancient Egypt this waterway has been repeatedly restored, and the level of work may well have given Greek historians the impression that the pharaohs were able to construct Lake Merida – to dig a giant pit and direct the waters of the Nile into it.

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The pyramid of Pharaoh Amenemhat III not far from the oasis

The name of the lake was associated with its mythical creator, a certain king named Meris, whose existence is not confirmed. But the word is related to the ancient Egyptian “mer-ur”, i.e. “great water”. By the way, against the version about the artificial origin of this enormous reservoir are findings made in modern times by archaeologists: the Merid Lake has preserved the remains of prehistoric animals that died out millions of years ago. One thing is indisputable – the huge oasis was once one of the most important centers of the ancient Egyptian state, and therefore in its territory not only gathered crops, but also built palaces, temples and other religious buildings, the location and appearance of which later with varying success Egyptologists tried to reproduce.

What happened to the pyramids and the labyrinth of Crocodileopolis?

Herodotus, and after him Diodorus of Sicily, reflected in their notes in detail what they saw in the Faiyum oasis: according to these historians, majestic pyramids towered over the water, and next to them flaunted huge statues of pharaohs. Nothing of the kind can be seen now – only ruins on the shore of the lake. If the pyramids existed, they could really be the tomb of the royal dynasty – in that case their traces may yet have to be discovered.

There was a pyramid in the middle of the lake, according to ancient books.

Even more interesting were the reports about the labyrinth, the oldest – if it really existed. This semi-mythical structure, according to Herodotus, was erected to serve Sebek, the crocodile god. Not without reason, one of the cities that once grew on the shore of Lake Merida was called crocodilopolis by the Greeks; the animal was worshipped there, which was associated with the well-being of Egypt as the symbolic “master” of the Nile; crocodiles were seen as a personification of the might of this river.

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This is what the ruins of the temple of Medinet-Maadi in Fayyum look like, where the cobra goddess Renenutet and the crocodile god Sebek were worshipped.

This is what the ruins of the temple of Medinet Maadi in Fayyum look like, where the cobra goddess Renenutet and the crocodile god Sebek were worshipped

If there ever was such a thing as a labyrinth with three thousand rooms, as the ancient travelers said, it was completely destroyed, most likely before the new era. The oasis of El-Fayoum, as already mentioned, leaves quite a lot of space to the imagination – the level of its study remains quite low. But since the XIX century, they began to find here special artifacts from the past – a phenomenon that got the name of this oasis and made it famous.

Faiyum Portraits

The portraits, which Egyptians used to cover the mummified remains of their loved ones, were called Fayyum portraits, despite the fact that they are not limited to this region – similar paintings have been found in other places, including Saqqara and Thebes. A total of about 900 such works have been found – depictions of the dead in full-face, with the face slightly turned. The portraits were a substitute for the traditional mask worn over the head of the mummy. Fayum portraits began to be made in the 1st century AD, and by the 3rd century this technique had begun to fade away and was soon forgotten.

Portrait of a young woman, 3rd century.

A considerable number of the portraits were found in the necropolis of Hawara, near El-Fayyum. The Egyptologist whose name is associated with the discovery of these images is William Flinders Peatree, famous for finding the stele of Merneptah with the first mention of Israel in history. Since the paintings of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome have been almost completely lost, the Fayyum portraits have become not only fine examples of the art of ancient times, but also a visual representation of the traditions and fashions of the time. Apparently, it was the privilege of the rich to equip their loved one to the afterlife in this way: of all the mummies found by Pitri in the oasis and nearby, only 1-2 percent have portraits. The people depicted in the paintings bear a marked resemblance to Hellenes, which is not surprising – by the time Fayyum began to create such portraits, the oasis was already popular with visitors – of Greek and Roman origin.

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The portraits are perfectly preserved, which is due to Egypt’s dry climate and the technique used to make them. Encaustic painting was used, a special technique in which strokes of varying densities were applied with molten paints. Artists used gold leaf – the thinnest sheets decorated the background or elements of clothes and hairstyles. Fayum portraits were made on wood, including wood from oak, pine, spruce and cypress brought from overseas. From the 2nd century onwards, tempera – a paint containing the yolk of a hen’s egg – was used. Sometimes it was possible to find burials of several members of the same family at once, as for example in the “tomb of Alina”, a woman buried with her husband and daughters in the necropolis of Khavar. Some of the mummies were “decorated” with portraits, others with traditional funerary masks. But despite the opportunity to look into the eyes of those who caught a completely different historical period and saw a completely different Egypt around them in their lifetime, these portraits do not carry information about the history of the Faiyum oasis.

But here is what the thousands of mummies of crocodiles meant: the City of Crocodilopolis.

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