The first fossil vertebrate discovery made was in Al Fayyum where whales’ by a German geologist named Georg Schweinfurth were discovered in 1879. His discovery was published in 1882. In 1898, with Egypt under British military rule, Egyptian Survey geologist Hugh J.L. Beadnell was sent in to survey Fayoum and soon found more fossil vertebrates. British Museum of Natural History paleontologist Charles W. Andrews joined Beadnell in 1901 to help make Wadi El Hittan the first extensive fossil collection from the Fayoum. They published their impressive results shortly after that grabbing the world attention. A German team, led by Stuttgart’s Eberhard Fraas and Richard Markgraf moved to Fayoum, followed the British in 1905.
Wadi El Hittan
Al Fayyum is an oasis and a distinctive depression region in character between the main Nile Valley and other desert oases: its fields are watered by a channel of the Nile, the Bahr Yussef, as it drains into a desert depression west of the Nile Valley. Bahr Yussef veers west through a narrow neck of land north of Ihansya, between the archaeological sites of Lahun and Gurob near Hawara; it then branches out, providing rich agricultural land in the Al Fayyum basin, draining into the large saltwater Al Fayyum lake; the lake was freshwater in prehistory, known as Lake Moeris. The capital of Al Fayyum, Medinet – Al Fayyum , is 81 miles (130 km) southwest of Cairo . Al Fayyum proper is an oasis in the Lybian Desert , its eastern border being about 15 miles west of the Nile .
Southwest of the Al Fayyum, and forming part of the Governorate, is the Gharak depression. Another depression, entirely barren, Wadi Rayan, covering 280 squared miles (725 km²), lies west of the Gharak. The whole region is below sea-level, and, except for the gap mentioned, is encircled by the Libyan hills. The lowest part of the province, the north-west end, is occupied by the Birket ci Kerun, or Lake of the Horns, whose surface level is 140ft
Wadi El Hittan
(43 m) below sea-level. The lake covers about 78 mile² (200 km²) Differing from the typical oasis, whose fertility depends on water obtained from springs, the cultivated land in Al Fayyum is formed of Nile mud brought down by the Bahr Yusuf. From this channel, 15 miles (24 km) in length from Lahun, at the entrance of the gap in the hills, to Medina, several canals branch off and by these the province is irrigated, the drainage water flowing into the Birket ci Kerun.
Over 400 miles² (1,000 km²) of Al Fayyum is cultivated, the chief crops being cereals and cotton . The completion of the Aswan first dam by ensuring a fuller supply of water enabled 20,000 acres (80 km²) of land, previously un-irrigated and untaxed, to be brought under cultivation in the three years 1903-1905. Three Crops are obtained in twenty months. The Governorate is noted for its figs and grapes, the figs being of exceptional quality.
Olives are also cultivated .Rose trees are very numerous and most of the attar of roses of Egypt is manufactured in the province. Fayyoum also possesses an excellent breed of sheep. Lake Kerun abounds in fish, notably the bulti (Nile carp), of which considerable quantities are sent to Cairo.
Wadi El Hittan
Medinet Al-Fayyum (or Medina), the capital of the Governorate, is a great agricultural center, with a population that increased from 26,000 in 1882 to 37,320 in 1907, and has several large bazaars, mosques, baths and a much-frequented weekly market. Bahr Yusuf runs through the town, its banks lined with houses. There are two bridges over the stream: one of three arches, which carries the main street and bazaar, and one of two arches over which is built the Kait Bey mosque. Mounds north of the town mark the site of Arsinoe, known to the anceint Greeks as Crocodilopolis, where in ancient times the sacred crocodile kept in the Lake of Moeris was worshipped. Besides Medina there are several other towns in the Governorate, among them Senuris and Tomia to the north of Medina and Senaru and Auuksa on the road to the lake. There are also, especially in the neighborhood of the lake, many ruins of ancient villages and cities. Fayum is the site of Lake Moeris of the ancient Egyptians, a lake of which Birket ci Kerun is the shrunken remnant.
Wadi Hittan Nature Reserve developed placed on tourist map. The government of Egypt will launch within the next few days the development project of the Wadi Hittan (Whales Valley) nature reserve in Rayan Valley in Fayoum governorate.
The project aims at placing this area on the environmental tourist map after it has been registered as the first Egyptian site on UNESCO list of world natural heritage.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif received a report from Maged George State Minister for Environmental Affairs on this area, asserting that this are houses several geological components, water springs and rare fossils as well as a great Wadi El Hittan number of whales’ skeletons dating back to 40 million years.
Nazif has decided to form a committee of the ministries of higher education, environmental and foreign affairs, Fayoum governorate in addition to a number of Egyptian universities experts to take part in drawing up a comprehensive plan for boosting investment in the natural and archaeological sites in Fayoum governorate.
An article of Al Ahram weekly on Egypt, Environment, 08/20/2005
Fayyoum is currently the focus of interest and cooperation between the governorate of Fayyoum and the ministries of environment and tourism. The plan of cooperation aims at transforming Al Fayyoum into an Eco – Tourism region, due to its unpolluted environment and agriculture, folk and local handcrafts as well as its overall cultural heritage. Al Fayyoum has been known for being rich in its cultural and natural resources such as Lake Qaroun and Wadi Al Rayyan, as well as the city of Madi, which was built in the second century BC.