Whales in the Sahara Desert

Cairo is like a beautiful, and very capricious, woman. You can’t tame her, every day is a frantic mess of sufferings and surprises, but you just can’t help but love her.

Still, after a while in Egypt’s capital city every traveller needs a break, and a trip to the nearby Sahara desert is the ideal break from Cairo’s chaotic life.

Wadi el Rayan, Egypt

After an hour drive on Fayyum Road we arrived at the banks of Qaroun lake. We waited patiently in the sleepy village of Shakshuk until someone showed up and took us rowing to the Golden Horn Island, which is referred by the locals as ag-Ghazira, ‘the island’.

In the shadow of a simple straw hut we ate the fish our guide just caught from the lake and allowed the peaceful atmosphere to slow down our pace.

Golden Horn Island, Egypt

Back to the car we resumed our journey and entered the Wadi el-Rayan desert. Here we arrived to an extremely interesting and fascinating geological site called Wadi el-Hitan, the ‘Whales Valley‘.

The few people take care of the site welcomed us in a refuge were they served food and tea, and later we took the path through the desert, a three-kilometre walk among the findings which made this place so famous.

The Whales Valley owes its name to the fossils of ancient cetaceans belonging to a whale subgroup banished by evolution. The findings date back to an age between 42 and 37 millions of years ago, when the valley was covered by the Tethys Ocean whose tides shaped the rocks.

Wadi el Hitan, Egypt

After a night in the desert refuge, surrounded by nothing else but the desert’s immensity, we moved back towards Cairo, but before arriving in town we refreshed ourselves in the Wadi el-Rayan inferior lake, close to a waterfall which connects it to the superior lake.

Despite these small and big marvels hidden in the desert, the Fayyum Governorate isn’t a popular destination among tourists. Therefore the place preserves an aura of remote beauty, but it is also a very rural and poor area. Not always a beautiful sight, but charming and authentic.

Useful information

Fayyum lies about 130 kilometres from Cairo. It can be also reached by public means, but to enjoy the trip we highly suggest to trust yourself to an experienced guide. We travelled with Real Desert Fox Tours and had a very comfortable and amusing experience.

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