Faiyum governorate is located near the center of Egypt and its capital is the city of Faiyum. Faiyum is located southwest of Cairo and has a population of over 3 million. The name "Faiyum" was derived from the Coptic term ‘Payoum’, which means ‘the Sea or the Lake’, due to its proximity to Lake Moeris. Other important cities in the Faiyum governorate are Senuris and Abshway. Although the major parts of this province are covered by deserts and dry mountains, there is also Faiyum Oasis and a smaller depression fed by the Nile River. Faiyum Oasis is the location of Lake Moeris and also has a few cities around it and several large farms. The towns of El Gharaq el Sultani have also sprung up south of Faiyum Oasis. Another dry desert depression, named Wadi Elrayan is located at the west of El Gharaq el Sultan, however, it is completely barren and therefore has a very small population.
The Main City of Faiyum Governorate
The importance of Faiyum City in addition to it being the capital of the governorate is that it is the oldest city in Egyptian history. In the local Arabic language, it is called ‘Madinet el Faiyum’, which means ‘The City of Faiyum’. In ancient times, this city was named ‘Shedet’ and it is famous for housing an ancient site of the Sobek cult. The location of this cult's temple is in the northern part of the modern city. Historically this area was called ‘Crocodilopolis’ or ‘Crocodile City’ by the Greeks, due to the worship of a sacred crocodile in the cult's temple. This Crocodilopolis was renamed as Arsinoe, after the name of the wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The modern part of the city of Faiyum is prosperous with several markets, baths, and mosques that you can visit. A canal named Bahr Yussef passes through this city and most of the residential houses are built along the banks of this canal.
Major Tourist Attractions in Faiyum Governorate
Lahun Pyramid is located only 4 kilometers away from the city of Faiyum. Though the major part of this pyramid was made of mud bricks, the core walls are built of stone, probably to give more stability to the structure. There are also eight stone structures located on the north of this pyramid, which were probably built to serve as mastabas or burial grounds for the important members of the ancient royal court. Wadi Al-Hitan is another attraction and is a famous paleontological site. It is situated in the protected area of Wadi El Rayan, within the Faiyum governorate, and contains hundreds of fossils of primitive whales. These whale fossils have proven highly useful to scientists for gaining knowledge about the evolution of the whales to their present form. The fossils of sharks, crocodiles, turtles, sawfish, and some other ancient sea animals are also present at Wadi Al-Hitan in large numbers. Wadi Al-Hitan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it draws plenty of tourists during the winter months, who often camp near it. There are also other interesting sights to see around Faiyum governorate, including the waterfalls of Wadi El Rayan, between the upper and the lower lakes of this valley, which are considered the largest waterfalls in Egypt. These artificial lakes and three sulfur springs are spectacular sights for the tourists as well, as are the Faiyum mummy portraits, which are drawn on the wooden boards near the mummies are a special feature of this region. This art of naturalistic panel paintings of dead people mainly belongs to the Coptic period, when Egypt was under Roman rule.