Yes, it's Al-Fayoum, the Egyptian desert destination in Paulo Coelho's prominent novel, "The Alchemist".
Al-Fayoum governorate lies in the south of Egypt's capital, Cairo. This governorate is dubbed "Minor Egypt", and this is due to its several features that are found throughout the country. For instance, Al-Fayoum lives on the Nile River and also has a canal; "Bahr Youssef". Moreover, the governorate has agrarian, industrial, and nomadic communities. There is a fishing community as well on the shores of Lake Qarun. Al-Fayoum is surrounded by desert from all sides except the Eastern.
My trip was to the desert of Al-Fayoum, away from the city.
The Trip was organized by a university colleague. I was invited on Facebook, and I saw a number of university colleagues who I haven't seen for a long while 'attending'. The description of the trip on the event page boiled down to " a daytime safari; travelling by Land cruisers from Cairo to the desert of Al-Fayoum, visiting "Wadi El Rayan" and "Wadi El Heitan" national reserves, climbing a mountain, hiking, sand-boarding, and barbequing our lunch." Wow! Why would I miss this trip?
|An amazing jumble of colors that were all pure and attractive. Immense amount of pictures were taken, under the blazing sun.|
Heading to Wadi El-Rayan
The gathering was at 6:30am, and because we're Egyptians, it took us a whole couple of hours to gather and take off. For me, it wasn't a good start, but once we took off, the magic started to happen.
I sat in a window-seat, and got my head fairly out of the window. The faster my car was, the stronger the air pummeled my face, and the more I enjoyed, and, of course, the more I was mocked by the girls with me. It's been long years since I last did so, and I was hungry for some fun and refreshment.
In our way, we passed by villages and fields, and then we went to absolute desert; where we had our first stop, "Wadi El-Rayan". The place is more than amazing. The nature is clean and everything looked pure; pure sand, air, sky, and clouds. Subhan Allah!
We passed by the waterfalls, and headed to climbing El-Madwara Mountain that was right next to Qarun Lake. It's a small mountain, yet I hesitated ascending it, because I'm alto-phobic. But thanks to the amazing beauty of the virgin nature, and the adrenaline rush from the hyper group, I did it. It was hard, but attainable.
The view from the top of the mountain was fascinating; yellow mountain and desert sand, blue lake, green bushes around it, turquoise sky, and white clouds. An amazing jumble of colors that were all pure and attractive. Immense amount of pictures were taken, under the blazing sun.
|It was a lot of sweat and dust, but it was also a lot of smiling and laughing. I discovered a new part of my country, I was reunited with old colleagues, and I came back with a nice tan.|
Wadi El-Hitan (literally means the Valley of Whales) lies inside Wadi El-Rayan. It's an open-museum; where visitors hike in the desert-valley, with a map. There is a very lengthy alley, about 38 km, with stones on both sides, leading us through the valley to the fossils, with indicative panels. The whole place is environment friendly; there is no electricity.
Wadi El-Hitan is a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate of Egypt. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of the whales; the archaeoceti (an extinct sub-order of whales) that date back to 37-42 million years ago. The site reveals evidence explaining of one of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of whales: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. No other site in the whole planet yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape.
The fossils at the site may not be the oldest ever, yet they are very unique due to concentration in the area and the degree of their preservation (to the extent that even some stomach contents are intact).
The presence of fossils of other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles and rays, as well as Mangrove found at Wadi El-Hitan makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time, adding to its justification to be cited as a Heritage site.
Sand boarding was our final part. After we finished hiking and ate our barbecued chicken & halloumi, and hot dogs, we moved to a sand mountain, by the vehicles, to do the Sand boarding.
Sand boarding is climbing the mountain with carrying a skating-board, and then sliding on the board from the top. Climbing the sand mountain was extremely difficult and tiring, as our legs wallow deeply in the sand with every step. But it was quite worth it.
While sliding down, everyone is prone to fall off the skating board into the deep sand. We all laughed out loud like little kids on ourselves and on each other while dropping and stumbling. Very funny photos were taken. It was a very hilarious and rejuvenating experience.
As we were skate-boarding, sunset came. We saw dusk from above the sand mountain. Strikingly magnificent!
It was a lot of sweat and dust, but it was also a lot of smiling and laughing. I discovered a new part of my country, I was reunited with old colleagues, and I came back with a nice tan. It was a perfect break from crazy crowded Cairo.
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