El_Medwara mountain in Wady El Rayan Faioum -
Nourhan Magdi for Egypt Today
CAIRO- 14 May 2017: I had a day-use trip to the deep desert of al-Fayoum last summer; an experience I will always remember.
Al-Fayoum is a unique governorate. It is called "Minor Egypt" as it has a number of features that are found throughout the country. For instance, it lies on the River Nile and has a canal; "Bahr Youssef". It also has agrarian, industrial, fishing and nomadic communities.
My friends and I were gathered very early in the morning and took off in five land cruisers. As we left Cairo we passed by villages and greenery on both sides of the road, and then we entered in absolute desert our first stop was Wadi al-Rayan. We passed by the famous waterfalls and the Qarun Lake, and headed to climbing al-Madwara Mountain which lies next to lake. It's a small mountain so it was an easy climb.
The view from the top of the mountain was captivating; yellow mountain and desert sand, blue lake, green bushes around it, turquoise sky, and pure white clouds; an amazing palette of colors that looked like a huge canvas.
A national treasure called Wadi al-Hitan
Wadi al-Hitan -literally means the Valley of Whales- lies inside Wadi al-Rayan. It is an environment-friendly open-museum that has no electricity or cell phone signal. The valley visitors hike in the desert valley with a map. It is a very lengthy alley, about 38 km, with stones on both sides, leading us through the valley to the fossils. The alleyway had indicative panels in both Arabic and English.
Wadi al-Hitan is a UNESCO world heritage site as it has hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of the whales. The site’s contents are a proof 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.
According to UNESCO website; Wadi al-Hitan is the most important site in the world for it demonstrates the iconic changes that record life on Earth. This site may not be the oldest ever, yet its exceptionality is due to the number of fossils, concentration in the area, and the degree of their preservation, and the degree of accuracy to record of the environment that they lived in.
We hiked in Wadi al-Hitan, took our lunch, and then moved to the final part of the trip; sand boarding.
Sand boarding is climbing the mountain carrying our skating-boards, and then sliding on the board from the top. Climbing the sand mountain was difficult and tiring with our legs wallowing deeply in the sand with every step we take. But it was quite worth it.
While sliding down, everyone was prone to fall off the skating board into the deep sand. We all laughed loudly at ourselves like little as we were dropping and stumbling. Priceless pictures were taken.
As we were skate-boarding, sunset came. We saw dusk from above the sand mountain. Strikingly magnificent view one does not see every day.
It was a lot of sweat and dust, but it was also a lot of fun and rejuvenation. I discovered a new part of my country, and came back with a nice tan. It was a flawless short break from hectic Cairo.
And by the way, al-Fayoum is the Egyptian desert destination in Paulo Coelho's global best-selling novel, The Alchemist.
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