Egypt Travel Guide – The Province of El Fayoum

The province of El-Fayoum is located about 70Km southwest of from Cairo, easily found on the map because of the large lake (Lake Qaroun), which is close by.

This region is extremely rich in many archaeological sites, such as the old City of El-Fayoum (Crocodopolis). It is in a natural depression in the desert, linked to the River Nile by a branch called “Bahr Yousuf”, whose name was probably derived from the ancient Egyptian Word “Baym”, which means sea or lake. It contains a lake that was known by the Ancient Egyptians as “Mr-Wr”, which means “the great sea”, and in Greek it became “Moris”. Today, in Arabic, it is called “Qaroun Lake”.

The word Baym was most probably the origin of the word El-Fayoum. In Ancient Egypt it was called “shedt” and it was a great city during the Middle Kingdom.

Hawara Pyramid, which is considered to be in one of the most important sites of the province, was the Pyramid of King Amenemhat III who ruled during the Middle Kingdom, but unfortunately nothing is left of his huge and fabulous mortuary Temple, which was called the Labyrinth.

One of the most famous areas in El-Fayoum is Kom Mady (Narmouthis); this is because of the remains of the old Temple, which dates back to the XII Dynasty and was dedicated to the God Sobek, the Goddess Isis, and the Goddess Renen-Wetet. Actually there are several historical and archaeological sites that are scattered in different locations throughout this province such as Kom Oushim (Kranis), Um Al Athl (Bachias), Batn Ahryt (Theadelphia), Philadelphia, Qasr, Qaroun (Dionysius) and others.

Today the Oasis, with its lakes and sanctuaries, pristine desert areas (which includes fossil remains of world importance), various cultural sites, plus the rural quietude, forms an amazing and unique site of adventure, and beautiful scenery.

Karanis (Kom Oushim)

Karanis (Kom Oushim) is situated 30Km north of the city of El-Fayoum. In old Greek documents this region was called Karanis and it contains 2 Temples in the north and another in the south, both dating back to the Ptolemaic Period, as well as some cisterns, public baths and houses etc. The Kelsey Museum houses more than 45,000 objects from Karanis, but this large figure does not include all of the finds. The University of Michigan, between 1924 and 1935, excavated this Greco-Roman site, dividing the artefacts with The Egyptian Government when the excavations were finished. Next to the two Temples there is a modern museum, which also exhibits some of the finds.

The plan of the 2 Temples is similar to the plan of all the Ancient Egyptian Temples of the New Kingdom with the same elements, the only difference is that the 2 Temples of Karanis contain offering tables (Altars) and burials for the mummies of the crocodile, which was the sacred animal symbolizing the God Sobek. Each Temple consists of a pylon and 3 small halls, then the sanctuary. To the western side, at the front of the Temple, there is an aquarium, which was dedicated to the followers of the crocodiles. They were constructed during the reign of the Emperor Nero, but restored during the reign of the Emperor Commodes. Like the southern Temple the northern one was consecrated for the cult of Sobek but also to other deities such as Amon, Serapes, Zeus, etc.

A dwelling area was discovered in Karanis, the houses built out of mud-bricks, and red bricks, with vaulted roof and stairs, gates, windows, kitchens, and stables. Some walls were painted and covered with colourful decorations.

To the east of the city there is a cemetery, which also dates back to the Ptolemaic Period. Recently a great number of artefacts were found, including: ostracas, jars, glassy vases, and coins, as well as a large number of papyrus, written in Greek, and of great value, which provide us with details about the aspects of life during that period, like trade deals, taxation documents, and civil contracts. Remains of Public Baths, built of burnt brick, were also discovered.

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