Wadi Al-Hitan – Whale Valley in Egypt. Description, photos, coordinates.

Attractions in Egypt – Wadi Il Hitan

Wadi Il Hitan is a paleontological find located in the Fayyum governorate of Egypt. The distance to the capital of the state is 150 km to the south-west. These are unique fossils that have survived to this day and represent illustrations of part of the evolutionary process on Earth. This involves a large number of fossil remains of an extinct species of whales that belong to the suborder Archaeoceti. At one time they inhabited the land.

Now the landscape is protected, but specimens of the whales themselves are available for viewing and research, which is what scientists and experts in this field of science do. Research in the Fayyum Governorate began a long time ago, but until now all findings are studied in detail, and scientists present all new facts about ancient life. In 2005, Wadi al-Hitan was inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

History of Wadi al-Hitan

In the winter of 1902-1903, paleontological remains were first discovered. This discovery spurred further research over the past century. Gradually more and more objects were discovered and studied in detail. Now we have the opportunity to visit one of the most interesting places in the world, which is not only an important entertainment, but also the historical and scientific center of Egypt.

And in fact the history of Wadi al-Hitan began 40 million years ago. Before that, the ocean occupied the surface of this part of Egypt, and then began to gradually recede. The work of the wind did its part. By grinding away what once belonged to the ocean, aeolian processes created the modern landscape.

This period, through the vivid example of the fossils found in Egypt, represents the evolution of whale adaptation to life in the water from long ago representatives who lived on land. Wadi al-Hitan depicts that stage of their development when the ancient representatives of the whales almost lost their hind limbs. One of the peculiarities is the fact that the body of whales was as streamlined as it is now, but the skull and dental system were at a primitive stage.

The largest whale skeleton found in this area reaches 21 meters. It has well-developed webbing with five fingers. It was surprising that the hind limbs were also well developed, compared to other ancient species of whales. Their shape was serpentine and they were carnivorous.

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But what is remarkable and unique about this site is that the remains of not only whales, but other animals of the period were also found. These include sharks, turtles, stingrays, and crocodiles. Some specimens are perfectly preserved, a prime example being the presence of animal stomach contents.

Cultural significance of Wadi al-Hitan

Wadi al-Hitan is considered one of the most important historical sites because after the discovery of the fossils, scientists spent years researching and re-creating the natural environment that was typical of the period and the area. Fortunately, all of the fossils have been beautifully preserved, giving researchers a better chance to learn about the nature of the time.

Current state of Wadi al-Hitan

Now this area is a specially protected area. It is a unique place, which thousands of people want to visit. It is especially dear to those people who are fond of history and geography, who simply love nature. They will be delighted to visit this place, listen to detailed information about this period of time, as well as look at all the “exhibits” that have come down to us.

What’s more, the plant specimens in Wadi al-Hitan are beautifully preserved. Seaweeds, huge ferns and horsetails, mangrove trees. In addition, the remains of dinosaurs have been found here, making the place more attractive to visitors.

An important fact is that excavations and research are taking place nowadays. Almost every year scientists find some new object of great interest to them. Thus, Egypt now has a magnificent collection of specimens that belonged to different geological eras.

What else is remarkable about Wadi al-Hitan is that in addition to the delightful inanimate nature that has come down to us from the distant past, it is possible to observe the tropical birds that have found refuge here. Their tinkling trills fascinate tourists. Visitors have the opportunity to see 13 different families of birds, of which two can be considered extinct. What makes this place unique is that its climate is reminiscent of that which prevailed here 49 million years ago.

Where is Wadi al-Hitan and what can you see nearby?

Since Wadi al-Hitan is located in the governorate of Fayyum, the obvious excursion would be a trip to the city itself. Al-Fayoum is a governorate in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Its population is more than 2.5 million people. Basically the city attracts by the presence of ancient monuments, which date back to 2000 BC. The lake of Karoun (Lake Merida) and Bahr Yusuf (Joseph Canal) are no less interesting.

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Lake Meridowo is a salt lake, which is located in the Faiyum Oasis. It has an area of 233 square kilometers, but in the past it was 8 times larger. For unknown reasons, it began to dry up and shrink in size. A long time ago it was used for irrigation purposes.

In the mid-20th century, the government attempted to restore the lake, but the desert did not give up the land that once belonged to the lake. It is now unsuitable for irrigation because of the high concentration of salt. As one approaches the lake it becomes desolate, the greenery diminishing. The northern shore is a desert altogether. In spite of this, there are many birds and there is a Bedouin camp nearby.

Bahr Yusuf is a canal that connects Lake Merida, which was dried up and turned into an artificial lake in the 19th century BC, with the Nile. It was built a long time ago, but it has been restored. Another interesting place to visit is the huge water wheels, the only ones in Egypt that feed water into irrigation canals.

On the road to Faiyum, about 100 km south of Cairo is the Egyptian Pyramid. Its tourist name is “Pyramid in Medum”. It is a pyramid of a non-standard shape, consisting of 7 steps, of which only three are visible from the outside. It was built of limestone blocks more than 2500 years ago. The pyramid was originally built for Pharaoh Huni, and his son Snofru enlarged and enlarged the pyramid. He ordered the addition of an 8th step and made the sides of the pyramid smooth.

The pyramid at Medum has a long and interesting history of study.

And of course, how can you not visit the capital of Egypt, the largest city of the continent of Africa. The most inveterate tourists and lovers of impressions will be delighted when they plunge into the atmosphere of the Muslim religion and all the ensuing “consequences”: traditions, customs and canons. And they, in turn, manifest themselves in the architecture of the city.

If we look at the list of “what architectural monuments should be visited in Cairo”, 80% (if not more) will be mosques. And here they represent Islam in all its glory. The most famous are: the Mosque of Amr, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Al-Azhar Mosque. But the jewel is the Blue Mosque.

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And to visit the Cairo Egyptian Museum is the dream of many people. And they do not want it for nothing. The museum is housed in a huge building that contains many equally large halls. The exhibits are everything that has been found in Egypt throughout the excavations. These include mummies, sarcophagi, jewelry, statuettes, and other archaeological objects.

How to get to Wadi el-Hitan

The Valley of the Whale is located 150 km from the Egyptian capital. It is part of the Wadi al-Rayyan Nature Reserve. You can get there in two ways. The first is by private car and the second is by a cabwhich comes directly from Cairo. It is better to use an SUV, because Wadi al-Hitan is located in the desert and the road is not ideal for driving. If you book all your trips online from home, you can also sign up for tour to the Valley of the Whale.

Wadi al-Hitan is a unique place, it is one of the most important in the world. All the exhibits are witnesses to the long, varied history of the earth and its nature. Coming to Egypt, it will not be enough to look only at the pyramids. The Valley of the Whale is a wonderful tourist attraction that will leave a lot of positive emotions and impressions.

Valley of the Whales Wadi Al-Hitan in Egypt

Wadi Al-Hitan (better known as the Valley of the Whale) is one of the world’s best preserved paleontological sites. This remote site in the Western Desert of Egypt displays a priceless collection of fossilized bones of ancient extinct whales called archaeocetes. The remains are at least 50 million years old.

Valley of the Whales in Egypt.

Fossils of the Valley of the Whale

Where can you find

Wadi al-Hitan is located 150 km southwest of Cairo in northern Egypt.

The nearest major population center is El Fayoum, 80 kilometers to the east.

Exploring Wadi al-Hitan

There is evidence that the area of Wadi al-Hitan was under water some 40-50 million years ago. At that time the ancient Tethys Sea was located south of the modern Mediterranean Sea. It then moved northward and over the years a large layer of calcareous and sandy sediments was accumulated which can now be seen in the rock formations of the valley. Numerous fossil remains have been found in these sediments.

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Prehistoric animal remains in Wadi al-Hitan

Geological studies of the area have been conducted since the 1800s. The first skeletons were found in the 1830s, but they were not put together due to the inaccessibility of the area at the time.

The bone fragments were originally thought to belong to large marine reptiles of antiquity. It was not until 1902 that it became clear that these were the remains of whales.

Until the 1980s, Wadi al-Hitan did not attract much attention due to its inaccessibility. In the 1980s, interest in the Valley of the Whale increased as four-wheel drive vehicles became more accessible.

In addition to scientists and travelers, looters of ancient artifacts reached here. As a result, many bones and fossils were stolen. This caused an outcry in scientific circles and in 2005, the Valley of the Whale was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The total area of the protected area is more than 200 km2 .

Wadi Al Hitan

Wadi al-Hitan Valley in Egypt

In addition to a graveyard of extinct whales, Wadi al-Hitan is home to 15 varieties of desert plants and 15 species of wild mammals, including the North African jackal, red fox, mongoose, African wildcat and Dorcas gazelle. Fenek foxes are often seen.

Whale skeletons in the Egyptian desert

The fossils in Wadi Al-Hitan date from the Middle Eocene (40 to 56 Ma). Fossils are present here in great numbers and often in excellent preservation. The most notable are the skeletons and bones of whales and sea cows.

Wadi al-Hitan Valley

Particularly valuable exhibits are fenced

Several hundred artifacts have been studied and described. In all, there are about 1,500 fossil skeletons of marine vertebrates. Among them are whales, sea cows, crocodiles, ancient fish, rays, sharks, turtles and many other animals. One of the skeletons is the skeleton of prehistoric saw-fish, 1.8 meters long.

Whale fossils range from individual bones to entire skeletons. Several partial skeletons and two nearly whole whale skeletons are on display for visitors. These skeletons have small hind limbs, which modern whale species do not have, and a powerful skull with teeth similar to those of predatory land mammals. Other mammals are represented by the skeletons of three species of sea cows.

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Evidence of whale evolution

The main feature of Wadi al-Hitan is the irrefutable proof that whales were land animals in ancient times. The valley has become the most important place to illustrate one of the iconic transformations in the history of the planet: the evolution of whales. It is the Whale Valley that vividly depicts the species and characteristics of whales during their transition to marine life. No other places in the world have yet been found with so many and most importantly the quality of such fossils.

The fossils show the classic streamlined body shape of modern whales, but we also see certain features of the skull and teeth structure characteristic of land animals. The largest skeleton found was 21 meters long. It had well-developed five-toed flippers on its forelimbs and (unexpectedly. ) hind legs, which had not been found in other ancient whale species before.

Archaeocete, the ancient ancestor of the modern whale

This may have been what an archaeocete, the ancient ancestor of the whale, looked like.

Archaeocetes were carnivorous. Fossilized stomach contents were found in some skeletons.

modern whale

And this is a modern whale.

Wadi al-Hitan in tourism

It is fair to say that only about 1,000 people a year visit the Whale Valley. This is quite understandable, as tourists try to relax by the sea, for example in the Egyptian Venice of El Gouna. Nevertheless, the flow of travelers is increasing slightly.

Since Wadi al-Hitan is in the protected area of Wadi al-Ryan, it is under protection. Therefore, tours are organized for visitors along a predetermined route.

In addition to off-road vehicle tours, you can take advantage of a camel ride or just go on foot. It is worth remembering that only some part of Wadi al-Hitan is turned into a tourist attraction. There are walking paths between the main fossils here.

One of the skeletons of the whale valley

One of the whale valley skeletons

An interesting fact is that the Valley of the Whale lies behind the mountain known as Gareth Jahannam, which translates as “Hell Mountain” or “Hell Mountain. In the light of the setting sun, the mountain seems to glow with a bright red light.

An interesting fact is that the Egyptian government has reported that in July 2007, two cars carrying Belgian diplomats drove into a protected area and caused $10 million worth of damage. The Belgian government denies everything. The dispute is still unresolved.

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