Monday, January 13, 2020

Kodak Agfa presents : A 2017 short visit to Fayoum's Lake Qarun

Kodak Agfa is back once again in 2020.
We are in 2020 but this post goes back a short visit to the amazing and beautiful Fayoum governorate in 2017.
It is like a good thing to remember those warm days in our very cold night in Cairo right now.

Hopefully, it will be the first in a series for posts and photos published for the first time on Egyptian Chronicles about this beautiful place in Egypt this month.
Fayoum is like one of Egypt’s best-kept secret with its rich history as well as its amazing natural landscape that takes your breath away and the kindness of its people that capture your heart.
I will be scratching the surface in this post because here I am digging the history of Egypt probably from the time when dinosaurs roamed this land.

It had been known to the Egyptians for decades as the land of Lake Qarun or as known in Greek Lake Moeris and its famous norias whether in Fayoum city itself or its villages.
Egypt's Lake Qarun
A boat in Lake Qarun

A protected area since 2012,  the-202-square-km Lake Qarun is one of Egypt’s largest natural lakes. Its depth is 43 meters below the sea-level.
It is also one of the oldest lakes in the country and the region too.
It goes back to prehistory and during then it was much bigger and wider covering at least 1,2700 square km.
By the time, it has shrunken.

At Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
Lake Qarun from the West

Lake Qarun of myths

Lake Qarun has got its shares of myths when it comes to its current name.

The other side of Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
The hills on Lake Qarun's other side
For instance, many Egyptians believe that it was named Qarun in relation to the Holy Quran/Hebrew Bible character Qarun or Korah and that the lake was actually his huge mansion that God Almighty made it vanish from the face of the earth because of his disobedience and arrogance.

Amazingly, the Holy Quran in our case in Egypt did not mention where Qarun or Korah was living.
Lake Qarun has been in Egypt since the prehistoric times. I won’t go into the big words on the Wikipedia page but here is what I know from reading up.

Egypt’s top Paleontologist and head of Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Dr. Hesham Sallam posted in November on his Twitter account the discovery of new Crocodile specimen collected from the ancient deposits of Lake Qarun.
This means we are speaking about an age older than the Israelites and modern human rights in the first place with my due respect. 
Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic sites were found in Fayoum for early settlers who built their settlements around the lake from 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.
When it comes to the age of ancient Egyptian dynasties , the lake was recorded in writings that went back to 3000 B.C during the time of King Narmer.

So yes , even if Qarun or Korah lived allegedly in Fayoum , the lake would have been there in front of him.
The hills of Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
The old hills of around Lake Qarun was once part of it
I do not know the source of the Korah in Fayoum legend or how it was rooted in the Egyptian pop culture.

It is so rooted that You can find an official archeologist like Mostafa El-Waziry, the secretary-general of the High Council of antiquities speaking on TV channels about sending expeditions to search for Qarun’s treasures in Fayoum. 
The simple explanation or answer can go to the similarity of the names between Qarun and Qarun as a lake.

Another myth I encountered online, some say that the original name of the lake was “Barun” in ancient Egypt and by time especially following the Arab Conquest, it changed to Qarun.
This is wrong.
The name of the lake during the time of the ancient Egyptians was “Mer-wer” or the “Great canal” then it changed to “Moeris” during the Greco-Roman era.

The other side of Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
The hills of Lake Qarun in Fayoum governorate.
After the Arab conquest and when the lake was bigger and had many water arms in the villages on the South.
Those arms were called in Arabic “Qarn” aka “horn” and their plural is “Qoorn” and by the time it changed to Qarun according to the local scholars and natives of Fayoum who know its deep rich history very well.

A gateway for Great Cairo

For decades, Upper Class and Middle-Class Egyptian families used to look to Fayoum’s Qarun lake as a short warm gateway in the winter and autumn thanks to its closeness to the great Cairo province.
The lady at Egypt's Lake Qaron of Fayoum
Enjoying the quite view
In the time of the monarchy, the King and the Royal court used to go there on hunting trips staying at the famous Auberge hotel where once Winston Churchill had stayed.

Till the 1980s, Auberge Hotel was the perfect gateway for weekends and it was famous for its New Year galas “My grandparents used to go to those galas” but currently the state-owned hotel struggled a little bit in the 1990s.
Just the two of them at Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
Just the two of us
The old hotel made it so far under leased international management and actually I believe it will survive because Fayoum has become more than a warm a short weekend place.
More hotels and actually eco-lodges are opening there as there is a new demand for new kinds of tourists pouring to the city.
Looking at Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
Enjoying the scene at the lake

It is no longer the attraction of the one-day-school trip only, it became an attraction for desert lovers, sky-gazing astrology lovers, birds watching lovers, arts lovers, ancient history lovers and tourists in general.

There are new competitors to the old Auberge especially from ecolodges near and inside the famous Tunis village.
I stayed along with my family at Orascom’s Bayoum resort which is near to Wadi El-Rayan Protectorate and Tunis village as well as other places.
It was newly inaugurated. A little bit pricey then but it was really good.

Looking at Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
A Quiet view

Fayoum as bird attraction

Fayoum is known as a bird migration attraction, it is one of the places in Egypt to watch birds migrating from North to South or vice versa
For my luck, I have not seen many birds where I was staying.
Yet I saw a gull swimming peacefully in Lake Qarun.
A gull swimming at Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
A gull swimming the lake

Here is another shot but this time with no zoom to show you the size of this beautiful bird.
At Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
Swimming peacefully in Lake Qarun
and I saw for the first time too many Hoopoes. I saw one once in Sidi Abdel Rahman, North Coast.
A hoopoe in Egypt's Fayoum
A hoopoe in Fayoum

I wrote about it this nice encounter before

Mystery Building X “Updated”

Among the photos I took for the lake, I found a very interesting building on the Western side of the North bank which I could not find any information about.

A building overlooking Egypt's Lake Qaron in Fayoum
The mystery building
Updated : I knew now what this building is thanks to Fayoumer.
This building is the mausoleum and a mosque  dedicated to “Mirza” clan or family in Fayoum. According to him , this is the Mausoleum long-time- agriculture minister Youssef Wali’s ancestors who drowned in the lake.
The Wali family is known in Egypt and one of the biggest and most influential families in Fayoum.
They are known in the rest of Egypt as the Walis but it turned out that their original family name was Mirza.
A white dome-shaped building that looked new from far in 2017.
It looked like a mosque or Mausoleum. It can be a Christian monastery also but I found no cross on it.
I could not zoom any longer to get more details out of it. 
Using geotagging, I used the curious investigative journalist best Atlas friend “Google Earth” but for my luck the resolution was terrible.

I found out that Microsoft Bing Maps and its native Map app in Window 10 was better than Google Earth and Maps when it comes to the quality of the photos.
I believe This building is located in an area near Jebel Qatrani mount protected area. It is also located in the bird watching area according to the maps. It could be a center for visitors
There is a clear unpaved road to it. I believe there are small buildings about it too.

From bing Maps
Another view showing other buildings too

Interestingly, this building made me read more and more about Fayoum and its maps.
Hopefully inshallah I will be able to visit Fayoum once again this year.


  1. My favorite song too:

  2. When I posted the link of Fayoum on Twitter, someone posted this blog with many photos (8 pages):


Thank You for your comment
Please keep it civilized here, racist and hateful comments are not accepted
The Comments in this blog with exclusion of the blog's owner does not represent the views of the blog's owner.