Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Kodak Agfa presents : Fayoum’s Wadi El-Rayan waterfalls in photos

This is my attempt to revive Kodak Agfa, especially it seems that Coronavirus is still there.

This is the second post in a series of posts featuring my short visit in 2017 with my family to the amazing Fayoum governorate. "Warning: The photos may not be the best" 

The first post featured Lake Qaron aka Lake Moeries; which has been one of the most famous landmarks in the governorate for decades but it met a competition in a recent couple of decades.

This competition is represented in Wadi El-Rayan and Wadi El-Hitan protectorates.

Wadi El-Hitan is already part of Wadi El-Rayan as far as I know.

First waterfall in Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
Wadi El-Rayan waterfall in Fayoum in 2017

The valley of El-Rayan or Wadi El-Rayan in Arabic got a lot of interest places and lots of interesting tales.

Its first tale is related to its name “Wadi El-Rayan”.

I did not understand the meaning at first because El-Rayan in Arabic means “watered” and it is not a green valley per se.

Inside Egypts Wadi El-Rayan protectorate in Fayoum
Desert road leading to Wadi El-Rayan in 2017

If you think it is strange because it is a desert valley named “El-Rayan”, wait to know until you know the rest of the tale.

According to local history, the Arab tribes and nomad in that area “and they are many across the Western desert and present a considerable percentage in the local population in the area.” named a desert valley after the name of King El-Rayan Ibn El-Walid.

This king allegedly lived for a while in the region along with his army depending on wells as a source of water as there were no waterfalls in the past or vast lakes. “Yeah, you read it right and this is another tale here”

So who was that El-Rayan Ibn El-Walid or El-Rayan son El-Walid !? No, he was not an Arab ruler who came to Egypt during the Arabic conquest in the 7th century.

He was actually a famous ancient Egyptian King if not one of the most famous Egyptian rulers in the “alternative popular ancient Egyptian history.”

El-Rayan Ibn El-Walid was allegedly King Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty in the Modern Kingdom of ancient Egypt; the father of Akhenaten and the grandfather of Tutankhamen.

King Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye
King Amenhotep III and his wife's colossal statue at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo

I do not how Amenhotep III was called in El-Rayan Ibn El-Walid or how the connection between both names was established yet the name of El-Rayan Ibn El-Walid appeared reportedly first in one of the books of Arabian Holy Quran Muffasir and genealogist Qatada Ibn Diama in the 8th century AD.

More interestingly El-Rayan is described as Egypt's pharaoh or King during the saga of Prophet Joseph. I found online some people indeed believe that Amenhotep III was the prophet Joseph’s Pharaoh saying that slavery in ancient Egypt appeared as a term in the New Kingdom when the Kingdom began to get slaves from captured people in the Levant.

I won’t go in this more but another trivia, many people believe in Egypt that Prophet Joseph used to live in Fayoum too according to myths

Needless to say, all this is filed under the other “popular mythology archaeology and history” because there is no official historical documentation.

Welcome to the multi-layered Egypt with different versions of history and myths.

Now, to one the most famous landmarks in Wadi El-Rayan

The Waterfalls of Wadi El-Rayan

This is the first landmark associated with Wadi El-Rayan, its waterfalls.

Wadi El-Rayan waterfalls are considered the only waterfalls in Egypt. It is not a big secret but we are desert country whose only source of water is the river Nile.

Fayoum's Wadi El-Rayan first water fall
Wadi El-Rayan waterfall in Fayoum

Unlike the misconception, these are not naturally made waterfalls, they are actually manmade waterfalls and they are not a product of yesterday.

The story of those artificial waterfalls started in October 1968 when the Egyptian government decided to use Wadi El-Rayan’s land for agricultural drainage in Fayoum as the water level of Qaron lake increased to the level of flooding sometimes.

The project was officially finished and inaugurated in January 1973.

But like everything in Fayoum or rather Egypt, this project has a long history that goes back to the 19th century.

It turned out that in the 1830s Mohamed Ali Pasha requested his chief engineer Linant Pasha to find a way to use the Wadi El-Rayan as Nile river water reservoir but it seems that renowned French engineer and explorer failed. In the 1880s and 1890s several American, French and British engineers presented to the government then projects to use the valley as drainage and as reservoirs but those projects and suggestions did not see lights. 

It would take nearly 90 years to get work done.

The drainage is a reservoir made of an upper lake and a lower lake with small waterfalls between the two lakes.

Here is the upper lake.

The Upper lake of Egypt's Wadi El-Rayan in Fayoum
Wadi El-Rayan's upper lake in 2017

Here is another shot for the upper lake.

The Upper lake in Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
Wadi El-Rayan's upper lake in 2017

Here is the first and biggest waterfall then. 

First waterfall in Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
The first and biggest waterfall there. 

There was less water during then.

The waters of Egypt's Wadi El-Rayan in Fayoum
A close up to the biggest waterfall in Wadi El-Rayan, it had less few waters then in 2017

Here are other two waterfalls. 

A waterfall in Egypt's Wadi El-Rayan in Fayoum
Two other waterfalls 

Another smaller waterfall.

A waterfall in Wadi El-Raya in Egypt's Fayoum
A smaller waterfall

The view from one of the waterfalls 

Fayoum's Wadi El-Rayan first water fall
The view from the waterfalls 

Here are our small waterfalls. 

Fayoum's Wadi El-Rayan Waterfalls in Egypt
The four waterfalls 

Here is an overview of the lower lake from the waterfalls 

The lower lake in Fayoum's Wadi El Rayan
The lower lake from above 

Here is the lower lake.

The lower lake in Fayoum's Wadi El Rayan
The lower lake of Wadi El-Rayan waterfalls 

The lower lake began a source of fishing in the governorate as fish from the Nile were brought to live at. 

There are also boats for visitors who would like to have a small cruise in the lake. 

Boats at Egypt's Wadi El-Rayan Protectorate in Fayoum
Boats at the lower lake of Wadi El-Rayan

It also became an a hot attraction for migrating birds in their annual trips from North to South and South to North. 

A slender billed gull at Egypt's Wadi El-Rayan protectorate in Fayoum
Slender-billed gulls enjoying the lake 

In some days, it attracts migrating flamencos but I was not that lucky to see any flamencos, only slender-billed gulls I suppose. 

The fisherman and birds at Egyt's Wadi El-Protectorate in Fayoum
The slender-billed gulls and a fishing boat in the lower laker of Wadi El-Rayan waterfalls

A Touristic Attraction in Fayoum

I do not think when the Egyptian government put its plan for this reservoir in Fayoum in late 1960s had imagined that it would turn to be a hot spot for tourism all year long in Fayoum but thanks to the small waterfalls.

Wadi El-Rayan waterfalls began to capture the attention of the Egyptian public when they appeared in Youssef Chahine’s controversial The Emigrant in 1994. “The film is available in Netflix currently”

Many Egyptians did not know that their desert country which depends on 95% water source son the Nile has got waterfalls.

Yet it did not begin to catch the attention of the young Egyptian tourists in the new millennium except when the age of the social media starts and people began to share their photos on social media.

Starting from there, a new spot was discovered for Egyptians to visit in the beautiful governorate and the rest is history.

The safari trips surged already in the area following 2011.

When I visited it, I saw in February 2017 several school trips from Cairo and other governorates.

Due to its near location to the capital, it is perfect for the one-day trip.

The Egyptian government now treats the place as a successful protectorate and it received support from the EU countries and the UN to improve it.

In June 2020, I stumbled upon a Facebook post with photos showing huge renovation to the place.

I found that the government made fences around the waters, which is an excellent thought to protect visitors especial young ones.

There was a very black comic warning installed at the waterfalls warning the people from jumping.  

Danger Sign at first waterfall at Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
Jumping from the falls leads to fracture or death; with the regards of someone who tried it

“Jumping from the falls leads to fracture or death; with the regards of someone who tried it”.“With regards of someone who tried it” is like for me “who thought of this sentence !?” , It is so Egypt.

I took another shot for the waterfall and I found a stray dog walking freely there. 

A dog passing by Fayoum's Wadi El-Rayan
A dog walking in the waterfalls

In 2017, there were few service buildings during then. 

The entrance of the Wadi El Rayan's first lake and waterfall in Fayoum
The service buildings in the waterfalls area.

There is a small mosque there. 

A Mosque at Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
The small mosque 

There was also building where you can buy handmade souvenirs from pottery and palm leaves baskets.

Handmade products market at Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
The fine handmade products from Fayoum 

Fayoum is known with its handmade palm leaves “Greed in Arabic” products like baskets, bags and hats.

The Upper lake in Egypt's Wadi El Rayan protectorate
The buildings at the upper lake 

There were other buildings too at the lakes including cafeterias and restrooms. 

Here is a very short video clip showing those waterfalls in 2017.

Here is also the Flickr photo album with photos showing this short visit. 

If you are planning to visit Fayoum then you must visit those waterfalls. 

Visit Fayoum
Visit Fayoum 

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