May 7, 2012

Cairo to the Fayoum, 1873 | Walking Through Egypt

The Fayoum
Away from the main flow of the Nile, reached today by the desert road from Giza, the Fayoum is an area of verdant cultivation around a wide lake, surrounded by rocky hills and expanses of desert. A thirteenth- century Syrian amir, thinking back to the gardens surrounding his home city of Damascus, wrote of the Fayoum: “Cool are the dawns; prolific are the trees; diverse are the fruits; little are the rains.”

Fayoum

The Fayoum, c. 1000 
al-Muqaddasi
Al-Fayyum is an important place, with fields of finest rice, and cotton of an inferior quality. It has a number of rich villages.

Cairo to the Fayoum, 1873
Murray’s Handbook
By those who have the time to spare for this expedition it is well worth undertaking, as it introduces them to a country differing a good deal from its general aspect from the valley of the Nile. The antiquary will find much to interest him in the supposed sites of Lake Moeris and the Labyrinth, and the ruins on the shore of Birket el Korn; while to the sportsman the Fayoum in the winter months offers more attractions than any other part of Egypt. . . . The best way of reaching the Fayoum is by railway as far as Medeeneh. There camels and donkeys can be procured for visiting the Birket el Korn and other places.

The province of Egypt called the Fayoum is a natural depression in the Libyan hills, surrounded on all sides by desert, save where a narrow strip of soil borders the canal leading to it from the Nile. It is thus almost an oasis, owing its fertility to the water of the Nile, introduced through a natural isthmus in the desert sure rounding it. Its present name, Fyoom, is probably derived from the ancient Egyptian word Pi-om, “the Sea” an appellation aptly applied to a country which contained such a splendid system for storing and distributing water, as that with which the Fayoum was endowed by King Amenemhat III, the constructor of Lake Moeris and the Labyrinth
This reputation for fertility it still enjoys, and though its merits have been greatly exaggerated, it is still superior to other parts of Egypt from the state of its gardens and the variety of its productions; since, in addition to corn, cotton and the usual cultivated plants, it abounds in roses, apricots, figs, grapes, olives, and several other fruits, which grow there in greater perfection and abundance than in the valley of the Nile; and the rose-water used in Cairo comes from the neighbourhood of Medeeneh.

Tradition tells that the Fayoum is not an entirely natural area it was created in the far-distant past by diverting the Nile.

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