Wadi Hitan is totally different than any other site a tourist would visit in Egypt. It contains the fossils and skeletons of many whales dating back to millions of years in the past. Scientists have debated concerning the history and the origin of Wadi Hitan for years.
Many studies were carried out and a lot of theories have been formed. However, there is one clear fact, that Wadi Hitan is an a unique open air geology museum that is not found in any other place in the world and this is why the UNESCO added this area to its list of natural heritage locations
Location of Wadi Hitan
Wadi Hitan is located inside within the Wadi Al Rayan protected area, to the South West of the Fayoum Although Wadi Al Rayan is a protected area with desert environment, it contains sand dunes, natural water wells, and a variety of plants and animals species'. This protected area is located 155 kilometers to the South West of Cairo.
Wadi Hitan is the first Egyptian site to be added to the world natural heritage list. The most remarkable characteristic of this amazing protected area contains a lot of different fossils of invertebrates' skeletons, whales, and jaws and teeth of sharks. All these fossils go back to the Eocene age from 40 to 42 million years ago.
The names of Wadi Hitan
Wadi Hitan, or the valley of whales, has got this name because it contains a number of fossils of complete whales. This area used to host a huge number of whales in very ancient times. All these fossils are put in display in the open air museum of Wadi Hitan.
New discoveries made in Wadi Hitan, madetransformed the area like a box of wonders that is full of secrets yet to be discovered. It also raised a lot of questions among people and scientists as well. These questions were concerning how these sea creatures reached this deep desert spot at the end? Why is that place called the "continent of hell"? or the "valley of the dwarfs " or "Masakhit" in the Arabic language
Scientific explanation of the origin and history of Wadi Hitan
The interpretations and explanations presented by the scientists were based upon the studies made by geologists who asserted that this area, Wadi Hitan, was part of the Mediterranean Sea in ancient times before the water was kept in the borders of the sea we know today.
Geologists added that there was a river which pours its waters in this area and its Rresidues formed a delta where elephants used to live in the past with other invertebrates at the shores of the ancient Mediterranean Sea which borders where in the South of the Fayoum today.
Other scientists added that the Red Sea was not existing at the time and they also noted that the Moqatam Hill, located in the Eastern area of Cairo today, was formed by the passage of the old Mediterranean Sea in that area in ancient times.
Another scientific theory claims that Wadi Hitan was covered with a huge ocean in ancient times. Because of climate changes, this ocean was limited to certain areas and this resulted in the death of many sea creatures and whales were among them.
These whales were so many and they belonged to different ages. A lot of seagulls and sharks fossils were discovered in Wadi Hitan proving that the home for many different creatures in one point of time.
A scientific mission working in Wadi Hitan in 2003 studied a skeleton of a whale and proved that it dates to back more than 42 million years. This mission went on discovering fossils of cows, sea turtles, crocodiles, and sharks. There were also some extinct monkeys species and elephants. dating
Other explanations concerning Wadi Hitan, that have no scientific bases and were only transmitted from one generation to the other, that these creatures are the remaining of large communities that were unjust and thought that their power would last forever. God transformed those communities to become evidences of the greatness and power of god and also to serve as a warning to un just people through different periods of time. This was why this area was called the valley of the "Masakhit" or inferior weird creatures or dwarfs .
However, scientists on the other hand, considering the fact that there are no clear evidence to this theory, reject it completely and say that these sayings are only legends and myths that the ancient people invented and it was transferred from one generation to the other without any proofs.
UNESCO discovering Wadi Hitan
The importance and the global recognition of Wadi Hitan started in 2005 when the UNESCO has decided in its conference held in South Africa to add Wadi Hitan to the list of natural protected areas as the first site in Egypt. The and the sixth in the Arab world considering the place to be among the most important natural heritage locations in the world.
UNESCO officials asserted as well that Wadi Hitan contains some fossils for some eExtinct whales that are not found at any other place in on the globe. This enabled many scientists to study whales and the developmental phases this creature has passed throughout history being a mammal in the beginning, than then a land creature and then a sea creature.
Scientific studies and discoveries in Wadi Hitan
The studies that were carried out on the fossils of the whales in Wadi Hitan clarified that these whales were on the last stage of evolution meaning they were exchanging their limbs in order to be able to survive in wide oceans. UNESCO officials noted that Wadi Hitan hosts a huge number of fossils of whales which are well preserved until today making them quite matchless in any other region in the world.
Wadi Hitan is distinguished with a unique environmental system with the presence of wetlands, geological formations, water springs, and matchless fossils. The number of the fossils of the waleswhales in Wadi Hitan is around 406 fossils with 205 complete skeletons dating around 40 million years.
There are also many other fossils of a variety of creatures like sharks, fishesfish, mermaids, and dolphins. Wadi Hitan is one of the most beautiful spots in Egypt with many small sand dunes and bizarre looking sandstones.
The mountain called the mountain of hell is the center of the seabed of the ancient sea which was rich in many natural treasures at that point in time. There are also many mangrove forests in Wadi Hitan.
The fossils reflect the tropical environment of Egypt during the Eocene age as scientists have discovered many sharks, turtles, sea snakes, and dinosaurs that were 22 meters high.
This area also hosted some types of fishesfish including "Abu Sayaf" fishes which is the original forefather of the whale around 42 million years ago The main reason why Wadi Hitan became so unique for scientific studies is that the climate changes and periods of desertification during millions of years.
Many problems were facing Wadi Hitan, before being added to the UNESCO natural heritage list. These problems included that people started cultivating the areas around the valley and they were near cultivating parts of the valley itself until the Egyptian government prohibited agriculture in this area. Many other animals that are still living in the Wadi Hitan are facing the problem of Extinction like white foxes, minks, and the Egyptian Cobra.
Besides the unique fossils in Wadi Hitan, many flora and fauna lives can be observed as well. Wadi Hitan hosts more than 16 kinds of plants like Blink, T tamarisk, and Rasso. , tThis is besides palm trees and many other types of trees.
There are also many rare animals in Wadi Hitan like the Egyptian deer, the white deer, the red fox, the fink fox, the Egyptian fox, wild cats, and the mongoose.
Wadi Hitan is the home for many reptiles and birds like the Shahin Falcon, quails, ducks, and gulls. The valley has a rich variety of fishes as well like the famous Egyptian Bolty Fish, Nile Perch, and many other fishesfish as well.
Wadi Hitan today
The place is now ready to welcome guests and is considered to be a natural open air museum. Visiting all the sections of Wadi Hitan would take around two hours of walking for a distance that is around three kilometers. The guests can see many fossils for of huge whales, the teeth of sharks, sea turtles, and mangrove seeds. There is also a special location in Wadi Hitan for camping, parking area, toilets, a café, and an administration building.
The roads leading to Wadi Hitan have been cleaned and guiding signs have been added. There is also a small gifts shop selling items that represent the place and was produced by the raw materials found in Wadi Hitan like pottery, clay, small replicas of skeletons of whales and sharks teeth.
The open air museum has been developed in a way that makes the guests enjoy himself themselves viewing all the displays and it offers a well preserving system of the valley's unique exhibitions as well.
As much as the ancient history has left many signs in Wadi Hitan, the modern history wanted to compete with it adding some interesting features to the place. There is a huge round rock in the way leading to the area containing the main exhibitions. This rock is called the rock of the Germans with inscriptions written in the German language written on it. These inscriptions clearly identify the name of one of the fighter pilots whose plane has fallen in the area in 1942 during World War II. The dead bodies of this German pilot and of two of his colleagues were not found till until the year 1999.
Wadi Hitan is one of the most favored day trips that Lady Egypt Tours
have on offer.