Around Egypt: Wadi El Rayan Lake and Waterfalls

The well-known Wadi El Rayan National Park is widely considered to be among Egypt’s most breathtaking tourist destinations. A few years ago, I went here for the first time, and I immediately fell in love with the area. It has quickly become one of my go-to places for spending the weekend. It is a two-hour trip from Cairo, and once you arrive, you will discover that you are in the middle of a clean, wide-open desert that is made even more stunning by the sculpted sand dunes and tranquil blue water.

Top Facts About Wadi El Rayan

  • Announced as a national park in 1989.
  • Area: 1759 Km2
  • The natural reserve is a part of the El Fayoum governorate.
  • Situated around 75 kilometers away from the city of El Fayoum.
  • It was given its name after King El Rayan Ibn El Walid, who had resided in the region with his troops.
  • It can be reached from Cairo in a little over two hours.

Wadi El Rayan Fayoum

Wadi El Rayan Protected Area

Wetlands, waterfalls, and sand dunes all contribute to the protected area’s distinctive landscape, making it an invaluable home for a broad variety of plant and animal species.

The higher and lower man-made lakes of Wadi El Rayan Protected Area are the area’s main attraction. Several species of fish, amphibians, and birds rely on these lakes as a vital habitat. Many rare and endangered bird species, like the white-eyed gull, the lesser flamingo, and the Egyptian vulture, call this region home. Egyptian fauna such as white gazelles, Egyptian gazelles, sand foxes, and fennec foxes, as well as unique types of resident birds, migrating birds, and various kinds of eagles and falcons, may also be observed in the region.

Many natural waterfalls have emerged here after millions of years of water eroding the sandstone cliffs, adding to the area’s already impressive landscape. These waterfalls are a sight to see, and they also serve an important function in the surrounding environment by supplying fresh water.

The protected region is home to marshes, waterfalls, and sand dunes that may reach heights of up to 50 meters in places. Most notably, the area’s plant life has made it a good winter home for more than 140 species of migratory birds; its artificial lakes are ideal for fish breeding; and, as a nature reserve, it’s home to the world’s largest population of “skinny century” deer as well as 24 other mammalian species, including foxes, jackals, foxes, wild cats, ferrets, and 143 bird species.

The Wadi El Rayan reserve is divided into seven sections:

  1. The upper and lower Lakes
  2. The Magic Lake
  3. Wadi El Rayan springs
  4. Wadi El Rayan Falls
  5. El Modawara Mountain, also known as Jabal El Modawara in Arabic,
  6. El Rayan Mountain, also known as Jabal El Rayan
  7. Wadi El Hitan (The Valley of the Whales).

All of these regions are home to a wide variety of breathtaking natural features, including waterfalls, oases, mountains, and rock formations. To enjoy Wadi El Rayan and the Fayoum, it is recommended to arrange your tour package with the travel agency in Cairo to provide you with a tour guide, transportation, and activities such as Sandboarding, camping, and safari.

Wadi El Rayan Waterfalls

wadi el rayan waterfalls

The El Rayan waterfalls may be seen on the left side of the road around 15 kilometers beyond the entrance to the reserve (of which nearly two kilometers are unpaved). The waterfalls are stunning, but it’s terrible that the government hasn’t been maintaining them since now they seem old and worn out, which is not the most appealing sight for tourists. We strongly suggest that you spend as little time as possible in this location and focus instead on exploring the wonderful protectorate.

Wadi El Rayan Valley

The Wadi El Rayan Valley encompasses an area of 1759 km2, and it has a lake that spans 113 km2 of that territory. It is situated in the Al Fayoum Oasis, approximately 65 kilometers to the southwest of Faiyum city and 80 kilometers to the west of the Nile River. The valley of Wadi El Rayan has been modified to accommodate the creation of two distinct artificial lakes. A series of waterfalls may be seen between the top lake and the lower lake in the nature reserve. It is generally agreed that the Wadi El Rayan Waterfalls are Egypt’s most impressive waterfalls.

The Magic Lake

Wadi El Rayan is home to a hidden gem of a lake called the Magic Lake, which gets its name from the fact that it changes hues throughout the day depending on the angle of the sun.

magic lake egypt

It’s a fantastic spot where you can try sandboarding in the desert, swim in a beautiful lake, or relax next to a breathtaking waterfall. There are minerals in the lake that aid people with rheumatism, and you can have fun riding and racing automobiles in the desert, so it’s the kind of mystical destination that only a mystical vacation can provide.

Jabal El Modawar

el medwar mountains fayoum

El Modawar means rounded in Arabic. Surprisingly enough, all the small stones you can find on the tiny hill are all rounded. The two twin hills are amazing sightseeing with lovely views over the lake. It is easy to climb and to look at the view from the top. I enjoyed rappelling once over there! It was a neat experience!!

Wadi Hitan

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is known as “The Whales Valley” in Arabic. The site contains fossils of some of the oldest types of whale. The discovery shows evidence for a solution to one of whale evolution’s greatest mysteries: the whale’s emergence as an ocean-going mammal from a prior life as a land-based species. There is no other area on the planet with the amount, concentration, and quality of such fossils, as well as their accessibility and setting in beautiful and protected terrain. This is one of Egypt’s most intriguing attractions.

wadi hitan fayoum

The “walking whale,” a prehistoric species of whale that has since been extinct, is on display in the Middle East’s first fossil museum, Wadi al-Hitan. The museum’s centerpiece is a skeleton of a legless whale that dates back 37 million years and is 18 meters in length, providing evidence for the theory that whales originated from terrestrial animals. Also, the Earth’s climate change process is shown through a vast collection of fossils and other unique things gathered from all around Egypt. This museum was designed to seem like other indoor museums. All that can be seen of the structure are its rounded domes and vault since it is mostly submerged.

The new museum building is designed to seem like it belongs in the landscape. The curved domes and vault are all that can be seen above the ground. The Egyptian Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Italian Government all contributed to the museum’s creation. The fossils on display at the museum provide light on a major mystery in whale evolution: how whales transitioned from a land-based lifestyle to one in the ocean.

Madi Ruins “Medinet Madi”

Situated about 30 kilometers from Wadi El Rayan. Medinet Madi’s name means “City of the past”, which was during the Graeco Roman Period known as Narmouthis (City of Renenutet). It was first recorded in modern times by Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Enjoy visiting the great monuments and temples from the hidden past.

Qaron Temple – Al Qasr

The Palace of Qasr Qarun, or Qasr Qarun. Around 65 kilometers from Fayoum City, in the province’s northwestern region, is a well-preserved Ptolemaic temple. In spite of the fact that the Qaroun temple is widely accepted as being a Ptolemaic temple (323-30 BC), its exact dating remains unknown. It is almost finished and made of yellow limestone blocks, but the Antiquities Department has only repaired portions of the outside and strengthened some of the interiors.

Despite its modest outward appearance, the inside is a fascinating labyrinth of hidden chambers, hallways, basements, tunnels, stairways, higher rooms, and various nooks and crannies. The winged sun hovers above the entryway, and the ceiling (reachable by two square spiral staircases) has a relief of two figures: the crocodile deity Sobek on the left, and a monarch on the right. The roof provides a great vantage point from which to see the surrounding landscape, including the desert to the south and west, the farmland to the north and east, and the desert escarpment and (sometimes, depending on the light) the Birka to the north.

Tunisia Village

A peaceful small village in the middle of green farms. The place is famous for its pottery schools and handmade souvenirs. There are several lovely lodges to enjoy in this area. The lodges offer traditional food like “Feter”, horse riding, and accommodation. Check Zad El Mosafer, Sobek and Kom El Dikka.

How to enjoy Wadi El Rayan? Top Activities

  1. Trekking: Go on a tour around the lakes or even further to the nearby mountains. Trekking is highly recommended in groups since the park is a vast area.
  2. Jump into the waterfalls and swim: You can enjoy swimming in the lake. It is not recommended to swim in the waterfalls if you want some privacy or you like clear water.

    fayoum lake

  3. Fishing with the locals: You can enjoy fishing in the lakes when the local fishermen are surfing the lake. However, this is only available during fishing seasons.
  4. Sandboarding. Hit the peak of the dune and slip down. It is a must-try sport. There are several high and small sand dunes in the area. Golden hills shining under the sun and beautifully shaped by the smooth wind. Check the Sandboarding Fayoum trip.
  5. Birds watch: You can watch over 13 species of resident birds around the lake, and during the winter season you can spot around 26 migrant and vagrant birds. Take aloooot of photos!
  6. Desert Safari: You can ride the dunes on a 4*4 vehicle and explore the area around the lakes. The safari trip can allow you to visit off-the-beaten-track areas and enjoy different views of the lakes and the mountains.
  7. Camping under the stars: You can book a camping ticket from the national park gate and enjoy a night camp in the area. Also, there are several ecolodges and camps where you can arrange a night at the valley or nearby Quran lake.
  8. BBQ: While you camping in this area you can enjoy some BBQ to cook your food and make some tea.
  9. Meditate: Relax and enjoy the wonderful sunset over the lake while you are sipping some Bedouin tea (Served in a small glass).
  10. The lake view: The blue tranquil water is a wonderful sight that will stick in your head for so long. Walk slowly and calmly around the lake and let the birds enjoy their beautiful peace.

How to get to Wadi El Rayan?


Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to Wadi El Rayan. You have two options to get there:

  • Option one: By car, one can take the road to El Fayoum and then turn right to the southern shore of QarunLake. It is a nice road trip with some amazing scenery. Before your reach, the End of Qarun Lake turns left to the road of Wadi El Rayan national park. It is around 8.5 kilometers to reach the entrance gate to the Wadi El Rayan. At the gate, you must buy a ticket for one’s vehicle and each occupant.
  • Option two: Book a trip with one of the travel agencies that provide a full-day visit to Wadi EL Rayan.

Tickets and Entrance Fees

Site Local Tourist Car Camping
Wadi Rayan 10 Egyptian Pound USD$5  10 Egyptian Pound 50 Egyptian Pound-  Egyptian  

200 Egyptian Pound – Tourist  

Valley of the Whales 25 Egyptian Pound USD$10  10  Egyptian Pound 50 Egyptian Pound – Egyptian

200  Egyptian Pound – Tourist

The entrance fees will be paid at the main gate of the national park. Tour operators can provide day tours to the destination including all the expenses.

The History of Wadi Al Rayyan

Nearly fifty years ago, the Egyptian government decided to construct a canal and tunnel eight kilometers long through Western Sahara from the western side of the low-lying Faiyum region, which led to the flow of surplus agricultural wastewater from the Faiyum Oasis to wadi al-Rayyan, leading to the formation of two large industrial lakes. Water first reaches the northern lake, and when it exceeds its capacity, water flows from it to a stream towards the deepest part of the sea.

The concept of utilizing the waters of wadi al-Rayyan was first proposed during the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, who ordered his chief engineer “Lenan de Belphon” to find a way to store the floodwaters. In 1882, the American engineer “Frederick Top Hoyt” submitted a project to convert Nile water to low Rayan to prevent the Nile from flooding high and to enable the use of water stored in case of emergency. After submitting his second and third reports in 1894 and 1895, respectively, he considered excavating a channel passing near the Al-Hajj facility southwest of Ahnasia and continuing on for approximately 7 kilometers until it reached wadi al-Rayyan, where the Nile would join the construction of a huge warship.

The Egyptian government started excavating a substantial section of the canal in 1943, but the project was halted for reasons they at first attributed to science. Geologists have claimed that there are several tectonic faults and fractures running through the depths of the Faiyum depression. The canal engineers were concerned that water might seep through the cracks. Despite the fact that the geologist Cirque de Fox disproved the notion in 1950, plans to turn Wadi El-Rayan into a water reservoir was scrapped so that research could begin on the construction of the High Dam at Aswan.

The Egyptian government has been investigating the feasibility of storing Nile water in the Faiyum depression for over two centuries. In 1974, it reverted back to the same concept in order to get to work, having discovered that the valley had sunk 46 meters below the Mediterranean’s surface. This was roughly one meter above the amount of Lake Qarun.

Since the canal was opened, the excess water has been flowing north from the Faiyum Oasis into Qarun Lake. However, Qarun Lake can only absorb a fraction of this water, so the rest of it flows into the second lake. The decline in the area around wadi al-Rayyan has also contributed to this process by creating a series of waterfalls in the Valley of Al-Qassim.

Experts predict that these waterfalls won’t last forever due to the rising water level of the lower lake, which will eventually stop water from flowing through the waterfalls unless the evaporation rate of water within the lake increases by an amount sufficient to compensate for the volume of water that flows into it.

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