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Wadi Al-Hitan

Travel Guide Africa Egypt Wadi Al-Hitan

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Introduction

Wadi Al-Hitan is a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate of Egypt, some 150 kilometres southwest of Cairo. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005 for its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whale, the archaeoceti (a now extinct sub-order of whales). The site reveals evidence for the explanation of one of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of whales: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. This is why it was added by the UNESCO to the list of protected World Heritage sites.

The fossils found at the site may not be the oldest but their great concentration in the area and the degree of their preservation is to the extent that even some stomach contents are intact. The presence of fossils of other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles and rays found at Wadi El-Hitan makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time, adding to its justification to be cited as a Heritage site.

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Sights and Activities

Tour the track to see the skeletons of the animals. There are about 30 sites on both sides of the track, mostly of early whale species. Each one contain an animal skeleton either all of it or part of it.

Wadi El-Hitan, is also home to 15 species of desert plants, sand dunes and about 15 types of wild mammals including the north African jackal, red fox, Egyptian mongoose, African wildcat, and dorcas gazelle. Fennec foxes are the most commonly seen mammal and regularly visit the camp site at night. Also, attracted by the lakes at Wadi Elrayan are recorded 19 species of reptiles and 36 species of breeding birds

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Getting There

Only about 1,000 visitors a year drive into wadi Al-Hitan by 4WD because the track is unpaved and crosses unmarked desert sands. For the most part, visitors to wadi Al-Hitan are foreigners, who usually camp in the valley on winter weekends. Because Wadi El-Hitan is within the Wadi Elrayan Protected Area, the same protection management plan restricts visitors to prearranged guided tours along a prescribed trail. Sustainable tourism is beginning to develop and grow in the area, and the 4WD are alternatively being replaced by foot or camel treks. Since part of Wadi Al-Hitan was made into a tourist venue, walkways between the main fossils were laid out and small shelters built. This public park is now regularly visited by tourist groups, and a small camp site is present.

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Eat/Drink

It is best to bring everything you want to eat with you. There is a cafe but it's very small and lacks a lot of things. Bring drinks with you. You have to drink a lot of water during the summer season.

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Sleep

You can camp there in the tent they provide, or in your own.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 10:00 on Jan 19, 16 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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