This is Egypt’s Only Waterfalls, And its Man-Made

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The valley of Wadi El-Rayan, 65 km southwest of Fayoum city, in Egypt, is home to two large artificial lakes created to divert excess agricultural drainage water from Fayoum oasis. It is also home to the country’s only waterfalls.

The Fayoum oasis originally drained into Lake Qarun in the north. But the lake can take only a certain volume of drainage water. Anything over this capacity and the lake level would rise and flood the surrounding land, often doing irreparable damage because of the waters high salt content. This means that the amount of water that can be used in the Fayoum is limited by the region’s maximum drainage capacity. Consequently, until recently water-intensive crops such as rice and reeds could be grown only in very small quantities. Furthermore, no new land could be reclaimed without causing swamping of existing farmland near Lake Qarun. There was a pressing need to find an alternative drainage basin, and the large depression of Wadi El Rayan was found to be suitable.


Photo credit: Roland Unger/Wikimedia

In 1974, a 9-kilometers open channel and an 8-kilometers tunnel were cut through the desert from the western side of the Fayoum depression to the large, dry depression of Wadi El Rayan. Drainage water now flows into Wadi El Rayan forming two large lakes. Water first reaches the northern lake and when it’s overwhelmed, a stream flows towards a deeper part of the depression, where another lake is formed. As the course of the stream was eroded, natural rocks were exposed and waterfalls formed over them.

There are several cascades on the stream, none of them taller than 2 to 4 meters. Yet, they have attracted considerable attention among the local Egyptians, as many have never seen waterfalls before. The waterfalls have also been featured in many Egyptian pop videos and films. The falls, however, will not last for ever as the level of the lower lake is continually rising and the falls will exist only until the expanding surface area allows a rate of evaporation equal to the amount of water flowing into it.

The shorelines of the lakes are densely vegetated making them perfect wintering habitats for migrating birds and breeding spot for many fishes. The area is now a nature reserve and is home to the world’s sole population of Slender-horned Gazelles, as well as 8 other mammal species and 13 species of bird.


Wadi El-Rayan Lake. Photo credit: Mohammed Moussa/Wikimedia


Wadi El-Rayan Lake. Photo credit: Mohammed Moussa/Wikimedia


Photo credit: Janne Creste/Flickr


Photo credit: Janne Creste/Flickr


Photo credit: Mona Baizak/Flickr


Photo credit: Mu-Lan Chau/Flickr


An Egyptian man jumps in the water of Wadi El-Rayan Waterfalls in Fayoum, Egypt, on March 6, 2015. Photo credit: Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa


Photo credit: Hatem Moushir/Wikimedia

Sources: Tour Egypt / Egypt-Uncovered / Wondermondo

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