A Day in the Whale Valley (Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt)

Surely, you remember that biology class on the cetacean evolution, where they told you that whales aren’t fish and that they actually emerged from some fancy land-based animal, do you? Wikipedia – could it be different? – has a brilliant sequence of that.

But let’s move to the real world: Some two hours south-west of Cairo, directly east of Fayyum Oasis, you can find Wadi al-Hitan, the Whale Valley (Tal der Wale in German). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect spot to illustrate this evolutionary step from the history of the whales.

Entry sign of the Whale Valley historic site

Once upon a time, or more precisely some 40 million years ago, the area was covered by a sea called Thetys Ocean. But at some point in history, the ocean started to shrink and eventually disappeared. Today, the area is part of the Western Desert of Egypt and thank to its very dry and warm climate, under its surface hundreds of whale fossils have survived until the present day.

Fossils, which are not only clearly visible on the surface, but also show the little bones, once, way back time in the history of evolution, being the hind legs of the whales’ land-going ancestors.

But let’s start the tour: The first whale you’ll meet is the Dorudon atrox (click to enlarge the picture, yet, they are pretty huge).

Isn’t that a wonderfully preserved example? Here’s another shot from the side:

Whale Valley Wadi al-HitanOnwards, you will not only find whales, but also this impressive marine turtle:

Wadi al Hitan Whale ValleyAnd also some burrows of wood-digesting Teredo (enlarge the picture to see the details):

Wadi al Hitan Whale ValleyHere’s another shot:

Whale ValleyBut also besides these fossils, the Wadi al-Hitan is a magnificent landscape, where wind and erosion formed such dome-like structures like this on:

Wadi al Hitan Whale ValleyAlright, I hope you liked the tour. If you got interested to go there yourself, check out my company’s website. We are offering tours to the Whale Valley and multiple other destinations in Egypt. For example the Western Desert, but there I will take you to next time.

Have a great day!


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