Travel to the Egyptian desert and discover the Valley of the Whales
Everyone has heard that the Egyptian deserts are romantically called the “sands of time”. This is usually a reference to the seemingly timeless history of the pyramids, sphinx and temples of ancient Egypt around 4,500 to 4,000 years ago. But it turns out that the Egyptian deserts really hold time – deep time. The Valley of the Whales (called Wādī al-Ḥītān) is a World Heritage Site for its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whales. Watching whales in the middle of the desert? It’s a new one!
If one is interested in dinosaur fossils, there are many excellent sites in the United States to explore to see the prehistoric creatures. One of the best places to see dinosaurs is Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, which preserves over 1,500 dinosaur fossils. To experience the Pleistocene (Ice Age) in North America, the best place is in Los Angeles at the Brae Tar Pits.
How a prehistoric sea is preserved in the Valley of the Whales
The Valley of the Whales is located about 150 kilometers or 93 miles southwest of Cairo and holds secrets to some of the greatest mysteries of whale evolution. Whales are mammals and their ancestors once lived on land, they descended from a land animal to an ocean mammal.
- Located: 150 kilometers or 93 miles southwest of Cairo
- Designated: World Heritage Since 2005
The Valley of the Whales is unique in its concentration and the quality of its fossils. Their accessibility and the natural beauty of the environment add to their tourist value.
- Prehistoric Sea: The Tethys Ocean
The world is constantly changing. Thirty-seven million years ago, the deserts of Egypt were covered by the waters of the prehistoric ocean Tethys. In this prehistoric ocean swam the first 50-foot-long galls with gaping jaws and serrated teeth.
As they died, they sank to the bottom of the sea, and for thousands of millennia a mantle of sediment accumulated over their bones. The sediments preserved and fossilized their remains and as the sea receded, the old seabed became a desert.
Now the forces of erosion continue to work on the ancient seabed, with the wind scraping away the sandstone and the shale burying the whale bones.
The mystery of whale evolution revealed
The Valley of the Whales is littered with more than prehistory Basilosaurus (predatory whales), one can also find the floor strewn with fossil shark teeth (shark cartilage skeletons do not normally fossilize), sea urchin spines, petrified mangrove trees, petrified corals, bones of giant catfish and many other sea creatures that once swam in prehistoric seas.
- Basilosaurus: A large predatory prehistoric whale
- To see: full length of ancient predatory whales
- Other creatures: Fossil shark teeth, giant catfish, sea urchins, etc.
Basilosaurus was a whale, but still had remnants of hind legs. At this point in the evolution of whales, they had already become useless – even though they were still perfectly formed but tiny. The rapid evolution (evolutionary speaking) of whales as land animals to the perfectly adapted swimmers they are today is one of the most profound stories in the animal kingdom.
- Subcommand: The whale Basilosaurus East of the Suborder, Archaeoceti
- Hind limbs: The remains show the whales losing their hind limbs
Today, the Valley of the Whales is the site of many dig sites of whales and other creatures that once swam in the shallow sea. It is not fully understood why there are so many ancient whale fossils of this type in this region.
The setting is one of awe-inspiring desert landscapes carved by wind-eroded rock platforms surrounded by sand dunes and hills.
Whale Valley Tours
It is not difficult to find whale valley tours. Western Desert Tours offers a sample 4 day desert tour. Their tour starts in Cairo and ends at Bahariya Oasis. This is a tour that gives a more impressive meaning to the term ‘ancient Egypt’.
- Point: Combine the visit to the Valley of the Whales with the many other Egyptian desert attractions
The tour visits several sites of interest including Faiyum Oasis, Wadi al-Rayan Protected Area, Whale Valley, Bahariya Oasis Hot and Cold Springs, Agabat Valley and the another world of the White Desert National Park with its eye-catching natural formations shaped by the forces of nature.
To know the dates and prices of this circuit, contact them to receive a quote.
Alternatively, there are also plenty of whale valley day tours from Cairo.
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