1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fayum

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FAYUM, a mudiria (province) of Upper Egypt, having an area of 490 sq. m. and a population (1907) of 441,583. The capital, Medinet-el-Fayum, is 81 m. S.S.W. of Cairo by rail. The Fayum proper is an oasis in the Libyan Desert, its eastern border being about 15 m. west of the Nile. It is connected with that river by the Bahr Yusuf, which reaches the oasis through a gap in the hills separating the province from the Nile Valley. South-west of the Fayum, and forming part of the mudiria, is the Gharak depression. Another depression, entirely barren, the Wadi Rayan, covering 280 sq. m., lies west of the Gharak. The whole region is below sea-level, and save for the gap mentioned is encircled by the Libyan hills. The lowest part of the province, the north-west end, is occupied by the Birket el Kerun, or Lake of the Horns, whose surface level is 140 ft. below that of the sea. The lake covers about 78 sq. m.

Differing from the typical oasis, whose fertility depends on water obtained from springs, the cultivated land in the Fayum is formed of Nile mud brought down by the Bahr Yusuf. From this channel, 15 m. in length from Lahun, at the entrance of the gap in the hills, to Medina, several canals branch off and by these the province is irrigated, the drainage water flowing into the Birket el Kerun. Over 400 sq. m. of the Fayum is cultivated, the chief crops being cereals and cotton. The completion of the Assuan dam by ensuring a fuller supply of water enabled 20,000 acres of land, previously unirrigated and untaxed, to be brought under cultivation in the three years 1903–1905. Three crops are obtained in twenty months. The province is noted for its figs and grapes, the figs being of exceptionally good quality. Olives are also cultivated. Rose trees are very numerous and most of the attar of roses of Egypt is manufactured in the province. The Fayum also possesses an excellent breed of sheep. Lake Kerun abounds in fish, notably the bulti (Nile carp), of which considerable quantities are sent to Cairo.

Medinet el-Fayum (or Medina), the capital of the province, is a great agricultural centre, with a population which increased from 26,000 in 1882 to 37,320 in 1907, and has several large bazaars, mosques, baths and a much-frequented weekly market. The Bahr Yusuf runs through the town, its banks lined with houses. There are two bridges over the stream: one of three arches, which carries the main street and bazaar, and one of two arches over which is built the Kait Bey mosque. Mounds north of the town mark the site of Arsinoë, earlier Crocodilopolis, where was worshipped the sacred crocodile kept in the Lake of Moeris. Besides Medina there are several other towns in the province, among them Senuris and Tomia to the north of Medina and Senaru and Abuksa on the road to the lake, all served by railways. There are also, especially in the neighbourhood of the lake, many ruins of ancient villages and cities. The Fayum is the site of the Lake of Moeris (q.v.) of the ancient Egyptians—a lake of which Birket el Kerun is the shrunken remnant.

See The Fayum and Lake Moeris, by Major (Sir) R. H. Brown, R.E. (London, 1892), a valuable contribution as to the condition of the province at that date, its connexion with Lake Moeris and its possibilities in the future; The Assuân Reservoir and Lake Moeris (London, 1904), by Sir William Willcocks—with text in English, French and Arabic—a consideration of irrigation possibilities; The Topography and Geology of the Fayum Province of Egypt, by H. J. L. Beadnell (Cairo, 1905).