In the midst of the vast arid planes of the Egyptian Western Desert, north of the Wadi El Rayan protected area, amongst the geological phenomena and natural formations created by the sun and wind; there lies the remains of the oldest known mammal, the whale, specifically, an extinct suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. A wide array of fossilized species exist, predominantly the whale, hence the name of the valley.
Dating back to over 40 million years, the Valley of the Whales or Whale Valley (Wadi El Hittan in Arabic) contains some of the most significant fossils that reflect the evolution of life as we know it. The fossils are of a rare and unique nature as they are not found anywhere else in the world and reflect the evolution of the earliest whales from being land-based to water-based mammals.
The area is abundant with fossils and remains of sea life, giving a glimpse of what the environment of the western desert was like in past millennia. Fossils that can be found today include skeletons of primitive whales, shark teeth, sea shells, and other species of an aquatic habitat.
The sheer quantity of fossils reflects the ample presence of various life forms that existed in the sea-waters of the present-day Western Desert. The variety and quality of the fossils establish a phenomenal setting for the imaginative mind, as one can easily reconstruct the entire ecological environment and surrounding life that must have existed at the time.
For the modern visitor the Valley exists as a staggering reminder of the power of nature. The mere size of some of the skeletons reaches to several meters, sometimes presenting the entire creature, with skull, teeth, backbone and ribcage. It’s a sight which leaves one in true respect of nature, of whales, and of the desert.
The fossils remain in their original locations and have not been moved, as relocating them could have a significant deteriorating affect on their fragile components. Compared to other sites of ancient remains, the quality of the fossils has been incredibly preserved, allowing for a detailed examination of the true forms of the creatures. A well-preserved, unique primitive location, the Whale Valley is an ocean of sand at which invaluable fossils exist, providing the world of science and environmental tourism with invaluable resources for examination and study.
The Valley is considered an open air museum to the world’s most significant resources on evolution. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Center, “this is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition.”
The Valley has been claimed as a World Heritage Site and is a Protectorate within the environmental preserves of Egypt. As the region of the Valley of the Whales is a protected area, it further serves as a safe natural environment and tranquil habitat that accommodates animals on the verge of extinction, including rare species of dears, foxes, and migrating birds.