Name and etymology
Originally founded by the ancient Egyptians as Shedet, its current name in English is also spelled as Fayum
or Al Faiyūm
. Faiyum was also previously officially named Madīnet Al Faiyūm
for The City of Faiyum
). The name Faiyum (and its spelling variations) may also refer to the Faiyum Oasis
, although it is commonly used by Egyptians
today to refer to the city.
The modern name of the city comes from Coptic
̀Ⲫⲓⲟⲙ /Ⲡⲉⲓⲟⲙ epʰiom/peiom
(whence the proper name Ⲡⲁⲓⲟⲙ payom
), meaning the Sea
or the Lake
, which in turn comes from late Egyptian pꜣ-ym
of the same meaning, a reference to the nearby Lake Moeris
; the extinct elephant ancestor Phiomia
was named after it.
According to Roger S. Bagnall
habitation began in the fifth millennium and a settlement was established by the Old Kingdom
(c. 2686–2181 BC) called Shedet (Medinet el-Fayyum).
It was the most significant centre of the cult of the crocodile god Sobek
(borrowed from the Demotic
pronunciation as Koinē Greek
: Σοῦχος Soûkhos
, and then into Latin
). In consequence, the Greeks called it "Crocodile City" (Koinē Greek
: Κροκοδειλόπολις Krokodeilópolis
), which was borrowed into Latin as Crocodīlopolis
. The city worshipped a tamed sacred crocodile called in Koine Petsuchos
, "the Son of Soukhos", that was adorned with gold and gem pendants. The Petsoukhos lived in a special temple pond and was fed by the priests with food provided by visitors. When Petsuchos died, it was replaced by another.
El Faiyum map
The 10th-century Bible exegete, Saadia Gaon
, thought el-Fayyum
to have actually been the biblical city of Pithom
, mentioned in Exodus 1:11.
Faiyum mummy portraits
Portrait of a man, c.
125–150 AD. Encaustic
on wood; 37 cm × 20 cm (15 in × 8 in)
Faiyum is the source of some famous death masks
portraits painted during the Roman
occupation of the area. The Egyptians continued their practice of burying their dead, despite the Roman preference for cremation
. While under the control of the Roman Empire, Egyptian death masks were painted on wood in a pigmented wax
technique called encaustic
—the Faiyum mummy portraits
represent this technique.
While previously believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt,
modern studies conclude that the Faiyum portraits instead represent mostly native Egyptians, reflecting the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city.
The Zenon Papyri
The construction of the settlement of Philadelphia
under Ptolemy II Philadelphus was recorded in detail by a 3rd-century BC Greek public official named Zeno
(or Zenon, Greek
: Ζήνων). Zeno, a native of Kaunos
in lower Asia Minor
, came to Faiyum to work as private secretary to Apollonius
, the finance minister to Ptolemy II Philadelphus (and later to Ptolemy III Euergetes
). During his employment, Zeno wrote detailed descriptions of the construction of theatres, gymnasiums, palaces and baths in the 250s and 240s BC, as well as making copious written records of various legal and financial transactions between citizens.
During the winter of 1914–1915, a cache of over 2,000 papyrus
documents was uncovered by Egyptian agricultural labourers who were digging for sebakh
near Kôm el-Kharaba el-Kebir
. Upon examination by Egyptology
scholars, these documents were found to be records written by Zeno in Greek
. These papyri, now referred to as the Zenon Archive
or the Zenon Papyri
, have provided historians with a detailed record of 3rd-century BC Philadelphia society and economy.
The discovery site was identified as the former location of ancient Philadelphia. Today, the precise location of the town is unknown, although archaeologists have identified two sites in north-east Faiyum as the possible location for Philadelphia.
Faiyum has several large bazaars, mosques
baths and a much-frequented weekly market.
The canal called Bahr Yussef
runs through the city, its banks lined with houses. There are two bridges over the river: one of three arches, which carries the main street and bazaar, and one of two arches, over which is built the Qaitbay
that was a gift from his wife to honor the Mamluk Sultan in Fayoum. Mounds north of the city mark the site of Arsinoe, known to the ancient Greeks
as Crocodilopolis, where in ancient times the sacred crocodile
kept in Lake Moeris
The center of the city is on the canal, with four waterwheels that were adopted by the governorate of Fayoum as its symbol; their chariots and bazaars are easy to spot. The city is home of the football club Misr Lel Makkasa SC
, that play in the Egyptian Premier League
- Hanging Mosque, built when the Ottomans ruled Egypt by prince Marawan bin Hatem
- Hawara, archeological site 27 km (17 mi) from the city
- Lahun Pyramids, 4 km (2 mi) outside the city
- Qaitbay Mosque, in the city, and was built by the wife of the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay
- Qasr Qarun, 44 km (27 mi) from the city
- Wadi Elrayan or Wadi Rayan, the largest waterfalls in Egypt, around 50 km (31 mi) from the city
- Wadi Al-Hitan or Valley of whales, a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate, some 150 km (93 mi) southwest of Cairo. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The highest record temperatures was 46 °C (115 °F) on June 13, 1965 and the lowest record temperature was 2 °C (36 °F) on January 8, 1966.
People from Faiyum may be known as al-Fayyumi:
- Tefta Tashko-Koço (1910-1947), well known Albanian singer was born in Faiyum, where her family lived at that time.
- Saadia Gaon (882/892-942), the influential Jewish teacher of the early 10th century, was originally from Faiyum, and often called al-Fayyumi.
- Youssef Wahbi (1898-1982), a notable Egyptian actor, well known for his influence on the development of Egyptian cinema and theater.
- Mohamed Ihab (b. 1989), Egypt's most decorated weightlifter. He is a World Champion competing in the 77 kg category until 2018 and currently in the 81 kg class. He will be representing Egypt in the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
A whale skeleton lies in the sand at Wadi Al-Hitan
(Arabic: وادي الحيتان, "Whales Valley") near the city of Faiyum
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- ^ Victor J. Katz (1998). A History of Mathematics: An Introduction, p. 184. Addison Wesley, ISBN 0-321-01618-1: "But what we really want to know is to what extent the Alexandrian mathematicians of the period from the first to the fifth centuries C.E. were Greek. Certainly, all of them wrote in Greek and were part of the Greek intellectual community of Alexandria. And most modern studies conclude that the Greek community coexisted [...] So should we assume that Ptolemy and Diophantus, Pappus and Hypatia were ethnically Greek, that their ancestors had come from Greece at some point in the past but had remained effectively isolated from the Egyptians? It is, of course, impossible to answer this question definitively. But research in papyri dating from the early centuries of the common era demonstrates that a significant amount of intermarriage took place between the Greek and Egyptian communities [...] And it is known that Greek marriage contracts increasingly came to resemble Egyptian ones. In addition, even from the founding of Alexandria, small numbers of Egyptians were admitted to the privileged classes in the city to fulfil numerous civic roles. Of course, it was essential in such cases for the Egyptians to become "Hellenized," to adopt Greek habits and the Greek language. Given that the Alexandrian mathematicians mentioned here were active several hundred years after the founding of the city, it would seem at least equally possible that they were ethnically Egyptian as that they remained ethnically Greek. In any case, it is unreasonable to portray them with purely European features when no physical descriptions exist."
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- ^ The Mosque of Qaitbey in the Fayoum of Egypt Archived 2007-05-27 at the Wayback Machine by Seif Kamel
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Last edited on 15 September 2021, at 23:14
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