Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. 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 number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.
The globally important fossils of Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), in the Western Desert of Egypt, provide dramatic evidence of one of the iconic stories of evolution: the emergence of whales as ocean-going mammals, from their previous life as land-based animals.
The World Heritage property is a strictly protected zone, set within the wider landscape of the attractive Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area. It is an exceptional global reference site because of the number, concentration, quality and accessibility of the evidence of the earliest whales, often in the form of complete skeletons, and the record of the environment that they lived in.
Wadi Al-Hitan is the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that make up the record of life on Earth: the evolution of the whales. It portrays vividly their form and mode of life during their transition from land animals to a marine existence. It exceeds the values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape.
Wadi Al-Hitan (the Whale Valley) is “the most significant site in the world to demonstrate the evolution of whales”. The valley lies 190km south of Cairo in Egypt’s Al Fayoum area. The largest whale species found on site is the now extinct Basilosaurus isis, which still had small hind legs but they were not strong enough to stand on anymore. In the museum they do have a full skeleton of this species. You can also see fossilized plants and shells. There is even a fossil of a watermelon!.You can only enter the fossil area on foot, via a hiking trail of about 2km length.From the main trail there are numbered signs pointing to side paths where you can see a fossil or something else of interest. Although there is also a complete skeleton, mainly spines from the whale fossils can be seen. The fossils lie in the open air
When this area was under water and the whales lived here, this valley was a coastal area with mangroves. You can see these plants as well fossilized in the landscape.Further down the valley, the number of whale fossils decreases but the landscape becomes more and more beautiful. There are strangely eroded hills, like giant mushrooms.