Facts and Data

Official Unesco Page

Basis Data:
Unesco World heritage since: 2005
Size of heritage: 20,015 ha
- Buffer zone: 5,885 ha

Longitude: 30,183°
Latitude: 29,333°


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.

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Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley): A Glimpse into Egypt's Prehistoric Marine Life

Located in the Faiyum Governorate of Egypt, Wadi Al-Hitan, also known as Whale Valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a fascinating glimpse into the prehistoric marine life that once thrived in this region. Spanning an area of approximately 20 square kilometers, this site is renowned for its exceptional fossil record, which includes the remains of ancient whales and other marine creatures that lived over 40 million years ago.


The history of Wadi Al-Hitan dates back to the Eocene epoch, a geological period that lasted from 56 to 33.9 million years ago. During this time, the area was covered by a vast sea, known as the Tethys Sea, which teemed with diverse marine life. Over millions of years, the remains of these creatures sank to the sea floor and were gradually preserved in the sediment.

It was not until the late 19th century that the first fossils were discovered in Wadi Al-Hitan. In 1902, renowned paleontologist Richard Markgraf stumbled upon the site and recognized its immense scientific value. Since then, numerous expeditions and excavations have taken place, unearthing a wealth of fossils and shedding light on the evolution of whales and other marine species.

Current State

Today, Wadi Al-Hitan stands as a testament to Egypt's rich paleontological heritage. The site is carefully protected and managed by the Egyptian government and UNESCO to ensure its preservation for future generations. Visitors can explore the valley and marvel at the well-preserved fossils that lie scattered across the desert landscape.

One of the most striking features of Wadi Al-Hitan is the presence of numerous fossilized whale skeletons, earning it the nickname "Whale Valley." These skeletons, some of which are almost complete, provide valuable insights into the evolution of whales from land-dwelling mammals to their current marine form. The fossils also reveal details about the ancient ecosystem and the environmental changes that occurred during the Eocene epoch.

Visitors to Wadi Al-Hitan can embark on guided tours led by knowledgeable guides who provide in-depth information about the site's geological and paleontological significance. The tours offer a unique opportunity to witness the remnants of prehistoric marine life up close and gain a deeper understanding of the Earth's history.

Furthermore, efforts are being made to promote sustainable tourism in the region, ensuring that the site's natural and cultural heritage is preserved while providing economic benefits to the local community. Local initiatives include the establishment of visitor centers, the development of eco-friendly accommodation options, and the implementation of responsible tourism practices.

Wadi Al-Hitan, with its remarkable fossil record and captivating landscapes, continues to captivate scientists, paleontologists, and visitors alike. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it stands as a testament to the importance of preserving our planet's natural wonders and understanding the intricate history of life on Earth.