Fayoum's water wheels, also known as sakias, are an impressive engineering feat that has been used for centuries to irrigate crops in the region. These ancient machines consist of a large wooden wheel, powered by oxen or donkeys, that lifts water from a canal or well and distributes it to nearby fields. The rhythmic creaking of the wheels and the splashing of the water create a unique and peaceful ambiance, adding to the charm of the surrounding landscape.
Fayoum takes its fame from the roaring waterwheels, which have no equal in all countries of the world. The seven waterways, and the roaring waterwheels are not only a tourist attraction, but rather a story of struggle.
Their uniqueness lies in the fact that they are driven by the stream itself – the power of the water pushes round the large paddles, while the boxes in the rim fill with water, lift it up, into a channel that leads the water off to the fields. The wheels run continuously, but if water is not required the opening of a sluice sends it back into the main stream. The practicability of water-driven wheels in the Fayoum is mostly due to the gradient of the land: from 26 meters above sea level in the southeast to 45 below in the north, and the consequent abundance of fast-flowing streams, as opposed to the sluggish canals of Upper Egypt and Delta. And to the ingenuity of Ptolemaic engineers, who first introduced the wheels as part of the general drive to develop agriculture in the Fayoum in the 3rd century BCE.
It says that the roaring waterwheels in Fayoum are more than two thousand years old, and specifically they were invented in the Ptolemaic era after the ancient Egyptians turned to agriculture in Fayoum. The wheels work perfectly exactly in Fayoum due to its special natural landscapes. It is all about the slopes that start in the south at a height of 26 meters above sea level at the entrance to the governorate at the village of Al-Lahoun and end at a height of 44 meters below sea level in the north of the governorate at the shores of Lake Qarun.
Fayoum's waterwheels operate all year round and are made of local tree wood.
It is believed to have over 200 waterwheels across Fayoum province. Ranging between 4 and 5 meters in diameter the wheels are able to lift water to a maximum level of 3 meter.
There are several places where you can see the waterwheels in Fayoum:
- The most picturesque 7 waterwheels are located a half-hour walk out of the town on the Bahr Sinnuris.
- Another location right in the Fayoum city central square, newly reinstalled these amazing wheels became the main attractions not for the tourists but locals alike.
If you want to witness these amazing constructions we invite you to join our Fayoum day tour to the local community.