World Heritage in Egypt

21 June 2011 | News story

Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, is Egypt's only natural World Heritage Site. It 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.

Mohamed Talaat El Hennawy, is manager of the site. He explains the work towards achieving World Heritage status for the site.


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.

But what are the challenges facing the managers of this natural World Heritage Site in the future? Mohamed Talaat El Hennawy explains.


This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.