Ain El Selini (Siliyiin) in the Fayoum of Egypt
by Seif Kamel
While the somewhat rare tourists who visit the Fayoum wonder about the ancient ruins, in the eyes of the locals, the Ain El Selini (Siliyiin) gardens, that take its name from one of the mineral springs, though a relatively small area that is more aptly named a park, is one of the most important tourism sites in the province, the other being Birkat Qarun or Lake Qarun. They believe that if one have not visited them, one has simply not seen the Fayoum. Furthermore, these two destinations are favorite pleasure parks for school and university bus trips from Cairo and many other parts of Egypt. Indeed, on certain dates the park can be overwhelmed with kids from across Egypt.
Ain El Selini, unlike most of the monuments in Fayoum, is easy to reach. It is located on one of the roads that lead between the small city of Fayoum and Qarun Lake. One can take the main road north out of Fayoum, passing the government club on the way out of town. Bear left at the fork at the entrance to Menshiat Abdallah, a small village on the road, and then keep going, passing the village of Beni Saleh. About four kilometers afterwards, one will find the entrance to Ain El Selini on the left marked by a concrete arch meant to represent a waterwheel.
On this lane that leads to the entrance one can park a car along the side, which is exactly what I did. However, I was immediately accosted by venders selling various handmade necklaces, pottery, wood and silver items, which were nice, but unwanted. Luckily, a simple Shukrun and a wave of the hand, meaning in this case thanks but no thanks, and they left us alone.
We soon purchased our tickets and entered the park. It is a nice walk staring on a road that has a small water stream next to it on the right hand side, while gardens are on the left. It is a nice walk, particularly on less crowded weekdays and when the weather is pleasant. There is an amazing assortment of trees along the route. Perhaps regrettably, there are also a few vendors, but these sell nuts, dates and fruits.
We kept on walking until we reached a natural mineral water fountain, known as Ain El Saheer Springs, at the end of the road. The water fountain is made of pure marble and the water tastes very nice and natural.
It is underground warm alkaline water that has less salt in it than some of the surrounding water in the Fayoum. It consists of 154 Calcium, 45 Sodium, 24 Magnesium, 4 Potassium and 523 Bicarbonates, among others. These measurements are in MCM per Liter. There are also some traces of Vanadium, Titanium, Iron, and Aluminum. This water is profitable especially for high gastric acid. Half a liter is quite enough to neutralize the acid produced from 45 cubic centimeter of gastric acid. The water is also said to provides protection of arteries against scleroses due to the presence of Titanium traces which is suppose to have a protective effect on hyper tension. (Disclaimer: There are many rituals in Egypt, such as drinking from the Nile, that Tour Egypt does not endorse. While, as well water this spring may in fact be fine, we do not advise tourists to drink from such natural springs, nor do we endorse the claims for treatment. Please consult your personal physician).
Afterwards, we retraced our steps along the path back to a small bridge which provides an amazing view with its reflection on the water it passes over. Beside the bridge there is a sign that says that this park was opened by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former president of Egypt, in 1962.
Soon, we decided to rest in one of the cafes that dot the park. We ordered some fresh juice that is always so wonderful in Egypt. Here, we were approached by the waiter who wished to show us something special. This is typically a request for a tip, but sometimes such requests do lead to atypical sites.
We started walking with him along the small river and the greenery beside this path was quite remarkable with some trees growing in the middle of the water. An ancient house appeared at the end of the stream in front of us. It turned out to be an ancient place where they once processed crops using water power. Inside this house one can see through the window two identical contraptions that appeared quite old, though not really from ancient times. Behind the house there were two waterfalls, one small and one rather huge. The water flow from these falls into the house and they used to use the power of this water to mill the crops. When I asked the waiter about the age of the house, he told me that it was built during the era of Prophet Joseph. Of course, this tradition is highly unlikely, but people in the Fayoum believe it and it is the reason the canal is named Bahr Yusuf, or river of Joseph. Nevertheless, the waterfalls and the house are very interesting because it demonstrates the extensive use of water power that was always used throughout ancient times and which even today is used for some purposes.
We soon returned to our table and spent a pleasant little while sipping down our juice, all the while relaxing and chatting. Too soon it was time to leave, but I and my friend noticed a children's park nearby and had to have a ride on the bumper cars before returning to the car.
Though not exactly isolated, as there is a small village here, ff one like natural scenes and greenery, Ain El Selini can be a nice place to visit for a picnic on a quite morning, and for a tourist, it is a nice change of pace to rest after visiting the many local antiquity sites. The old watermill at the head of the stream is certainly interesting. Note that on a Friday or a national holiday, the park will be full of kids and big families. However, it does give one a certain sense of the local flavor.