Qasr Qarun and Medinet Quta
Qasr Qarun (pronounced ‘asr ‘arun) is situated near the village of Qarun on the western edge of the Faiyum depression at the south-western edge of Birket Qarun. In ancient times the town was known as Dionysias and was the beginning of the caravan route to Bahriya Oasis. Dionysias was founded in the 3rd century BC.
Little remains of the town site which is now ruined though outlines of some of the structures, such as the Roman municipal baths can still be seen. There are also a few remains of houses in the style of Roman villas, some with frescos decorating the inner walls. Much of the site is now covered by the encroaching desert.
Dionysias contained two temples. The larger of the two was built during the Late Period, and is currently undergoing restoration by the Egyptian Antiquities Service. The larger temple was originally constructed of yellow limestone and is sometimes known as the ‘Temple of Stone’. Only a courtyard and the uninscribed sanctuary area survives but the structure still has its roof, which can be reached via a staircase. The plan of the temple shows that there were a great many rooms in the interior. Fourteen rooms opened from a central corridor which led to the three shrines of the sanctuary. The temple is fascinating to explore with its many staircases leading to various levels above and below the main part of the structure. The roof contained several structures, which have also been restored, with reliefs of Sobek or Suchos, the crocodile-headed god and an un-named Ptolemaic king.
The smaller temple was constructed mainly from mudbricks and dates to the Roman Period. The temple was dedicated to the crocodile-god Sobek-Re. The interior contains Ionic columns. Only the square core of the structure has survived and most of the outlying buildings are now destroyed.
A fortress lies to the west of the temple, constructed by the Emperor Diocletian to protect the town against Bedouin tribes invading from the west. Built from mudbrick, the inner and orestored, with reliefs of Sobek or Suchos, the crocodile-headed god and an un-named Ptolemaic king.uter features of the foundations can still be seen, but it is mostly ruined. Square towers at each corner would have provided lookout posts for the guards of the garrison. The fortress was built to a plan similar to other Oases forts. Remains of a Christian basilica can be seen inside the fortress.
A Franco-Swiss archaeological team undertook clearance work at Dionysias during the mid-20th century and an epigraphic survey was carried out in 1976.
About 5km north-west of the village of Qarun at the western edge of the desert escarpment are the remains of a Ptolemaic town. Medinet Quta marked the western edge of the Faiyum region in antiquity and now sits on high ground overlooking the edge of the cultivated area. It is a fairly inaccessible place, difficult to find and requires quite a hike to get there. There are, however, ruined remains of houses on top of the mound which have seen little excavation.
About 8km south-west of Birket Qarun lies the site of the ancient town of Theadelphia, a garrison town situated on the opposite border of the Faiyum to Philadelphia in the east. Also like Philadelphia it was named in honour of Arsinoe, sister of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
The site of Theadelphia contains the scant remains of a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to Pnepheros, an aspect of Sobek the crocodile-god. Little remains of the temple today, but several artefacts found in the temple are exhibited at the Cairo Museum. These include a wooden door donated to the temple by a citizen from Alexandria in 137 BC and a portable barque shrine for the god. There are also frescoes from the temple walls in the museum. There is little to see at the site today except a vast pottery-strewn area with many large grave-pits on the edge of the desert. There is a gafir at the site.