The Major Wadis Of Egypt

Wadis in North-East Egypt.
Wadis in North-East Egypt.

The Major Wadis Of Egypt

The Nile is the only permanent river in Egypt, though the country has several major wadis. Some dry tributaries or wadis intercept the Nile as it transverses the Eastern Deserts. These wadis drain their water to the Red Sea coast. The wadis of river Nile include the Wadi Abbad, Shait, and El-Kharit. The wadis of Sinai are Wadi Mukattab and the Wadi Feiran. The River Nile has no seasonal tributaries during its course in Egypt. In the Nile Delta, the Nile splits into branches and secondary channels.


A wadi is an Arabic term used in North Africa and Arabia to describe a watercourse that has a dry bed except when it rains and often forms oasis. The watercourse could be a channel, a stream, a valley, or just a course followed by water during periods of rainfall.


Wadis are usually located on the gently sloping and almost flat parts of the deserts. They begin in the distal portions of fans and extend inland to the Sabkhas or playas. They trend along the basin axes of a fan terminus. There are no permanent channels due to lack of continued water flow. Because of water deficiency and abundance of sediments, wadis tend to show a braided-stream pattern. The wadis have intermittent or ephemeral water surfaces. In the deserts sudden and infrequent heavy rainfalls usually, result in flash floods. This water percolates deep into the stream bed, resulting in loss of energy and massive depositions. The sudden loss of flow velocity and seepage of the rainwater into the porous sediment further leads to the watercourse drying up fast. If the rains are continuous, the channels will flow towards the Red Sea until the rain stops. During the dry season, the water courses dry up, and only the oasis remain.

The Significance Of Wadis In Egypt

Economic Significance

Wadis and their Oases provide habitats to human beings and animal populations. Settlements emerge around a wadi that has an oasis. As people settle, agriculture starts. For example, the Wadi of Feiran attracts thousands of visitors due to the big harvests of dates that grow along its course. Other plants cultivated include wheat, barleys, vines, and palms The Wadis also form important trade and transportation routes by the Egyptians. Caravans and nomadic people follow Wadis during their migration so that they can replenish water and food supplies once they reach a wadi oasis.

Ecological Significance

Wadis form a unique and distinctive environment system characterized by the diversity, variety, and richness of natural attractions. The wadis have some of the best wetlands and their oasis harbor mammals, birds, and amphibians.

Cultural Significance

The Wadis of Egypt have a very rich cultural significance to the Egyptians. For example, the Wadi Feiran forms an important cultural background of the Israelites movement from Egypt to their promised land. The Valley of Inscriptions has writing styles from an ancient culture of people that existed 2-3 centuries BC. The inscriptions usually tell of the history of civilization and humanity as a whole.

The Wadis Of Egypt

Wadi Feiran

The Wadi Feiran also called the Wadi Paran in the Sinai Peninsula runs for 81miles. It empties into the Gulf of Suez in the Red Sea some 18 miles southeast of Abu Rodeis. The Oasis of Wadi Feiran also called the Pearl of Sinai is the largest in Sinai. The Wadi oasis extends for four kilometers surrounded with palm trees and vines. Corn, barley, wheat, tamarind, and tobacco grow, but dates are the main harvest. The Wadi is the biblical Rephidim through which the Israelites followed when leaving Egypt. The battle of Amalek was fought here as well.

Wadi Mukattab

Also called the Valley of Inscription, Wadi Mukattab in the Sinai Peninsula is located on the main road between Wadi Maghera and Wadi Feiran. There are carvings in the steep rocky walls surrounding the Wadi. Some of the writings date back to the Nabataea somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD. Some of the different writings are the vertical signs denoting single unique sounds derived from Semitic and Egyptian scripts.

Wadi Maghera

Another wadi in the Sinai Peninsula, Wadi Maghera is an old turquoise mining area in the Pharaoh Regime. It also has ancient inscriptions on its rocky slopes. Some of the earliest quotes inscribed on the valley are those left by the miners of copper in the Sinai about the expansion of copper and turquoise mines which dates backs to more than two millenniums BC.

Wadi El-Kharit

The El-Kharit, one of the greatest wadis of Egypt has its principal source at Gebel Ras on the main river Nile-Red Sea watershed. It takes a northwest course and collects the drainage from the numerous wadis on its way. The minute it debouches from Kom Ombo plains it heads to the Nile and join the Nile Valley at the same geographical position as the Great Wadi Shait. It is 260 km with tributaries like the Natash, Antar, Khashab, Garara, Hamamid, and Abu.

Wadi Abbad

Wadi Abbad transverses the dry plateau of the Eastern Desert. The waters that run through the wadi valley come from the Red Sea Mountains. The runoffs collect in the upstream tributaries, and if they are voluminous enough, they may reach the main trunks of the Wadi to flow downstream: very rare occurrence. The dominant vegetation along the course is ephemerals.

Wadi Shait

Wadi Shait forms one the westward drainage of the Red Sea Hills the other El-Kharit. The Shait Wadi joins the great course of River Nile near Ridisiya village. Shait sources from the Red Sea Mountains. After about 200 km it pours into the Nile River Valley a small distance north of Kom Ombo. The main trunk of Shait has some wells like the Bir Helwat and Bir Salam.

The Major Wadis Of Egypt

Major Wadis of EgyptSeasonal Location
AbbadEastern Desert
Eastern Desert
Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
MukattabSinai Peninsula
ShaitEastern Desert

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