Its name in English is also spelled as Fayum, Faiyum or Al Faiy?m. Faiyum was previously officially named Mad?net Al Faiy?m (Arabic for The City of Faiyum). The name Faiyum (and its spelling variations) may also refer to the Faiyum Oasis, although it is commonly used by Egyptians today to refer to the city.
The modern name of the city comes from Coptic ̀? / ep?iom/peiom (whence the proper name payom), meaning the Sea or the Lake, which in turn comes from late Egyptianp?-ym of the same meaning, a reference to the nearby Lake Moeris; the extinct elephant ancestor Phiomia was named after it.
According to Roger S. Bagnall habitation began in the fifth millennium and a settlement was established by the Old Kingdom (c. 2686-2181 BC) called Shedet (Medinet el-Fayyum). It was the most significant centre of the cult of the crocodile god Sobek (borrowed from the Demotic pronunciation as Koin? Greek: Soûkhos, and then into Latin as Suchus). In consequence, the Greeks called it "Crocodile City" (Koin? Greek: Krokodeilópolis), which was borrowed into Latin as Crocod?lopolis. The city worshipped a tamed sacred crocodile called in Koine Petsuchos, "the Son of Soukhos", that was adorned with gold and gem pendants. The Petsoukhos lived in a special temple pond and was fed by the priests with food provided by visitors. When Petsuchos died, it was replaced by another.
Portrait of a man, c. 125-150 AD. Encaustic on wood; 37 cm × 20 cm (15 in × 8 in)
Faiyum is the source of some famous death masks or mummy portraits painted during the Roman occupation of the area. The Egyptians continued their practice of burying their dead, despite the Roman preference for cremation. While under the control of the Roman Empire, Egyptian death masks were painted on wood in a pigmented wax technique called encaustic--the Faiyum mummy portraits represent this technique. While previously believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, modern studies conclude that the Faiyum portraits instead represent mostly native Egyptians, reflecting the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city.
Faiyum has several large bazaars, mosques, baths and a much-frequented weekly market. The canal called Bahr Yussef runs through the city, its banks lined with houses. There are two bridges over the river: one of three arches, which carries the main street and bazaar, and one of two arches, over which is built the Qaitbay mosque, that was a gift from his wife to honor the Mamluk Sultan in Fayoum. Mounds north of the city mark the site of Arsinoe, known to the ancient Greeks as Crocodilopolis, where in ancient times the sacred crocodile kept in Lake Moeris was worshipped.
The center of the city is on the canal, with four waterwheels that were adopted by the governorate of Fayoum as its symbol; their chariots and bazaars are easy to spot. The city is home of the football club Misr Lel Makkasa SC, that play in the Egyptian Premier League.
Hanging Mosque, built when the Ottomans ruled Egypt by prince Marawan bin Hatem
Hawara, archeological site 27 km (17 mi) from the city
Saadia Gaon (882/892-942), the influential Jewish teacher of the early 10th century, was originally from Faiyum, and often called al-Fayyumi.
Youssef Wahbi (1898-1982), a notable Egyptian actor, well known for his influence on the development of Egyptian cinema and theater.
Mohamed Ihab (b. 1989), Egypts most decorated weightlifter. He is a World Champion competing in the 77 kg category until 2018 and currently in the 81 kg class. He will be representing Egypt in the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
A whale skeleton lies in the sand at Wadi Al-Hitan (Arabic ?, "Whales Valley") near the city of Faiyum
^Caton-Thompson, G.; Gardner, E. (1934). The Desert Fayum. London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
^Holdaway, Simon; Phillipps, Rebecca; Emmitt, Joshua; Wendrich, Willeke (2016-07-29). "The Fayum revisited: Reconsidering the role of the Neolithic package, Fayum north shore, Egypt". Quaternary International. The Neolithic from the Sahara to the Southern Mediterranean Coast: A review of the most Recent Research. 410, Part A: 173-180. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.11.072.
^Bagnall, R.S. in Susan Walker, ed. Ancient Faces : Mummy Portraits in Roman Egypt (Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications). New York: Routledge, 2000, p. 27
^Riggs, C. The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion Oxford University Press (2005).
^Victor J. Katz (1998). A History of Mathematics: An Introduction, p. 184. Addison Wesley, ISBN0-321-01618-1: "But what we really want to know is to what extent the Alexandrian mathematicians of the period from the first to the fifth centuries C.E. were Greek. Certainly, all of them wrote in Greek and were part of the Greek intellectual community of Alexandria. And most modern studies conclude that the Greek community coexisted [...] So should we assume that Ptolemy and Diophantus, Pappus and Hypatia were ethnically Greek, that their ancestors had come from Greece at some point in the past but had remained effectively isolated from the Egyptians? It is, of course, impossible to answer this question definitively. But research in papyri dating from the early centuries of the common era demonstrates that a significant amount of intermarriage took place between the Greek and Egyptian communities [...] And it is known that Greek marriage contracts increasingly came to resemble Egyptian ones. In addition, even from the founding of Alexandria, small numbers of Egyptians were admitted to the privileged classes in the city to fulfil numerous civic roles. Of course, it was essential in such cases for the Egyptians to become "Hellenized," to adopt Greek habits and the Greek language. Given that the Alexandrian mathematicians mentioned here were active several hundred years after the founding of the city, it would seem at least equally possible that they were ethnically Egyptian as that they remained ethnically Greek. In any case, it is unreasonable to portray them with purely European features when no physical descriptions exist."