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This lake once occupied almost the entire basin of the Fayûm, but within the historical period its circumference does not seem to have exceeded 140 miles. A little before reaching Cairo the Nile flows along the rocky and sandy plateau on which the three best-known pyramids stand.

The plateau itself is waterless and practically without vegetation.

At Assuân begin the two high ranges of the Libyan and Arabian deserts, between which the valley extends.

The range to the left is somewhat farther from the river, so that most of the towns are built on the western bank.

Geology The low Nubian table-land through which the Nile meanders consists of a red sandstone, belonging to the upper cretaceous formation.

It has furnished the Egyptians with an excellent building stone which they have exploited from remote antiquity, especially at Gebel Silsileh (Silsilis), 26 miles south of Edfu, where the sandstone beds, in sharp contrast to their former low level, rise in steep banks overhanging the river, thus offering unusual facilities for quarrying and transporting the stone.

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