Wadi Sannur Cave

Sannur Cave

Useful Information

Location: Sannur, Beni Suef governorate, 125 km south of Cairo.
(28.623153, 31.286406)
Open: no restrictions. [2020]
Fee: free. [2020]
Classification: Thermal springs with large SpeleothemRimstone Pools. Speleologyprimary cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=610 m, VR=20 m.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1992 discovered during quarry works.


Pamukkale rimstone pools. Public Domain.

The Wadi Sannur Cave is an exceptional cave. It was formed by a thermal spring, which deposited rimstone pools. One of those pools had a 610 m lomg and almost 20 m high dam. Such dams grow, because limestone is deposited on top of the dam, but sometimes they start roofing over. A ledge is formed which starts to grow downward forming a second wall which encloses the cave.

Such a cave is called a primary cave, because it is formed together with the deposition of the rock Its form is quite characteristic, one side is the former dam of the rimstone pool, the other side is the overgrowing ledge. A triangular profile is quite common, also a lens-like profile. The passage follows the rim, which typically has the form of a long bow or probably several successive bows. The picture of the thermal rimstone pools at Pamukkale, Turkey, show how they once looked.

The thermal spring produced hot limestone rich water, which cooled doen and deposited the limestone in the form of so-called alabaster. It is a limestone which consists of huge calcite crystals and is thus tranlucent, sometimes with colorful bands. It is similar to marble and was similarly used by man, for statues, tiles, and even bowls or vases. This deposit near Sannur village was mined until the the 1990s for this reason.

The cave was discovered during quarry works, some say after blasting the rocks. This is obviously a legend, the use of explosives to quarry a rock as fragile as alabaster would result in alabaster with multiple cracks, which is worthless. However the cave was opened, it became soon evident, that this cave was special and of a an extremely rare type of caves. Geologists studying the site reported the geological and potential tourist value of the discovery. The Egyptian government declared the cavern a national protectorate, which banned human activity inside and near the cave. There was even the start of a development, concrete trails, iron ladders and an elevated path, but the cave never became a real show cave. There is no infrastructure like toilets, ticket office, parking lot, no electric light, and no guided tours. But nevertheless visitors have been converging on the cave from around Egypt and beyond, even without any promotion. It became a sort of open secret and the cave is one of the most visited sites in central Egypt.

Like always, entrepreneurs offering tours to tourists sprung up. To visit the cave you best book such a tour. The operaqtor will provide transport, food and drink, a lamp, and a guided cave tour. Visitor should wear appropriate clothes, sturdy walking shoes and probably bloves.