Fayoum’s rolling sandy hills and calm salt waters of Lake Qarun make for a bucolic and stress-free jaunt, offering amazing vistas, crafts and hospitality. Fayoum’s rolling sandy hills and calm salt waters of Lake Qarun make for a bucolic and stress-free jaunt, offering amazing vistas, crafts and hospitality.

Fantastic al-Fayoum

Mon, Nov. 26, 2018
It all started with a wedding invitation, a chance to throw my stresses away for a couple of days and enjoy the countryside of our beautiful and mystical Egypt. I take a two-hour bumpy road trip heading to Wadi El Rayan where on the way I found Tunis Village. Or shall I say Tunis found me.

Situated on a hill, the 1960s village, the vision and creation of two Egyptian poets, overlooks scenic vistas of Fayoum’s sandy hills and the calm salt waters of Lake Qarun; a stunning contrast of drought and bountifulness; a representation of Egypt’s heritage and landscape.

Taking in the scene, I close my eyes for a minute and go back in time to witness 12th dynasty pharaohs ruling the rural land. I snap back into reality and decide to take a walk across the village before the wedding ceremonies begin. I’m mesmerized by how raw, charming, and slow everything is. Tunis is the kind of place that demands you slow down. It gives you a chance to repaint who you are away from all life’s distractions. It’s the kind of place where you can slowly but surely connect with yourself.

I inhale the crisp, fresh air as I take in unspoiled views and exhale when I come across a beautiful mural of a country girl with dirty blonde pigtails and piercing eyes that tell a story. I dive into her eyes and ask her to show me around; through the eyes of a wandering child, through the eyes of a dreamer. “Badriyah,” the name I gave my mural girl, meaning “full moon,” takes me to my first destination: the pottery studios in the heart of Tunis. She introduces me to Ali, one of the villagers and pottery craft artists.

With his bronzed complexion, relaxed hazel eyes and pitch-black lashes, he looks in the distance as he recalls with a nostalgic smile, “I was one of the student children trained by Evelyne. We consider Evelyne our teacher, mother and the woman who gave life and meaning to our home.”

Evelyne Porret is a Swiss pottery maker who moved to Fayoum with her husband Michel Pastore in the 1980s, building a house and pottery studio. She managed to develop the craft in the entire village, making it a destination for artists, architects, writers and painters from Cairo and all over the world.

Ali offers me tea as he shows me around his studio and around the ovens where they give the pieces their signature glossy finish. I thank Ali and buy a few pieces from his studio and walk away with a feeling that Ali may not know that his pieces are one of a kind—pieces that people would pay thousands of dollars for, pieces that would be worth displaying in posh galleries around the world and appreciated for their time-honored craftsmanship.

I say my goodbye to Badriyah and thank her for this simple yet reflective piece of history then move on to explore my next stop: Lazib Inn. I’ve been hearing stories about this place with some referring to it as the “Adrere Amelale” of Fayoum. The stories are true.

Refurbished like a resort estate, Lazib, owned by Olivier and Nanette Masson, is designed with a bespoke ambiance that reflects comfort and charm, with shisha served in the pool, a full-serviced spa and restaurant that offers authentic Egyptian delicacies and cuisine. I decide to explore to its humble counterpart Kom El Deka, an agri-lodge and a 45-acre olive farm on the hills of Tunis where you can stay overnight and wake up to a delicious breakfast of Alexandrian ful and feteer freshly hand-prepared before you by resident villagers. I take a walk across its refreshing farm and marvel at its beauty. Reluctantly I set back—I have a wedding to attend.

Bringing life to untold stories and thoughts, Rana Kandil is a travel writer and founder of thatwanderwoman travel blog. Follow her on Instagram: @thatwanderwoman
 
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