Thought Egypt only has 5,000 year old pyramids? Think again! Fayoum is a city in Egypt built around one of the oases in the Western Desert. It has some of the oldest marine fossils in the world, beautiful sandy dunes and a thriving pottery community. I have been dying to go to Fayoum after seeing countless photos from other friends. To be honest, I would not mind going again because I believe it is an interesting destination for families. There are lots of exciting activities for kids plus if they have a special interest such as dinosaurs or art, they will not be disappointed!
Since Fayoum is in Upper Egypt, it can get pretty hot during spring and summer. So my advice would be to visit anytime between September and April. We visited in December and although it was chilly at night, it was quite comfortable during the day when we were out and about.
We stayed at a cosy 4-star hotel called Byoum Lakeside Hotel right on Qarun Lake at a rate of £50 per night for a deluxe room. There are other options such as the luxurious Lazib Inn, which would be great for a romantic getaway or the historical Helnan Auberge Fayoum. There are also lots of smaller hotels and ecolodges if you are looking for a more authentic experience.
How to get to Fayoum
You could drive there if you are a large family and need a car with you. We decided to rent a car from the Cairo Airport shuttle bus company for the two-hour journey from Cairo. Once we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist assured us he can get us a ‘tuktuk’ anytime. We just had to let him know half an hour in advance.
What to pack
If you are visiting in winter as recommended, then pack layers of clothing rather than bulky woollen jumpers. It can get pretty warm during the day especially if you are involved in activities such as sand-boarding or horseback riding. Pack comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Even if you are not allergic to dust, make sure you pack wet wipes, saline solution, and eye drops. Being out in the desert all day gets you dusty.
What to do in Fayoum
Spend the day in Tunis Village
Spend an hour or more walking through Tunis village and admiring the beautiful murals and graffiti. You can book a pottery class for the kids or the whole family. It will take time for your works of art to be baked in a kiln. Try to do this on your first full day so you can pick them up before you leave.
If you buy any of the pottery on display from the local shops, make sure you pack it in your hand luggage because it is quite fragile! There are lots of restaurants in the village if you want to grab a bite. We had a delicious lunch at Kom El Dikka restaurant of ‘molokeyah’, rice and roast duck! Duck is indigenous to the Fayoum oasis and duck hunting used to be a favourite pastime for the Egyptian elite.
Go on a desert adventure
Your hotel can help you book different excursions such as desert safaris and overnight camping trips. We went for a ride in a 4X4 Landrover with a seasoned driver. He navigated the humongous sand dunes while we were screaming in the back seat – definitely not for the faint hearted! If you are pregnant, have smaller kids with you or have any health issues, you can ask your driver to avoid the sand dunes and just drive on the dirt track. It is not as exhilarating though!
Ride the dunes
The safari guides stopped at some sand dunes perfect for sand-boarding – such a fun activity for all ages. The guides have sand boards in their cars already and candles to wax the bottoms and make them more slippery. If like me you have not been on a sand board before (or any board for that matter!) and don’t feel confident to stand, you can sit down and sort of cross your legs.
Check out the fossils
Next we went to Wadi El Hitan (Valley of the Whales) a UNESCO World Heritage Centre which has the Fossil and Climate Change Museum housing some of the oldest fossils in the world – 50 million years old to be exact! Entrance is free! There is a footpath around the valley where we saw the excavated fossils of whales, sea cows, crocodiles and turtles.
More activities for your desert adventure
Depending on the time of year and your interests, there are lots of other activities you can do in Fayoum. You can take a boat ride on Qarun Lake, ride horses or go bird watching. A must-see is the Magic Lake which is quite a popular camping site and you can also go fishing or swimming there. Another one would be Wadi El Rayan which has Egypt’s only natural waterfalls. Hope you have a lovely time Fayouming!
While you are here
If you can’t get enough desert holidays, you can also visit other oases in the Western desert namely Dakhla, Kharga, Farafra, Baharia and Siwa. We had a blast in Dakhla and you can read all about our desert holiday there.