Tuesday 21 June 2022



In pre-history times, El-Fayoum was occupied by more residents than the Nile Valley. The land here was green, and offered ample supplies of water. In the Qarunian period, which marks the time between 7200 and 6000 B.C., Southwest Asians, known by the name of Epi-Paleolithic Qarunians, migrated to the area and made their homes there, living on hunting and fishing. These times were the beginning of the domestication of plants and animals. All of this took place around a much larger lake than there is now. Around 4000 B.C., there was a remarkable climate change in the environment of El-Fayoum basin. It started to dry out and within the following years people were forced to leave their homes and to move to other areas that were closer to the Nile.

Across the years the touristic popularity of the El-Fayoum Oasis has seen many ups and downs. Until a few years ago, it was considered an important centre for hunting, which has a long lasting history in El-Fayoum, evolving around ancient legends. One legend tells the story of King Menes, the uni- fier of Upper and Lower Egypt, whose life was saved by a crocodile while he was on a hunting trip. It carried him across the water to safety. To return the favour, he declared the lake a sacred place. Additionally, he founded

a city called Shedet, which the Greeks call Crocodilopolis and which is today known as Kiman Faris. This new city became the centre of worship for the crocodile God Sobek. All the temples in this place were somehow connected to the attributes of this god. Both Herodotus and Strabo referred to a holy crocodile that was kept at the main temple of Crocodilopolis. Later on, during the 12th dynasty, the area was revived by several Egyptian kings. They settled in Lisht, close by in the Nile Valley. It is assumed that Amenemhat I, who had founded the dynasty, was responsible for flood- ing El-Fayoum during the first half of the 20th century B.C. resulting in the creation of the famous Lake Moeris. He had his own pyramid built in Lisht. His successor, Senusret I, constructed the obelisk of Abgig. Later on the Lahun pyramid was built for Senusret II. Amenemhat III, a peaceful ruler who reigned during the end of the 19th century B.C. He also con- tributed several monuments to the region, such as the colossi of Biahmu (al Sanam), the Madinat Madi and Kiman Faris temples. At Hawara, he established the famous Labyrinth and his own pyramid, which is the only one that was not built in the Nile Valley. His successor, Amenemhat IV, continued the work on Madinat Madi.

Interest in the area decreased with the end of these kings of the Middle Kingdom. This changed once again with the beginning of the Ptolemies and their Greek reign. Hundreds of papyri were found all over the El-Fayoum are during the past century. The cemeteries that were found with ancient mummies wrapped in old papyrus scrolls offer an excellent library for discovering the history of El-Fayoum. During the rule of the Greek 114 villages existed in El-Fayoum, 66 of them carrying Greek names. However, El-Fayoum's decline began with the end of the Greek period or even earlier, during the reign of Ptolemy II. What the Romans found in El-Fayoum were blocked canals and destroyed dikes. Augustus ordered the Roman army into El-Fayoum to clean and repair the water system. But as this great empire became unstable and began to disintegrate, the successful Ptolemaic irrigation system once again gradually fell into decay, and great parts of the lush land were lost to the desert.

The towns of Karanis, Bacchias, Philadelphia, Tebtunis and Dionysias were deserted between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D. after having deteriorated for years. With the partition of the Roman Empire in 395 A.D. Egypt became part of the rule of the eastern emperor, who was based in Byzantium. Due to the fact that Christianity became the official religion of the empire, thirty- five monasteries could be found in El-Fayoum at that time.

With the arrival of the Arabs in 640 A.D., El-Fayoum remained famous at the beginning of the Early Islamic Period as a very rich province. Even then, legends claim that El-Fayoum contained 360 villages, that were each allegedly capable of feeding the whole of Egypt for one day. However, the region continued its unfortunate downfall.

In the second half of the 12th century, Saladin gave some of the land in El-Fayoum to his Kurdish and Turkish officers. He also held parts of the land in the province himself. In 1245 a book was written about El-Fayoum province by Abu 'Uthman al-Nabulsi, a Syrian prince and governor of El- Fayoum. The main topic of this book was the irrigation system that the area was famous for. Al-Nabulsi stated that this great system had been

Fayoum mummy portraits

so neglected that it was hardly working at all anymore. For example, the Bahr Munha canal, better known now as Bahr Yusuf, had sanded up to an extent that water could only flow through it during four months of the year, the months of the Nile Flood.

The railway system that was built in 1874 connected El-Fayoum to the Nile Valley and affected a great step forward in transport and communica- tions in the modern era. A further contribution was provided by a network of light (small gauge) railways running throughout the province. At the end of the 20th century, better roads were built by the British, who also re-established the irrigation system to make more land usable for agricul- ture. Finally, El-Fayoum began to recover from the crisis that had begun during Roman times.

Since Egypt finally became independent in the 1950s land has been reclaimed, cooperatives have been established and the rural areas have been provided with electricity. These and other steps have paved the way towards a new prosperity for El-Fayoum. More and more tourists come to visit the area today to discover the diverse history of Egypt.

The “El-Fayoum Portraits” are the first known art of Portraits discovered in El-Fayoum. These internationally famous paintings were used as bandages on the mummies' faces, dating back to the 1st-3rd century A.D.

El-Fayoum Governorate

El-Fayoum governorate is a natural green oasis that lies in the Western Desert, southwest of Cairo governorate at 90 km distance. It is one of the governorates of Northern Upper Egypt. It has a beautiful nature the moderate climate lasts all year. The governorate includes a valley, a delta and a lake.

The total amount of land covered by the governorate is 445, 21 thousand feddans. Different types of fruits such as grapes, figs, and other traditional crops and herbs are grown here and the region is well known for its wheat, cotton, rice, maize, sugar beets, and sunflowers.

But El-Fayoum is also an area for industrial activity. Two industrial zones were established in El-Fath city in Koum Osheem covering over 1102 feddans, and 2000 feddans in the area of Quota. Many institutions in these areas produce sunflower oil, ceramics, refrigerators, nails and paint. This is added to large industries on the outskirts of these zones such as: cotton spinning and weaving, fodders, porcelain, pottery, sugar beets, kleem and rugs.

Value and Strategic Significance of El-Fayoum

The “Internationally Important Fossil Site” El-Fayoum is home to fossils of global importance: the area is known to contain the most amazing and thrill- ing treasures of Egypt. These include shells, sharks, whales, marshland creatures, giant turtles, crocodiles; trace fossils, and mammals including primates, all of them mainly from the Eocene and Oligocene periods. They can be found mostly in the exposed strata of mountains and hills inside or surrounding El-Fayoum.

In 2005 the centre of world heritage sites of UNESCO nominated Wadi El-Hitan area as a world heritage site and recommended to extend the heritage site to include Gabal Qatrani for its rich mammalian fossils.

In 1999, Bird Life, an international federation for the conservation of bird species and their habitats, recognized the international importance of the Qarun Lake and Wadi El-Rayan for bird conservation by listing it as an “Important Bird Area” IBA (Baha El Din, 1999). The latter is defined as places of international significance for the conservation of birds in the global, regional or sub-regional level. Qarun Lake is part of the Ramsar wetland sites specially protected under the Barcelona Convention, re- nowned in Egypt and internationally for its wintering waterfowl. More than 213 resident and migratory bird species have been identified in El-Fayoum.

One of the first settled communities in the world

The prehistoric people who lived in El-Fayoum started out as nomadic hunters and gatherers, later they started harvesting plants near Qarun Lake. This developed into what is considered to be the earliest agricul- tural area in the world dated to over 7000 years ago. Also, the world's first dam is speculated to have been built here in order to control the Nile floods into the area.

In addition, the Greek mummy portraits found in El-Fayoum are globally well known as the world's first true-life portraits. 146 El-Fayoum Por- traits were found in the cemetery north of the pyramid of Hawara, and examples can be seen at Koum Osheem museum and in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo. And finally, El-Fayoum is renowned for its special irrigation system served by numerous water wheels introduced by the Ptolemy in the 3rd century.

Diversity of resources

The diverse ecosystems, which can be found within El-Fayoum, offer a huge potential for combining different types of tourism products in the same area. A unique blend of climate and geology creates a fascinating landscape in this region where the sandy desert, the lush green oasis and lakes of El-Fayoum meet.

As a gateway to the North African desert oases El-Fayoum represents the oases of the great North African Sahara desert in its exemplary form, origin, geologic formation, culture and ecosystem. The strategic location of El-Fayoum as a separate Oasis within the western boundaries of the Nile Valley gives it the role of a gateway to the region of the North African desert oases extending from Egypt to Morocco.


The present depression of El-Fayoum was formed at least 1.8 million years ago, probably by wind erosion in the desert.
Fayoum’s depression is a closed triangular basin bounded by three faults. These faults are supposedly found on both sides of the depres- sion (East and West) and along Qarun Lake. The land between these faults, dropped to form the depression.

The geologic map of the depression reveals the following features:

  • The oldest rocks in the depression are the Eocene limestone found

    in the north and the south where they are covered by blown sand.

  • Oligocene deposits overlie Upper Eocene rocks at Qasr El-Sagha.

  • Pliocene deposits appear in several places on the western side of the

    Nile valley divided between the Nile and the depression.


    • El-Fayoum is best characterized as a land of extreme contrasts. Most notably, this is one of the world's most arid regions, but within it you can find three large lakes and green agricultural land covers large portions of the region.

    • High mountain peaks offer stark contrasts to the expansive coastal plains at the edge of the lakes. The abundance of water coming from the Nile via Bahr Yousef contrasts sharply with the hyper-aridity of the surrounding desert and its scarcity of biological species.

• The topography is a maze of cliffs, depressions, escarpments, plains, dunes, lakes and oases.

• Among major physiographic features of El-Fayoum depression are the following three sub-basins:

• Wadi El-Rayan depression is an uninhabited desert depression that covers an area of about 706 km2. The depression lies southwest of El-Fayoum, and is separated from it by a limestone ridge.

• El-Fayoum depression covers an area of about 12,000 km2, the surface of the depression slopes generally toward the north–west where Lake Qarun is located. Lake Qarun occupies its north-western section; the lake is 45m below the sea level.

• Wadi Muwellih depression covers an area of about 9.5 km2. The depression lies south of Wadi El-Rayan and is separated from it by a dune field comprising of sand dunes up to 30 m high.

• El-Fayoum is located in an extremely arid region and is characterized by plant life adapted to extreme conditions. At least 36 native plant species and 108 agriculture plants have been recorded in El-Fayoum governorate.

El-Fayoum Attractions

El-Fayoum is one of the most important tourist areas due to its combination of tourism attraction elements, with the most significant being the interac- tion of three agricultural, coastal and desert environments. Historically the area offers a great spectrum as well: Pre-historic civilizations, the Pharonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic civilizations emerged there

Archaeological sites

  • Koum Osheem: 30km from El-Fayoum city to the north, coming in from Cairo.

  • Qasr El-Sagha (Palace of the Jewellers) this is a small temple from the Middle Kingdom with seven shrines and great views of Jebel Qatrani.

  • Dimeh El-Siba: around 8km to the south of Qasr El-Sagha it was the site of a Ptolemaic town known as Soknopaiou Nesos. Its Greek

    name means ‘Island of the Crocodile-god’.

  • Qasr Qarun, city of Madi, and Tunis: The town was founded in the

    3rd century B.C., only to be abandoned in the 4th century A.D. West of the temples the remainders of a mud brick fortress can be found, which was built by the Emperor Diocletian.

    Protected Areas

  • Qarun Lake: It is 20 km from El-Fayoum, 80 km from Cairo. The lake is regarded as one of the most important ancient natural lakes. It comprises 1155 km2. It is five meters deep in the east, thirteen meters in the west. It is a popular spot for water sports, fishing and bird watching, especially from July to September. In 1989 Qarun Lake was declared a protected area whose biological, archaeological, and geological diversity needed to be protected. Various kinds of fish live in the lake, as well as many species of mammals, reptiles and birds. In addition to many archaeological and geological formations the area contains fossils.

Wadi El-Rayan: Wadi El-Rayan is a natural basin in the Western Desert of Egypt, 42m below the sea level. Egypt's only waterfall connects the two lakes of the Wadi. This area was also declared a Protected Area in 1989 with regard to its biological, geological and cultural resources. The Protected Area covers 1759 km2 of southern El-Fayoum.

Wadi El-Hitan: Wadi El-Hitan is a natural reserve area located in the Western Desert, about 200 km west of Cairo. The area is of great paleontological meaning due to the existence of a wide variety of fossilized flora and fauna. In 2005 Wadi El-Hitan was designated as UNESCO World Heritage.

Urban Development attractions

El-Fayoum is a significant tourism attraction site. It contains natural, rural, coastal and desert features. Monuments of several pre-historical civiliza- tions in addition to the Pharaonic, the Greek, and the Romans can be seen here. The governorate is endued with many tourist sites such as: Qarun Lake, Rayan Valley Falls, Ein El-Selyeen Springs Steps as well as several monuments, such as Abgeeg obelisk, Um El-Borygat city, Qaroun Palace, the ancient city of Maddy, Virgin Mary Church, the Hanging Mosque, and El-Haddeer Water Wheels, as well as protected natural areas. El-Fayoum is witnessing an urban development that is visible in the resi- dential cities that have been established like Demo Housing Complex, Demo Educational Complex, and the Sports City, in addition to the new El-Fayoum city that will be established in Howara region.


Handcrafts activities are of the traditional main sector of craft that is still applied to a wide range of creative and design activities.
It includes also work with textiles, mouldable and rigid materials, paper,
plant fibres, etc. Usually this term describes traditional techniques of cre- ating items (for personal use or for business) that are at the same time useful and aesthetic.

The reflection of handcrafts on El-Fayoum

The visitors of El-Fayoum oasis have the chance to go into traditional Egyptian rural lifestyle with rich and complex ethnic cultural groups containing farmers, Bedouins, and fishermen living together in the same region. The tour programs can combine the experience of local lifestyles and its related types of products and activities such as poetry, basketry, traditional storytelling, falconry exhibitions, and traditional fishing. El-Fayoum governorate has long been known for its distinct handicrafts and specifically the following products:

  • Basketry and Palm Products

  • Pottery

  • Handmade Textiles

  • Rowboat Construction

  • Fishing nets manufacturing

  • Mats made from El-Samar plan

    Economic Assets in El-Fayoum

    Besides the different historical and environmental assets in El-Fayoum (see El-Fayoum Attractions), the whole region has economic assets, which are represented in agricultural land, industrial activities, Fishing as well as tourisms as an important economical asset.

Agriculture Land

Agricultural land covers a total of 399677 feddans and the most important crops are cotton, wheat, corn and rice.

Industrial activities

Bricks and cement industry Mineral water industry Textiles industry Refrigerators industry

The total number of factories is 116 all over the governorate.

Fishing production

The total area of water in El-Fayoum is 90 thousand feddans and the seasonal production of fish is about 2500 tons.


As El-Fayoum contains different touristic sites, it attracts both local and international tourists.

Previous development Plans and Policies of El-Fayoum

Because of its great location and importance El-Fayoum oasis was subject- ed to many plans and polices which can be summed up into the following:

  • "Indicative tourism development plan for Qarun Lake and Wadi El-

    Rayan" prepared by TDA, 1991

  • "Horizon of the Development in El-Fayoum Governorate" prepared

    by Cairo University, El-Fayoum branch and El-Fayoum Governorate,


  • "Ecotourism for sustainable development in El-Fayoum Oasis" pre-

    pared by TDA and NSCE, 2000.

  • "Preparatory phase for Ecotourism in El-Fayoum", prepared by

    NSCE, 2004.

  • Conservation management plan of Wadi El-Rayan protected area,

    prepared by nature conservation sector, EEAA, funded by the Italian

    Cooperation, 2001.

  • “The preparatory phase for Ecotourism in El-Fayoum”. Prepared by

    El-Fayoum Governorate in cooperation with North South Consultants

    Exchange NSCE, funded by the Royal Dutch Embassy in Cairo, 2004.

  • “Tourism Development Plan For the North Coast of Qarun Lake”, prepared by TDA 2004 Careful analysis has shown that very few of

    the above men

    tioned plans and their suggested approaches have been implemented. Is- sues of the regional economic crisis, conflicts between relevant authorities, lack of financial resources, environmental deterioration, language barriers, and availability of documents, local awareness and lack of specificity are among the difficulties that have hindered the implementation. Accordingly, it is valuable to end on by mentioning the international com- mitment and recognition of El-Fayoum area’s environmental heritage sig- nificance. In 2005, the nature conservation sector in cooperation with the National commission of UNESCO prepared the nomination profile of Wadi El-Hitan and requested to the international heritage centre of UNESCO to

nominate Wadi El-Hitan as a World Heritage Site (WHS.) In Durban, South Africa 2005, UNESCO declared Wadi El-Hitan as WHS and also proposed Gebel Qatrani as a potential site for WHS. This designation of Wadi El Hitan and recognition of Gebel Qatrani by UNESCO is an opportunity for responsible and sustainable ecological renewal of El-Fayoum.

The Tourism market in El-Fayoum

The existing tourism demand in El-Fayoum tends to be seasonal, with a peak period during the cooler months between September and April. The demand essentially depends on short-staying and one-day trips because of its close proximity to Cairo with less than 10% spending the night in the area.

According to the statistics of El-Fayoum Tourism Authority 2005, the Ger- man tourists come in the highest percentage representing 13% of the foreign tourists in El-Fayoum, followed by the Italians and French with the same rate 11%. The Americans represent 7% of the foreign tourists in El-Fayoum. This data is presented in the tables 1 and 2.

Eco-tourism in El-Fayoum

With all the previous background to El-Fayoum and after reviewing all attractions and assets of this region, there was a call for ecological and environmental development for this region especially eco-tourism develop- ment. The following part starts by explaining the definition of eco-tourism in general and how this term and approach can be reflected on the sustain- able development of El-Fayoum region for tourism. The components and evidence for special ecological and cultural development, namely ecotour- ism in El-Fayoum are going to be highlighted. Finally some examples and attempts of the recently developed eco-lodges and eco-tourism plans in El-Fayoum will be demonstrated.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves visiting natural areas in the remote wilderness or urban environments in a responsible travel manner that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. It is a growing source of revenue for the long-term management (Khalifa & El-Khateeb, 2011)

Ecotourism in El-Fayoum

El-Fayoum oasis has played an integral part in every culture that has swept through Egypt from the pharaohs to the Greeks and Romans to the Byzantine and Coptic Christians and finally the Arab Muslim (Wafik, Fawzy & Ibrahim, 2011)

Beyond its human history, El-Fayoum has long been distinguished by its natural beauty. This beauty is distinct from the settled lands of the Nile Valley and Delta. With its lakes, palm trees, pristine deserts, fossil remains, bird sanctuaries, and rural quietude, the area has much to offer to visitors.

Ecotourism provides a rapidly developing form of tourism that fits what El-Fayoum has to offer. Ecotourism would make excellent use of El- Fayoum’s most important asset: authentic natural and cultural resources. Ecotourism is sustainable. Investments will have revenues for a long period, if the most important assets of El-Fayoum are preserved.

Literary reviews identified, mapped, and researched tens of unique

features. These features include:
• More than 55 ancient heritage sites,
• More than 10 cultural sites,
• Tens of fossils, and geological feature sites,
• Tens of critical wildlife habitats and rich diversity of wildlife species

• More than 213 bird species.
• More than 36 native plant species and 108 agriculture plants. • More than 38 land mammal species.
More than 37 fish and shrimp species.

Natural heritage resources: Wadi El-Hitan is of global importance as it is one of the most important areas that demonstrate an iconic change that constituted the development of life on Earth: the evolution of the whale.

El-Fayoum contains some of Egypt’s best fossil deposits laid down 30-40 million years ago, and marine sedimentary from the cretaceous period 70 million years ago in the ancient Libyan River (mangrove fossil)

The petrified wood is scattered in different areas in El-Fayoum. In particular, the north area of Qarun Lake has very diverse and beautiful samples (petrified wood fossils).

Thirteen different bird fossil families have been identified in El-Fayoum, of which only two are extinct.

There are at least twenty orders of mammal fossils in El-Fayoum. Some of these animals were originally from Africa; others came from Eurasia (mammal fossils)

Examples of eco-lodges in El-Fayoum

Mandara Sustainable Eco-Lodge, Qarun Lake, El-Fayoum:
This Eco-lodge is located in a fabulous location on Qarun Lake in El- Fayoum Oasis, southwest of Cairo with famous ancient sites in the close surrounding such as the Hawara archaeological site and Wadi El-Rayan (the largest waterfall in Egypt).
The atmosphere of the resort aims at presenting simplicity, bonding with nature's beauty and escaping the everyday stress of city life to enjoy the silence. To guarantee this, El Mandara was completely renovated using environmental building materials, such as mud bricks and palm fronds for coverage, while avoiding the use of industrial concrete.
Zad El-Mosafer:
Located in El-Fayoum, just a 5-minute walk from Qarun Lake, Zad
El-Mosafer Eco-lodge has traditionally decorated rooms. The lodge is located at 14km distance from Wadi El-Rayan, while Wadi El-Hitan is 80 km away.
Some of the significances of this eco-lodge are as following: There is also an outdoor pool, pottery workshops, and a restaurant; The bright rooms of Zad El-Mosafer are decorated simply with stone floors, mud brick walls, and colourful rugs; El-Mendada restaurant serves local dishes in a traditional environment with wooden tables and vaulted ceilings; Guests can relax in the Bedouin seating area or choose from diverse offer of activities, such as bird watching or camel safaris. Horses riding school and a playground for children are also included.

Eco-tourism Development Program of El-Fayoum (TDA)

This Eco-tourism development plan is prepared by the tourism devel- opment authority TDA. A clear vision for eco-toruism development of this programme had been formulated as ‘Make El-Fayoum a world class ecotourism destination by 2015 by promoting it as a dynamic and competitive destination based on its unique resources as international attractions’. (Khalifa & El-Khateeb, 2011)

Eco-Tourism TDA Objectives:

• • • •

Contributing to sustainable development and poverty reduction though generation of ecotourism based economic activities un- dertaken by the local population.

Transforming environmental, social and cultural resources and heritage of El-Fayoum into sustainable economic assets.

Diversifying El-Fayoum’s tourism industry and tap into the fast growing international ecotourism market

Empowering the local population through direct participation in generated local economic activities.

Developing a handicrafts industry that will allow rural people to share in ecotourism revenues.

Eco-Tourism TDA Planning Objectives:

• • • •

Designing and establishing a database system for El-Fayoum eco- tourism resources that will serve as a reliable statistical database and enable the planning of growth and marketing strategies. Pro- vide tourists with accurate data for their itinerary planning. (Khalifa & El-Khateeb, 2011)

Define policies and implementation strategies for new destinations with an emphasis on poverty reduction issues.

Identifying destination areas within El-Fayoum and how to manage them, especially those that will be presented to the visitor.

Defining how sustainable forms of tourism can create higher levels of income in El-Fayoum.

Defining the nature of the visitor’s experience foreseeable in El- Fayoum in general and for various destinations in particular.

Eco-Tourism TDA Strategy:

• •

Developing local public and private capacity to design, implement and manage ecotourism services.

Supporting the development of a satisfying win-win relationship between tourists and local communities.

• Facilitating the creation of ecotourism based economic activities led by the local population in El-Fayoum.

• Diversifying El-Fayoum’s tourism product away from other areas of Egypt.

Eco-Tourism TDA Guiding Principles:
(Overall Project Orientation) The guiding principles of the project provide the conceptual framework for the actions and strategies. The work of the team has also been guided by sustainable tourism planning and development principles accepted by United Nations as well as the World Tourism Organization. These principles include:

  • Within a social planning and development context concern for pov-

    erty alleviation and achieving gender and social equity.

  • The protection of heritage in all its dimensions (natural and cultural heritage as well as the traditions and values of the residents of El-Fayoum) (Cambodian National Tourism Development Plan,


  • Effective monitoring to make sure that the community planning as

    well as national policy objectives is respected.

  • Local participation in both planning as well as economic activities

    is ensured. Capacity building and the creation of mechanisms for supporting small and medium enterprises will be explored when- ever appropriate. (Cambodian National Tourism Development Plan, 2001-2005)

  • Ensure that development policies are supportive of protecting and promoting the various attractions in El-Fayoum.

  • Recognition of the need for many stakeholders to be involved in decision-making and resource allocation.

    Eco-Tourism TDA Stakeholders:
    The tourism development authority TDA facilitated the involvement of many stakeholders in the planning process and development to ensure the transparency between the users, the planners and the decision

makers; and also to ensure including different dimensions and the multi- disciplinary teams for comprehensive planning for eco-tourism. The stakeholders’ partners were from the local communities, local residents and dwellers, national and international businesses, travel agencies and tour organizations, businesses organizations, govern- mental bodies, the local government organizations and municipality, the central government organizations, bilateral and international agencies and donors, some from tourists and visitors, academics and researchers from universities and educational institutions, civil society and NGOs, as well as from the media branches (Information organizations, magazine and publications) 

Traditional Use Areas
Both the people and the livestock of the Bedouin, farmers and fisher- men in El-Fayoum depend upon their marginal and scarce resources for their subsistence. Consequently, no competitive use of these resources will be allowed with tourism activities. Access to lakeshore and open water, vegetation essential for grazing livestock of the local people in the marginal areas must be respected.

Potential threats to humans
The potential threats to human in El-Fayoum desert areas include: ex- treme heat, scarcity of water, sand storms, poisonous insects/snakes, and roughness of the terrain. Most of the threats to humans result in medical emergencies in El-Fayoum desert area that present many challenges.
These risks can be reduced by effective communication systems with medical personnel and the strategic stationing and mobilization of emergency response vehicles.
Anti-venoms must be refrigerated to maintain their effectiveness due to the extreme temperatures.

Human resources and local workforce
One of the main challenges facing ecotourism development in El-Fay- oum is the limited human resources capacity to meet the requirements of quality ecotourism products.
The supply of trained personnel including private training providers, col-
leges and universities is not sufficient for the needs of tourism employers.

Quality and quantity of the tourism services
Both the quality and quantity of the tourism facilities in El-Fayoum are still under an adequate standard for success. Lack of services is one of the major problems confronting ecotourism development in El-Fayoum; these include inadequate health/emergency services, inadequate ac- commodation, lack of tourist facilities, informal urban growth around tourist sites, hygiene and sanitary problems and solid waste in the street. Ecotourism development in El-Fayoum needs overall improve- ment of basic services.

All of the above mentioned concerns\problems about the current situa- tion create a negative image for the visitors and investors of El-Fayoum. This can explain the reason for the lack of investment and financial resources.


Diversity of resources \ attractions:

  • The tourist's personal experiences include some combination of

    nature, culture, and heritage-based activities that are further rein- forced by accommodations that accurately reflect the culture and heritage of the locality, cuisine, amenities, and various personal services that characterize the host community. The ecotourism attractions of El-Fayoum Governorate can be divided into three categories: focal, secondary, and supporting attractions. (Khalifa & El-Khateeb, 2011)

  • The focal attractions of El-Fayoum Governorate refer to distinctive features of the local and regional natural and cultural heritage; they are the basic assets of El-Fayoum that the local community can of- fer to tourists and are attractive enough to motivate a tourist to come to visit. The focal attractions in El-Fayoum include the following:

    • Scientific excursions to the world heritage site of Wadi El-Hi-

      tan and fossils of Gabal Qatrani as well as the petrified forest

      north of Qarun Lake to explore its international significance

    • Bird watching around the lakes and in the agricultural areas

    • Desert safari activities (mountain climbing and hiking, desert

      trekking, trails, horse and camel riding, etc.).

  • The secondary attractions also refer to the natural and cultural herit- age elements, but do not possess the degree of distinctiveness

    of focal attractions. The secondary attractions are the following:

    • Wildlife observation (fauna and flora).

    • Direct contact with communities’ lifestyles (i.e. the Bedouin,

      fishermen and farmers).

    • Water sports activities in the lakes (small sailboats, feluccas,

      kayaking, single-line fishing, and swimming in the lower lake

      of Wadi El-Rayan).

    • Strictly regulated duck hunting in the fishery ponds.

  • Tours to the ancient quarries of north Qaroun, visitation to the archeological sites (Qasr El-Sagha, Madinat Madi, Demieh, etc.).

  • The geologic and geomorphologic characteristics of the desert areas, that are especially attractive for nature pho- tographers and geologists.

    The supporting attractions are man-made elements (facilities and services) that fulfill specific needs of tourists and embrace the requirements of eco-tourists.

    The already existing tourism facilities include local handicrafts, accommodation facilities in the southern shoreline of Qarun Lake such as Auberge, Panorama and 43New Panorama hotel, Zad El-Mosafer lodge in Tunis, and Safari Camp in Wadi El-Rayan.


El-Fayoum is close proximity to Cairo, which is a central transporta- tion and destination hub in Egypt, can benefit substantially as a desert escape complete with an experience of village lifestyle away from the bustle of the urban density of Cairo. With local and international tour- ist markets available to El-Fayoum, air and ground transport makes El-Fayoum an accessible and potentially attractive destination. As the highways and mass transit has improved in Cairo in the last few years, El-Fayoum is only a short travel away from the city centre.

Willingness of the host community

There is a good opportunity to involve local people in the ecotourism process in El-Fayoum and the El-Fayoumi people are interested in participating in ecotourism activities. The areas of participation include producing and marketing of handicrafts, cooperating with hotels in tour- ism activities, guiding tourists through the region, hosting visitors to their communities, willingness to learn foreign languages, and acquiring skills related to tourism, marketing, and environmental awareness.

Strategic urban plan for El-Fayoum city

The strategic urban plan provides a road map for developing the city for the next two decades.
The project uses a decentralized and integrated approach addressing three main substantial areas, i.e. shelter, basic urban services and local economic development; alongside with environment, governance and vulnerability as additional cross cutting areas that will continue to inform the process.

Through a participatory process, local stakeholders prepare a strategic urban plan with priority actions to improve housing conditions, urban services and local economy.

The Vision for the Future Development of El-Fayoum

The strategic plan was prepared by the general organization for physical planning and the vision was about making El-Fayoum a destination for ecotourism in Egypt. Stakeholders:

  • Ministry of planning

  • Planning authorities in the government

  • General Organization for Physical Planning (Regional Centre for

    Planning and Development of Northern Upper Region).

  • Local councils.

  • Technical departments in local units.

  • General Authority for Tourism Development.

  • EEAA.

  • The private sector and the business community (in accordance with

    the provisions of Article 108 of Law 43/1979).

  • Various professional associations (agriculture, fishing, ...).

  • Academic and research bodies (El-Fayoum University).

New El-Fayoum city (New Madina or El-Fayoum El-Gedida)

New El-Fayoum is a new “medina” (Arabic word for city), which is located 120 km South of Cairo and 15 km South-West of El-Fayoum. The site is characterized by being desert land situated about 5 km from the canal Beni Suef, and 4 km from arid lands. The master plan is divided in different action zones. It is estimated to attract more than 120 000 inhabitants to 4 000 housing units. The city of El-Fayoum El-Gedida should host industrial areas, where industries for agricultural processing will be located.

The New Medina project, “From pilot towns to sustainable towns: rein- venting new towns”, realized as part of the CIUDAD program, which is a 3-years project and supported by a consortium composed by the Syndicate of the new municipality of Marne-la-Vallée Val Maubuée. CIUDAD is a program by the European-Union of cooperation and for the exchange of practices between the countries of the European Union and the countries covered by the European Neighbouring Policy, countries such as Central and Eastern Europe, which are not members of the European Union as well as the Mediterranean countries.

The program aims to reinforce the capacities of the local and regional governments by the promotion of an integrated and sustainable urban development. This is primarily achieved by improving the capacities of the local teams (urban planners, architects, managers and local policy mak- ers) that work for the creation of new towns or new neighbourhoods. The establishment of a sustainable network of exchanges between the Northern and Southern communities of the Mediterranean is another fundamental element of this project, as well as the issue of the new towns of the South to avoid repeating the same mistakes as their European counterparts in their construction (the problems emerging are especially concerning the integration of environmental principles, of energy efficiency, accessibil- ity, development, social cohesion, etc.). Finally, the formation of small, exemplary local actions will allow the population and the teams to take ownership of the project while promoting its sustainability.

  1. New Madina (New El-Fayoum) Function

    There are numerous ways of approaching the question of New El- Fayoum's main functions:
    First, in terms of content of the towns centres, which bring together the equipment and services of urban level, reassuring good accessibility (here additional, in the context of solidarity).

    Then in terms of urban identity: marking the fundamental function assigned to the city (administrative centre, university campus, etc.), via the buildings that serve also as reference points and elements of dominant importance.

    Finally, considering the project’s implementation: the main characteristic that identify and portray the town are, before the development and the differentiation of the services that it provides, the highlight of its birth and the place of principal concentration as a core foundation for life: the city as a prime, essential base; it can also contain the headquarters of the body responsible for implementing the control for urban manage- ment and also for the first sustainable neighbourhoods management.

    City structure and lifestyle

    The new city is not an ordinary city; it is situated in a desert environment characterized by very high temperatures (and temperature amplitudes), very powerful light radiation and subjected to aggressive hot winds (and

sand). If the existence of very high buildings and networks necessarily large for traffic, in a contemporary town, prohibit the use of at least the general structure of the compact model town of the traditional desert cities, the following provisions can be included in the TDR of the town’s plan elaboration:

• •

Design circulation systems so as to prevent prevailing hot and dry winds, and limit the radiation.

Proceed on planting trees along roads and facades to reduce radia- tion, freshen up the atmosphere by evaporation and the creation of shadows.

Increase the refreshment process by the interruption of the evapo- ration of water (fountains, channels of water circulation, water bodies etc.).

Building Design

It is in this context of a city designed to reduce the thermal local climate impact that the issue of building design should be addressed.
It can be designed for business or residential purposes; the following
parameters should be taken under consideration:

• •

Proper placing of the buildings, facades and gable walls, in a way to diminish the exposure to radiation and winds.

Reduce the height of buildings to decrease the exposed exterior surfaces, and proceed as much as possible to arrangements (grouping, organization of buildings, etc.) towards relatively com- pact solutions that increase the shadows available and the natural ventilation mechanisms.

The multiplication, in the concept of designing the buildings, of compositions that enhance natural ventilation and natural refresh- ment, must also be able to rely as much as possible on the use of low cost materials and high thermal inertia (stabilized earth concrete, plaster concrete etc.) seeking an aesthetic reminiscent of the regional cultural context.

Eco-Lodge ‘Tunis Village’

The village is characterised by its special architectural style. Famous architects designed traditional buildings in this place to preserve the cul-

Mr. Abdulla Gubear

tural heritage and the identity of El-Fayoum. Tourists are attracted to the area, as an “eco-lodges" culture exists in this place. Most of the owners and residents are University professors and writers, who feel the value of this space. This is probably the reason for the cultural and heritage persistence. The natural environment and environment-friendly usage is a dominant aspect of the village.

The group explored some of the places and corners in the village: Guest House (Zad El-Mosafer) eco-lodge, one of the prototypes of a traditional hotel, the Evelyn pottery school and the local settlements.

Zad El-Mosafer eco-lodge

The guesthouse is set in rural surroundings of remarkable beauty, bordered by scented herb gardens and a panoramic view over Lake Qaroun. The guesthouse is built from adobe, stone, palm trees, mats, and natural lo- cal materials. It is designed to be an eco-friendly / environmental-friendly resort for day use, or overnight stay or a place where one can savour a delicious oriental meal.

Interview with Mr. Abdulla Gubear (owner of Zad El-Mosafer Eco- Lodge):

The team was lucky to interview the owner of the eco-lodge about the chal- lenges and problems he faced during building as well as the characteristic features of the space, which encouraged him to develop such a project in El-Fayoum. Mr. Abdulla Gubear was kind enough to show the grouphis house from the inside. It was a good experience to see the place from the perspective of a customer.

The team had an oriental breakfast in the guesthouse before going for a walking tour in the village.

Mr. Abdulla Gubear is a writer, and left Cairo with its noise and pollution 15 years ago. He settled down in ElFayoum and decided to create his own eco-lodge and sustainable solutions for best environmental impacts. He

changed his building form three times and each time he tried to enhance the quality of the building in terms of efficiency by using local materials.

Traditional Hotels

Walking through Tunis village, and passing by the existing hotels, the same architectural style is found everywehere, which is applied in a special urban style. The rural lifestyle attracts a lot of tourists and even Egyptians living in cities to spend calm and comfortable days in El-Fayoum. The following points are to demonstrate the general atmosphere of the eco-lodge, which is reflected by the urban and landscape elements:

  • Urban and Landscape Context: Regarding the urban and landscape context, it the use of local materials even in the ground pavement, the fences and the external wall plaster on the facades was observed. Stones and wood are the dominant elements of the external spaces. Fence designs reflect the architectural style of the place, using yellow coloured cladding with small openings.

  • Urban Elements: The triangular voids in windows and fences are commonly used elements to give a private outlook on the way to the guesthouse.

  • Rooftop Elements: Many of the roof designs use wood and stones in construction. Flat roofs are used as well as domes.

    Evelyn Pottery School

    A significant project of the last decades in El-Fayoum is Evelyn Pottery and Handicraft School. The idea is to preserve and raise the value of the traditional and cultural activity that El-Fayoum is famous for. Interestingly, the owners of this school are foreigners who see this activity as a value adding other professions and styles to it. The idea is to be part of the economic development of the region and let the residents be productive within the local activity. This is also a tool to preserve such old and tradi-

tional handcraft activities not letting them die out across the generations. This pottery school started in 1989 and is based on the vision of French potter Evelyne Porret and her Swiss husband, artist Michel Pastore to open this school to teach children from the surrounding area the art of pottery.

Local Communities and Settlements

Going from one hotel to another, the team had to pass through local com- munity settlements that are typical of the Egyptian countryside with their potentials and problems. While the development approaches that the winter school was targeting included both ‘ecological tourism development’ as well as ‘ecological villages or communities development’, it was important to get some ideas and impressions of the local communities. The group had some short interviews with the locals during the visit asking about their problems and whether there are needs for development. At the same time, the group tried to explore the ecological, urban and architectural problems that the local communities are facing.

The live excursion to El-Fayoum was essential to understanding the whole situation and trying to bring all these experiences to the winter school colleagues in Stuttgart. It was very informative from one side to highlight all the potentials and the appropriate initiatives existing on the site, and from the other side to perceive all the challenges and problems that the local communities of El-Fayoum are facing.

Finally, here are some of the general crucial challenges and facts that the group could recognise from this live visit. Among others, the challenges are:

  • Loss of identity in building materials and style,

  • Lack of infrastructure, facilities and services,

  • The urban sprawl and building over the agricultural land,

  • Lack of awareness of the environmental and ecological values of


  • Exhausting the ecology of El-Fayoum including polluting Lake Qa-

    roun, air pollutions from certain industries, and in general the exist-

    ence of land uses that do not respect the environment

  • Unawareness of the environmental values and the ecology of the

    oasis of El-Fayoum. 



  In pre-history times, El-Fayoum was occupied by more residents than the Nile Valley. The land here was green,...