Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tunis, Egypt

I went to Tunis last week, and it only took me an hour and a half to drive there from Cairo. How did that happen? Well, it was simple. The Tunis I went to is not the North African country, it's a small village close to Fayoum on the shores of Lake Qaroun. Tunis has a very interesting story: many artists and writers have chosen to live there because of the beautiful scenery, the peace and tranquility, and its proximity to Cairo. They built beautiful houses there in traditional style (mud houses) with leafy gardens and fanastic views overlooking the lake. Living and mingling with the villagers . One of the residents in particular fascinated me: a swiss couple that have been living there for around 40 years. The wife is an acclaimed pottery artist who exports her art around the world. She set up a pottery school that teaches many of the local village youth pottery as an art, and not as a craft. I visited this school and I met a couple of her students and the passion they had to the art truly inspired me. Some of these students have even displayed their work outside Egypt (one of them is travelling to France soon). Not only does this couple live in the village, they put their kids in the local schools and the kids grew up to be like any other Fayyoumi villager. Can you imagine a blond swiss girl speaking Arabic with a fayoumi accent wearing her gallabiya and running around with the other kids? This couple loved the place so much that they purchased lands and properties that they wanted to preserve. They bought a pigeon tower (borg hamam) when they found out it was going to be torn down in order to preserve it. Their son dropped out of school and is now running a succesful landscaping operation out of the village. The husband set another operation where he exports silk clothes woven at a certain village in Upper Egypt to Europe, saving that village from bankruptcy since their craft was dying. Overall, a really amazing story.

Over there, we stayed at a nice, cosy guest house called Zad Al Musafir, which is owned by a writer. A truly peaceful little place that I highly recommend. Another good thing you can do in Tunis bird watching, since many migrating birds come to Lake Qaroun for the winter. I saw a flock of flamingos on the lake and that was a truly amazing scene - more than a hundred of these gracious birds lounging around the lake, absorbibg the nice winter sun. I went with a guide (a local guy from the village) that was a bird-watching expert - he was also very passionate about his field. A grant from the EU gave him courses to develop his expertise, and I was impressed by how much such a grant helped him, his community, and the environmnet. So, some of that aid really does make a difference after all. All in all, I had a great time visiting Tunis and its people. Highly recommended.


Karim Elsahy said...

Love the name.

Noblese said...

welcome to the world of blogging. for your very first blogs you did a very good job. i enjoyed reading your tunis report.

Leilouta said...

Welcome and good luck:)

haal said...

I have heard a lot about Tunis, and the swiss couple. I wanted to go see the place, but I have no way to find the direction to go. Can you help with that?


GC said...

Hi Haal,

It's on the way to Wadi Rayyan. You take the Fayyoum road, then go right with the road that goes next to lake Karoun. Then you drive for around 30 to 45 minutes until you read the signs saying Tunis. You'll find a sign on the road saying Zad Al Mosafer guest house. You can stop there and they'll take you inside Tunis and introduce you to whoever you want.

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Laura said...

The "swiss woman" until now is taking the 30% of all the incomes of the school and the artists, without do anything. A very good help for Tunis

Laura said...

The swiss woman until now takes the 30% of all the incomes of the school and the artists, without do anything, good help for Tunis

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Yasmina Taha said...


This is Yasmina Taha, a MSc student at UCL, London. I was hoping you could help me with a survey I'm carrying out regarding Zad Al Mosafer Ecolodge. I am collecting information on how guests perceive the place. If it's not too much trouble, could you please fill this online survey. I would very much appreciate it if you could also pass this survey to those you know who have visited the place.​/RJF5QZF

Many thanks,

nervan said...

please can u send the contacts of that couple iam heading to Fayoum next week, and wld like to meet them (please ask them first). u can email me on

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