Cairo to Fayoum: Guide to a Day Trip in the Desert
Sometimes it only takes a fresh perspective to remind
ourselves of what a dynamic part of the world we actually live in. Cairo is a true blend of
pop culture and ancient history, but it’s still easy to take for granted. We
all know the Pyramids are looming somewhere in the haze nearby, but the routine of everyday life can
still get us down. As it turns out, an escape from the traffic and daily
grind of Cairo
can be found closer to home, and it may only take up one day of your precious
Fayoum Oasis is located less than 100 kilometres away from
much of Egypt,
it has its historical significance: the oasis claims to be the discovery place
of remarkable manuscripts and one of the earliest known agricultural
Several tour companies offer all-inclusive forays into
the desert around the Fayoum Oasis, and most offer competitive group rates:
groups of fifteen to twenty people can land you a price as low as 150LE per
There: First, be prepared for an early start and avoid the
pitfalls of pre-desert partying if you want to enjoy the scenery on the drive
out. Second, the more the merrier: gather a large group of friends and take
Fayoum by storm. This will also allow you to split up and enjoy different
activities throughout the day.
Travel companies usually provide drivers and
4x4s for the journey, so you have to schedule a meeting point for the pickup.
Once you’ve loaded in, you’re well on your way to your very own adventure along
the bumpy road. As a side note, be prepared for a day spent without a bathroom.
Packing a tent ensures that you’ll have a little shelter from the elements, as
the sand and wind can get overwhelming. And be prepared for sand to get in all
your clothes and shoes.
Once you’re there, tawny desert dunes surround the cars from every angle.
Just when the ups and downs of the off-road terrain get a bit much (pray that you’re
not prone to seasickness), there are the dunes. It may be as early as 10:30AM
if you got a good start, and you have already travelled to what feels like
another world entirely.
What to Do There:
If you use a team of well-versed desert travellers, you are in for an in-depth
lesson in the art of sand-boarding. Unless you have some serious skills, this
sport is harder than it looks: don’t be fooled by the guide as he glides
gracefully down the sandy slope; we have experienced some serious wipe-outs on
Fears aside, the trip down is a thrill. Less thrilling
of course is the climb back up to the peak, which can be helped by a length of
rope secured to a stake at the top of the sand dunes, used to hoist you back up
to the top. Trekking up the steep dunes is harder than it looks; so pace
If you need a change of activity, explore the desert;
opt for a roller-coaster ride around the dunes in one of the sand-ready jeeps-
enjoy the ride as you careen down the slopes, and you may quite possibly find
the vehicle stuck in the sand.
A perfect way to end the day of adventures is to
gather around a bonfire and gaze up at the stars before piling back into the
jeep to return to the city. Beware that the trip back along the dark highway
can feel more perilous than off-roading through the dessert, so do encourage
the driver to proceed with caution (use headlights at all times).
Useful Tips: A trip to Fayoum is not advisable in the heavy summer
heat, but if you’re travelling in spring or winter, do bring warm clothes. Desert
wind can be brutal during the day, even in the glaring sun, but temperatures
plummet once the sun goes down, so be sure to bring plenty of layers.