Many tourists are drawn to the pulse of Cairo. But drive two hours south, and El Fayoum will stop you in your tracks. This palm tree-peppered city punctuates the landscape, its vast lakes dazzling against the desert. Its earliest inhabitants settled in 4,000 BC. But there was life long before then, displayed in the city’s small, yet significant historical sites. Today, it’s a city that wears its heritage on its sleeve, while luxury hotels bring El Fayoum firmly up to date.

Amid lush landscapes and prehistoric ruins are echoes of ancient Egypt

Things to do


Every step you take in El Fayoum is like leaping back in time. Marvel at the earliest prehistoric whale fossils ever discovered in the desert graveyard of Wadi Al Hittan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then uncover the ruins of the ancient town Karanis, founded in the 3rd century BC.


Artists Evelyne Porret and Michel Pastore moved to El Fayoum in the 1970s, where they set up a pottery school. You can take classes here today, to learn traditional techniques. Or try Art Centre Residency for painting lessons by Mohamed Alba.


Strands of the Nile snake through El Fayoum, propelled by the saqia, (waterwheels) in the centre. This ancient system keeps this fertile city thriving and creates some serene spaces. Skip the weekend crowds and take a midweek trip to the Wadi Wayyan waterfalls. Or retreat to Lake Qarun and discover diverse wildlife.

El Fayoum isn’t all prehistoric fossils and ruins – this city has a beating heart, with bazaars, a bustling market and university.

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