08 February 2013

Out to Qasr Qarun
motor – tuktuk – tuktuk
Lake Qarun
Resorts and desert
Crepe for dinner
Vip cafe

Which tuktuk was that tuktuk?

Which tuktuk was that tuktuk?

Day trippin’ from Al Fayoum. We would like to go to Qasr Qarun, an village on lake Qarun where there is a old Ptolemaic temple. We thought this might make for a nice day as we can combine some history with a nice quiet afternoon at a desert lake.
Lake Qarun is the self proclaimed “world’s most ancient lake”. The whole Al Fayoum area was covered by the lake in the past, up till the 12th dynasty when the Pharaohs drained most of it and used it for irrigation. We are expecting a small lake on the desert’s edge.
At the hotel we tried to ask how to get to the village, but our nice hotel manager does not speak much English. He signals for us to follow him to the neighbour that speaks it better. Unfortunately he is not there, and although about five other men in the street are now giving us directions, it is all in Arabic. We smile, nod and thank them. We will just walk to the main street and ask the buses there. On the way, we are overtaken by a guy on a bike and told to get on. He was send by the hotel manager, to make sure we get on the right bus. So sweet!

The big oasis around Al Fayoum

The big oasis around Al Fayoum

The biker drops us of down the road and makes it clear to the driver where we want to go. It should be easy then! The bus is more like an overgrown tuttuk, (sort of like the ones in Laos) but not uncomfortable. Pretty soon we are going along at a nice pace through the green fields. Palm trees, canals and donkeys. Some cows and the occasional camel. We go past a few small villages and then we stop in the next big one. Here we have to change tuktuk. Not a problem as our driver walks us over to the next one. Here we get the very sought after front seats. This driver speak a bit of English and during our chat, we find out that he does not go to Qasr Qarun. He just goes to the lake.. Oh, Well. We don’t really have a choice any more. The lake will do.


It is not much further and we are surprised by  how big it is when it comes into view. The tuktuk follows the lake for a while and between all the hotels we can catch glimpses. What are all these hotels and cafes doing here? This is supposed to be a small lake? And where is the desert?

Local fishing boat

Local fishing boat

We get dropped a bit further, before the “village” on the lakeside. From here it looks like a sprawling city. Not quit what we were after.. Here is nice though. A path leads to the water where the fishing boats a moored. The water is fairly clean, the sun is shining and the birdies are out. A nice place to sit for a while.
The fishing here is done with nets from small wooden row boats. For some strange reason the oars are just poles without the flat bit at the end. Makes for hard work when rowing.
After a while we decide to walk to town for lunch. Along the way are more resorts and the cafe/restaurants are filling up with Caireners (people from Cairo) on a day trip. It is Friday after all.
Town is not as close as it seemed, so by the time we get there, the tea is appreciated. Asking for the menu to eat, the waiter comes back with a big plate with raw fishes and shrimp.

The catch of the day.  Just not from the restaurant.

The catch of the day. Just not from the restaurant.

The catch of the day from the lake. They seem to do only seafood, so we go for the fried shrimp. Even though the lake is not as clean as we first assumed, as we just walked past all the floating garbage, we put this out of our minds while eating.
As the morning haze is burning off with the sun, we start to see the other side of the lake. It’s the desert! Big golden dunes right up till the water. We walk further along the banks to get a better view. People are greeting us and inviting us for more tea. Little stalls are selling fish and the cafes here are basic and not set up for the tourists. Further still, town seems to run out. The houses on our right are smaller and poorer, kids playing soccer on the dirt street. They yell out to us and wave and follow us along. Not a problem, until pebbles start flying past our ears. Why are they throwing stones at us? Andrew gets hit in the back, so goes over to a older man to complain. A bit of yelling in Arabic, and the kids back off.
LQ31postlakeThe views over the lake here are stunning. If you can ignore the sounds and smells of town, you can image yourself at a deserted desert lake. The sand dunes turn out to be sandstone ridges. Unfortunately the haze is not completely clearing, so it is hard to get a good photo. More unfortunately the kids are coming back and trying to get our attention again with more rocks. This is not fun any more and we decide to head back.
We grab the next passing tuktuk going in the direction of Al Fayoum.

It was a hassle getting the camera out of the nets.

It was a hassle getting the camera out of the nets.

All in all not a bad day trip, but no temple and the kids have made us cut short our time at the lake.
With one more tuktuk changeover we are back in Al Fayoum and hungry. We, very unadventurously, decide to grab a burger form a place down the street of the hotel. But before ordering we do want to make sure the burger will be what the picture is advertising. With lettuce and tomato and stuff? We are assured it is with “everything”. Sounds good for 4 pounds! It turns out to be a bun with a miniature burger, one slice of cucumber (not kidding) and lots of tomato sauce.. We smile and eat and are left hungry and resolute to never eat another hamburger in Egypt.

A good dinner by any means

A good dinner by any means

Yesterday we saw some places make crepes and go out to look for desert. At the first place, the prices keep going up.. At first a crepe is 5LE, then it became 7LE and the last offer was 10LE. Also, a crepe here can come with anything from Nutella to chicken or mince. We look on. The next place ignores us completely, but the third place is great! A bit of English finally makes it clear to us, why there are so many different prices. Chicken is more expensive, and extra for cheese etc.. Anna decides on a mixed with cheese and Andrew on a Chocolate one. The guys joke that that’s the expensive crepe, at 10LE. When paying we find out they were not joking. Not sure why a crepe with Nutella is twice the price of one with sausage, beef, tomato, lettuce, onion and sauces. But it is the standard price as a customer after us pays the same.
Full and happy we go back to the VIP cafe for a coffee. Again we are welcomed and the owner rounds up some English speaking guys to come over and chat to us. It makes for a wonderful evening with again free Hibiscus juices. 🙂



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