fayoum ecolodge
Egypt,  Travel

A Weekend At Zowara Ecolodge In Fayoum

A weekend without electricity at the Zowara ecolodge in Fayoum, Egypt, is a chance to reconnect with nature amid brilliant landscapes.

“If there’s no electricity in the rooms, then could I charge my mobile at the reception?,” I ask Hani Zaki, owner of the Zowara ecolodge, as we speed through Cairo for a day at his environmentally-friendly ecolodge in Fayoum.

The ecolodge’s campground and its half dozen huts overlooking a stretch of the Sahara look charming on Zowara’s Facebook page, with ethnic blankets atop the cozy beds.

But I hadn’t realized there’d be no electricity.

Checking in at the Zowara ecolodge

When we arrive, we rest and have tea with some sandboarders inside one of the round stone huts modeled after Nabataean dwellings. The tables are locally made from date-palm leaves.

Handicrafts and colorful textiles from Fayoum and other desert communities are displayed for sale. Piles of odd rocks and petrified wood gathered by visitors lay in the corner.

This is the reception.

zowara ecolodge fayoum

zowara ecolodge fayoum
No electricity but plenty of rustic decor and charm at the ecolodge’s reception.

Zowara is one of seven ecolodges in Egypt and follows specific standards of recycling waste, building with local materials, hiring people from the local community and using only renewable energy.

There are solar power lamps throughout the property and candles in the rooms at night.

Not everyone can handle being away from their computers and TVs for a few days. But this way of travel calms your mind and reconnects you with nature like nothing else, Zaki says.

I’m willing to give it a shot.

The day starts with a homemade breakfast of baladi bread, olives, honey and salty fellahi cheese prepared by staff and served in a hut where colorful cushions line the walls.

zowara ecolodge fayoum
The breakfast area serves simple meals in the shady open air.

Adventures in Wadi El Rayan

I later head to Magic Lake for some sandboarding down the dunes, and take a brief hike to get a view of the waters bellow. Because it’s right inside the Wadi El Rayan natural protectorate, Zowara ecolodge is centrally located for hiking, kayaking, cycling, sandboarding and bird watching.

It has also hosted yoga and meditation retreats, attracting teachers with its positive vibes and serene atmosphere.

zowara ecolodge fayoum
Fayoum’s landscapes bring serenity, just a short drive from the city.

Wadi El Rayan is known for off-road adventures and geographic wonders.

But less than a decade ago many visitors didn’t know what it had to offer.

Zaki says he’s raising awareness of the regional attractions by working with TV stations and sitting on committees dedicated to safaris and eco tourism. The adventurer has organized Racing the Planet, an eco race in the desert that went through Fayoum, and co-organized Tour D’Afrique, a bicycle race from Cairo to Cape Town.

Zaki has also provided arts and crafts training for locals in nearby villages, and classes on working with tourists.

The ecolodge has huts that accommodate up to three people each. The rooms are small but comfortable with unique local touches and an unpaved sandy floor. The mosquitoes come out at night, so I spray on plenty of bug spray before bed.

zowara rooms

rooms at zowara
The rooms are filled with baskets and rugs made by local people.

Zowara also has a camping area that holds up to 100 people. To promote camping, Zaki lets people with their own tents and equipment stay on the campgrounds for free.

Past the parking lot, there are four camels who take visitors on rides, some donkeys and fields of wheat, corn and olive trees. In the other direction, near where the staff light nightly bonfires, there’s a stretch of sand as wide as an ocean.

zowara ecolodge fayoum

zowara ecolodge fayoum
The surreal desert landscapes are a geologist’s dream.

Nights at the Zowara ecolodge

In late winter, sunset comes early and the ecolodge descends into darkness with only the faint glow of the solar lamps to illuminate the way to the restrooms. The wild dogs, largely friendly and accustomed to people, wander out into the sand to sleep.

I ask for a couple extra candles and light them in my room. But it’s still too dark to read my novel.

Making a phone call to Cairo means going outside and walking around the parking lot until I get a weak signal.

zowara ecolodge fayoum

zowara ecolodge fayoum
Fayoum is perfect for watching a sunset or stargazing at night.

It seems like it’s going to be a long and dull night. But without the distractions of the Internet and late-night TV, I walk around the bonfire.

I gaze up at the stars – invisible in the orange glow of big cities.

I later nod off and drift into sleep around 10pm, although I’m usually a night owl.

Desert walk

I wake up early the next morning without an alarm clock. I have tea while gazing out into the pale desert sands that stretch beyond the ecolodge’s short barrier wall.

Then I decide to take a quick walk out into the desert to see some nearby ponds of salt water that glimmer in the distance. The Zowara ecolodge staff kindly warn me not to go into the darker tracks of earth.

As I walk, I pick up a few rocks and take some photos. I enjoy the solitude and note how rare it is these days to be out in nature, completely alone.

fayoum egypt

fayoum egypt desert
The ecolodge is surrounded by vast stretches of desert.

I come back with muddy shoes and pockets full of rocks that show outlines of petrified wood. The staff were right about the darker brown earth. It’s slippery mud underneath – but sometimes it’s better to learn for yourself.

Zaki and his clients have a point.

The Zowara ecolodge might feel strange at first, but it teaches you to let go – and experience the simpler way humanity lived for most of its existence.

Read 5 Best Things to do in Fayoum for activities in the area!

PIN IT:

36 Comments

  • Shreya Saha

    This is a great experience – staying in an ecolodge without electricity for a weekend. With more and more knowledge of responsible tourism and eco-conscious traveling, these ecolodges have become a real hit. I have stayed in eco-lodges before but powered by solar energy and water streamed in from a natural hot springs in Maji Moto Eco Camp in Kenya. I had a similar experience and loved it.

    • Dee

      Thank you, Shreya! I really loved it as well, and now I’m looking forward to staying at some other ecolodges around Egypt.. Your experience in Kenya sounds amazing – it would be great to stay at an ecolodge while on safari in the wild.

  • edj

    I have never visited an ecolodge, but I once spent nearly a month in a village in Mauritania without electricity! It was very hard. Mostly what I missed were fans and AC. But I will never forget the stars.

    • Dee

      I visited Zowara in the winter, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to survive the heat without the AC or even fans..

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    I have never stayed in an Eco Lodge. Not sure whether I could handle not having access to wifi – we managed for 3 nights when we trekked Machu Picchu- just. Excellent photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • Carrie Ann Karstunen

    I’ve never stayed at an ecolodge without electricity, but I think I’d enjoy it! We had a nasty ice storm a few years back, and we lost power for over a week…I enjoyed cooking on our wood stove (which is usually just there for ambiance) and playing games by candlelight! The lack of hot showers got to me, though 🙂 I think your weekend at the ecolodge sounds like a great way to disconnect and relax away from the stresses of modern society.

    • Dee

      It was such a great way to relax! I was only there for a few days, but I came back to the city completely refreshed.. And I do love that about power cuts – they force you to socialize and find other ways to fill your time besides TV.

  • Paula

    I really enjoyed your story telling. This must have been an amazing experience and a good opportunity to let go of the modern life for a while. I have never been sand boarding but it sounds like a lot of fun. Something very suitable for a day at desert.

    • Dee

      Thank you, Paula! I’m happy you enjoyed it.. And you should definitely give sandboarding a try! It’s a lot of fun, and nearly painless when you fall.

  • FS Page

    No electricity! Woah. In this era of modernization, it seems difficult to stay without the basics. Zowara ecolodge, however, seems like fun. I am sure you would have a great time reconnecting with yourself and small happiness in life while away from the worldly charm. Zowara ecolodge looks like a laidback place to stay.

    • Dee

      It was such a great experience, and the surrounding landscapes were amazing too! I loved how everything at the ecolodge was decorated with local handicrafts.

  • Soumya Gayatri

    This is something I would love to do. Reconnecting with nature and with people seems like the perfect way to enjoy a vacation. Our phones and laptops are so pervading these days, sometimes I feel we are addicted to them. It will be wonderful to learn what will be my withdrawal symptoms at a place like this. And then the calm of the entire experience will wash all those symptoms over. A great read.

    • Dee

      Thank you, Soumya! It’s definitely a great way to slow down and detox from all of our online addictions.. As for withdrawal symptoms, it was difficult at first but I forgot all about my phone a lot quicker than I thought I would.

  • Amar Singh

    I visited Egypt almost 10 years ago and never got to explore more then the more touristy places. It’s posts like these that surely show us new ways to discover and no better way then eco friendly. Zowara ecolodge in Fayoum Is a great way to enjoy eco friendly accommodation and something different. It looks so rustic and close to nature. Great views busy must say staying without electricity would be tough for more then couple of days.

    • Dee

      It was really a beautiful setting and the surrounding nature was spectacular.. You should definitely come back and explore a bit more of Egypt off the beaten path! There’s so much more to discover here beyond the pyramids and Luxor 🙂

  • Vaisakhi Mishra

    Oh Boy! Zowara ecolodge sure is not for people who can’t stay away from their phone or computers. Its rustic simple time theme itself is its appeal. Like you have mentioned this place really gives time appreciate nature and remember the simpler days, but I feel it also lets you have some real me time! I love the fact that the place practices recycling and uses solar energy, plus hires locals!! Such a great initiative 🙂

  • Nikita

    Hey Dee,
    your blog is very different and impressive. amazed by your willingness to try new things (specially living without electricity). Great Going !!
    (btw how do i follow u on wordpress?)

    • Dee

      Thanks so much, Nikita! I’m happy that you’re enjoying it.. There should be a little box in the lower right-hand corner of the blog if you’d like to follow 🙂

  • Yukti Agrawal

    With current climatic conditions, we really need this kind of ecolodges. Sustainable resorts and stays are nowadays gaining a lot of importance as more and more tourists are getting aware of responsible tourism. I loved your huts and it is good that they use solar lamps and candles in the night. Feeling like living happily in the ancient world without this dependency on technology. Thanks for sharing Jowara lodge and will look for it when I visit Egypt.

    • Dee

      It’s definitely crucial these days for hotels and the entire tourism industry to be aware of how they’re impacting the environment. And you’re right – it does bring to mind the ancient world and reminds us how dependent we’ve become on technology.

  • Cheryl

    Sounds like just the place we’d like to explore and slow down the pace of our travel. I have a big regard for local entrepreneurs who try to offer alternate means of exploring ecological gems like these. Thanks for sharing this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *