A Weekend At Zowara Ecolodge In Fayoum
A weekend without electricity at the Zowara ecolodge in Fayoum, Egypt, is your chance to reconnect with nature amid brilliant landscapes.
The ecolodge’s campground and its half dozen huts overlook a stretch of the Sahara. And they look very charming on Zowara’s Facebook page with ethnic blankets atop the cozy beds.
But then you realise there’s no electricity.
Checking in at the Zowara ecolodge
When you arrive, have a rest and some tea 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 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, says owner Hani Zaki.
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.
Adventures in Wadi El Rayan
Head to nearby 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.
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 spray on plenty of repellent before bed.
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.
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.
Even with a few extra candles to light your room, it’s still too dark to read.
Making a phone call to Cairo means going outside and walking around the parking lot until you get a weak signal.
But without the distractions of the Internet and late-night TV, you’ll gaze up at the stars and chat around the bonfire.
You’ll fall asleep early and rest well, even if you’re a night owl.
Wake up early the next morning and enjoy your coffee with views of the pale desert sands that stretch beyond the ecolodge’s short barrier wall.
Take a quick walk out into the desert to see some nearby ponds of salt water that glimmer in the distance. Avoid the darker tracks of earth, though – they’re very muddy.
Collect some rocks and take photos. Enjoy the solitude and the rare moments of quiet immersed in nature.
You’ll return 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!
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 🙂
It’s a great way to help out the local community, for sure, and great knowing that everything on sale there is local and authentic.
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?)
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 🙂
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.
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.
Disconnecting and enjoying the beautiful and stunning landscape around you sounds like an amazing experience! I loved your post!
Thank you, Kathy! It was really more of an experience than just a weekend trip 🙂
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!
Thank you for reading, Cheryl! The owner is such a great guy, and he’s really showcasing this area in an authentic way.