• 14:10
  • Friday ,11 November 2016
العربية

Fayoum's Tunis village

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15:11

Sunday ,13 November 2016

Fayoum's Tunis village

 Put your right foot on the spinning wheel; use your two hands to shape the clay into a small circle and keep spinning and shaping till you have the perfect creation of a vase, cup, plate or ashtray.

 
These were the instructions given to me and my little daughters by one of Tunis' pottery artists, Mohamed Youssef.
 
The small village is mostly inhabited by artists and writers. You walk through the village and all you can see are small art galleries and pottery workshops, with the loveliest array of serving plates, dishes, cups, mirrors and more on display, each piece finely drawn and crafted by hand.
 
The air is clean and the atmosphere very quiet, serene and just relaxing. Beyond the pottery you see green fields, farm animals and the beautiful lake.
 
At night the sky is clear, hundreds of stars light your way and bats fly from tree to tree.
 
The food in Tunis is really a treat.
 
Everything is homemade; animals are grass fed; everything simply tastes better. Here you can have a traditional breakfast of feteer, black honey and white cheese. We tried one from Zeytouna bakery at Zad El Mossafer guesthouse, and found it phenomenal.
 
All the food is baked by a marvelous woman, who also bakes all kinds of sweet and savory pastries in a huge wooden oven right in front of you.
 
Zad El-Mosafer guesthouse boasts around 20 rooms, and two restaurants with tasty options. It is owned by Egyptian writer Abdou Gobeir, who was so fascinated by Tunis' beauty that he decided to move there twenty years ago when the place was almost unknown.
 
It is the first and oldest hotel in Tunis, as well as the most central, nestled in the middle of the tiny but full-of-life village. Many hotels, lodges and B&B's have opened over the years, in an attempt to copy Zad El-Mosafer's success.
 
Prices here are very reasonable. You can get a single room for EGP 75, a double ensuite for EGP 150, an airconditioned room for EGP 250. All prices are subject to  22% taxes. 
 
There is also Palm Shadows, an apartment hotel accommodation.
 
Here, you can rent a single room for EGP 250, a double for EGP 350, and a two-room apartment for EGP 500. The hotel is basic, but very clean; it lacks a view of the lake, but has a spacious, peaceful garden.
 
For cheaper accommodation there is Sobek lodge.
 
Rooms here need a bit of cleaning, as with many rentals in Tunis, but the food at Sobek is phenomenal. 
 
We had a homemade meal of molokheya, duck, and stuffed pigeon. For the vegetarians there is very little choice so I just gulped two bowls of the yummy molokheya and rice.
 
There are new and more expensive hotels now in Tunis, such as Lazib, the newest and priciest option at 2000 EGP a night.
 
There is also Kom El-Dekka, still an expensive but very popular hotel as it provides many kids activities from gardening to pottery to donkey and horseback riding, to cooking classes. Rooms there start at 1300 EGP a night.
 
Both hotels have restaurants but we didn’t try the food, having thoroughly enjoyed the options at Sobek and Zad El-Mosafer.
 
So what can you do other than enjoy the meditative practice of pottery in Tunis?
 
Well there is horseback riding in the morning breeze; one hour of which for my two daughters cost EGP 120 total.
 
There is also the caricature museum opened by caricaturist Mohamed Abla a few years ago—a real treat for cartoon lovers young and old.
 
You can even cross the street, take a boat and go to Bani Mazar island for a nice swim and a picnic, or book a bird watching trip.
 
If you are feeling adventurous you can have an unforgettable experience: rent a 4X4, hire a guide and go to the Wadi El Hitan or Wadi El Rayan protectorates or even better, like we did, do both.
 
We left Tunis at 12 pm and arrived at the protectorate in half an hour. Another hour brought us to the stunning, recently opened museum of Wadi El Hitan—the whale fossil museum.
 
Our tour started with a 15-minute documentary explaining how the desert was once an ocean, home to marine life that is now largely extinct. Most important to its status as a world heritage site are the eponymous whales, whose remains were recently transferred to this impressive museum.