A Growing Trend: Ecotourism in Fayoum

 Since the revolution of 2011, Egypt has been struggling with tourism. In fact, tourism is changing rapidly as nature, heritage, and recreational destinations become more important, and as conventional tourism is forced to meet tougher environmental requirements.

 

 This presents a challenge and demand to the Egyptian government and its private enterprises to develop new approaches to the tourism market.

 

Ecotourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry according to the World Tourism Organization. With an annual growth rate of 5% worldwide and representing 6% of the world’s gross domestic product and 11.4% of all consumer spending – it is not a market to be taken lightly.Around the globe, ecotourism is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of vacation.

 

In an era of heightened environmental consciousness and accessibility to exotic locales, countries are busily promoting their natural resources as lures for tourists. The challenge of ecotourism is to preserve the natural resources while also promoting them and accommodating them to large volumes of tourists.In Egypt, there is currently a large developing market regarding this type of tourism. There are different ecosystems in Egypt that benefit from tourism, but could potentially be inadvertently harmed by tourists who come to see those special places. That’s why locals and tour operators have taken more of an initiative in protecting some of the fragile environments which are interesting for tourists.

 

I have been living in Egypt for many years. I fell in love with this country and its culture and realized that there’s much more to this wonderful country than pyramids and pharaohs.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr Gamal Sami, the governor of Fayoum. We discussed the development of ecotourism in Fayoum. During our meeting, I learned a lot about the great potential ecotourism has in the area. Both the Fayoum Governorate and the Egyptian Tourism authority are aiming to enable tourists to enjoy and to learn about the natural, historical, and cultural characteristics of these unique environments, while at the same time preserving the integrity of those sites and stimulating economic development opportunities in local communities.

 

Fayoum (Arabic: الفيوم‎‎ El Fayyūm) is a city in Middle Egypt.Once known as the Land of Wine and Roses, it is the nearest oasis to Cairo and is still the most fertile in Egypt. It is located 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Cairo, in the Fayoum Oasis and it is the capital of the modern Fayoum Governorate. Originally called Shedet in Ancient Egypt, Fayoum is one of Egypt's oldest cities due to its strategic location.

 

Here are the 3 top Fayoum attractions regarding ecotourism, which I hope to inspire you to visit.

 

Bird watching at the Lake Qarun:

It is considered the oldest natural lake in the world and is the third largest lake in Egypt.Lake Qarun nature reserve, the oldest in the world, is distinguished by its matchless environmental and natural assets. Within this reserve, that comprises 1,155 sq. km of land and 230 sq. km of water, both the old and modern civilizations have converged. Lake Qarun is a safe haven and a warm cradle for thousands of migrant birds fleeing the severe cold of Europe, and is well known for its wetlands, which are of international significance due to their importance for water birds. The biological diversity of the reserves are very important when one considers that 88 species of birds have been spotted here, so you will definitely enjoy the bird watching at Lake Qarun!

 

Natural Waterfalls and Sandboarding at Wadi El Reyan

Wadi El Reyan is located in the middle of the Fayoum desert, about 140 km from Cairo. It is completely covered by two gigantic fresh water lakes with differing altitudes. This difference in altitude created the largest waterfalls existing in Egypt.

This year I organized many day trips for the Chinese community to visit Fayoum. We went for sand-boarding, which is a fabulous and enjoyable activity. It is unusual to find such a creative activity in the desert. The waterfall is extraordinary because it is natural and located in the middle of the desert, creating some breathtaking views!

 

The Fossils at Whale Valley

Wadi El-Hitan is a paleontological site in the Fayoum Governorate, some 150 km (93 m) southwest of Cairo. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is marveled at the prehistoric world heritage there. Whale Valley gained its UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2005 for having the most abundant collection of whale fossils in the world. These fossils tell the story of the evolution of whales and their move from being a land-based animal to a maritime animal. The fossils vary from single bones to entire skeletons. Some show that whales once had small hind legs and powerful teeth normally associated with carnivorous land mammals.

 

Successful (eco)tourism must benefit local populations economically and culturally in order to give people the incentives to protect the natural resources which create the attraction. This is what Fayoum is attempting to do, so if you are living in Egypt and are concerned with minimizing your negative effect on the environment when you travel, Fayoum is a great place to visit!  

 

Mary Lai, Founder of Asian African American European Australian - Egyptian Friendship Associationn 

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