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  • Writer's picture Ahmed Elkhouly

The Irrigation of Fayoum..

The first half of my journey across Egypt was focused on the northern part or Lower Egypt, after Cairo the rest is all upper Egypt. There are some common traits and differences between both inhabitants, one of the traits of Upper Egypt’s people, is their extreme generosity and goodness of heart. It’s even said that the further south you travel the more unconditional kindness you encounter. This was one of the reasons I choose to leave the final destination as further south as possible. So from here on forward I expect only miracles from strangers I cross paths with.

The first and closest city to the south of Cairo is considered a city with the most amount of natural attractions in all of Egypt. The rich nature of the city allows for a diverse treasure of nature including waterfalls, large lakes, great valleys and beautiful oasis. A city so rich and vast that different routes are created to navigate through different points of attraction based on interest. A city that even got its special irrigation system named after it, and known to the world as the irrigation of Fayoum. Where one small branch of the nile is capable of splitting enough over great distances to reach the extents of Fayoum using nothing but the force of gravity.

Fayoum, as a lot of Egyptian cities, has a story that dates back to pharohnic era if not before, with signs of its heritage scattered across its vastness. A city that was once one of the greatest farms in Egypt and produces exceptional crops to this day. Fayoum has developed significantly during the last decade with a very noticeable increase in modern buildings, shops, and restaurants but at a price of decreasing the once productive farm land available, leading to a population increase with a noticeable level of crowding. Similar to some cities I visited previous to Fayoum, a lot of newer businesses are created and owned locally. The high attention to branding, theme, and decor produce a vibe of high value yet prices are generally moderate compared to similar brands in Cairo.

The main part of Fayoum or its center is pretty small and surrounded by a number of villages that are mostly just farms. For me, the magic of Fayoum is its people, were the few encounters I had during my short stay were simply unbelievable. Usually I try to capture the sunset in every city I visit, as a time-lapse, as a tribute to the unique beauty of each city. I had walked a lot and it was getting very close to Iftar, but I was used to walking until all of a sudden I would find myself in a perfect location to setup a time-lapse.

In no time I found myself crossing over a bridge overlooking a unique view on the sun setting behind the city skyline. Without hesitation I start setting up tech camera and then a few minutes in I realized I had nothing. No water, no dates, nothing prior to that moment I was always prepared before I arrived for a time-lapse. Its only logical to do so since I would have to break my fast while waiting for the time-lapse to end.

This time I was in a rush moving form one restaurant to the other trying to shoot them all that I forgot to prepare myself for Iftar. To make things even more difficult my location was on a bridge with no shops in sight. I had then reached a conclusion that I was to wait until for the time-lapse to end and then find some water. I had accepted my fate on a pretty hot day while being a but more thirsty than usual.

That moment I looked beside me and see a man and a kid on a motorcycle parked right next to me, “are you taking pictures of the train like us?” he asked, as I explained the whole time-lapse concept he pointed at the kid and said “He loves trains and likes watching them move”. He was a simple man with fewer words than his smile could say, he then started showing me video of how his son who was terrified by the same train crossing a road junction as it shook the ground around it. We stood there and laughed, three people on a bridge watching a train before sunset.

I asked him about the free Iftar people create for less capable people and how popular it was in Fayoum “If I can’t feed myself and become forced to eat at such gathering it would bring disgrace to my family” he then added “During Ramadan we all eat at home either provided by us or for us but we eat at home as a family”. I stood silently but proud of his words dignity and coherency are evidence of a strong community. After literally begging me to join him for Iftar at his own house and I explaining that I had to wait for the time-lapse to end, I asked him to bring me some water before he headed home.

I made him swear to only bring as it was all I needed until I was done. A few minutes later, his son, sitting behind him on the motorcycle, was carrying full bag of drinks and treats. I wasn’t surprised because he seemed genuine but what amazed me was when I opened the bag inside I found a cucumber his son was carrying all that time waiting for Iftar to eat it. He gave me what he wanted most, he gifted me his personal possession. If this is not kindness I don’t know what is.


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