Tunis Village: An escape from the big city 

Thursday afternoon Peter sent me this picture: a map with the route from Cairo to Fayoum, a small city two hours southwest of Cairo. He told me to go home and pack a bag because he planned a surprise weekend getaway for us!
We stayed at a little villa in Tunis Village, a small village outside of Fayoum. It was owned by a woman who immigrated from Switzerland when she was 24 years old.. She eventually made Egypt her home and opened a pottery school, which has become a favorite place for locals, tourists, and expats to visit. In fact, Tunis Village is well known for it’s pottery and many Europeans come for 6-months at a time for training in the craft of pottery making
Upon our arrival in Tunis Village, we were taken to the cozy little cottage that we would be staying in. It had a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake and desert mountains. Like the Florida girl I am, I immediately changed into my bathing suit and was ready for the pool. The weather in Cairo has been in the low 70s, and finally this weekend it hit mid 80s, making for the perfect pool day.
In the evening, as is our tradition when we are on holiday, Peter and I walked through neighborhoods exploring the village. Tunis Village is actually smaller than the size of a typical neighborhood in Cairo! All of the roads are unpaved, most of the houses unfinished. Cows, donkeys, and goats roam the streets. Women sit on the front steps watching their children, most of whom are barefoot, play soccer outside. Life is simple. Very simple. We stopped along the way to look at the pottery which was beautifully handcrafted by the village potters. Of course we had to support the local economy by purchasing our fair share! On the way back to the cottage we stopped for a cup of tea at a local cafe, and after fighting off the mosquitos we headed back to our cottage to make dinner.
The next morning, we had our own pottery lesson from Karim, a 30 year old Tunis Village native, who has been working in pottery his entire life. He told us he had grown up very poor, but when he had his first pottery lesson he had molded something that he was proud of and that became the source of his happiness. He saw the schoolchildren before him graduate and become successful pottery artists, and he knew one day he would do the same. And now, here he is, teaching in Evelyn’s Pottery School, selling his own art, and traveling throughout Europe on pottery exchange trips and gallery exhibitions.
He explained the process of pottery making from start to finish- telling us how a pile of clay would become a glazed plate, bowl, or cup. And then it was our turn to test it out!  He handed both of us an apron (so we would at least look the part) and a hunk of clay that we would have to mold into the design of our choice!
Karim led us over to this contraption that was the pottery wheel. This isn’t the electric kind. Nope. We had to kick the wheel at the bottom to keep it spinning. He explained that the artist has more control that way, but it definitely takes much more coordination! Peter went first, wanting to make a plate. Karim guided him through the process, helping with one hand, and voila, Peter’s plate!
When it was my turn, I was a little nervous at first since pottery was never my forte (as I well know from my senior year ceramics class in high school), but it turns out that Karim helped me discover my hidden talent! If my MBA plans fall through, I have a future in Tunis Village as a pottery maker! It’s always good to have a Plan B! I don’t know how it happened, but Karim took his hand off of my pot and all of a sudden I turned it into a plate! I was quite proud, if you can’t tell.

Our Journey to Jordan

Peter and I decided to take a long weekend trip to Jordan since it’s only one hour away from Cairo by plane. If you want to travel to an outer suburb of Cairo from downtown, it might take you more than 1 hour given the terrible traffic, but by 10:00 AM that day we  were in another country on the road to Wadi Rum!

Quite frankly, the thought of renting a car was scary at first since I had never driven outside of the US, but it was absolutely worth it to have a car instead of trying to navigate public transportation, and it enabled us to see more of the country. On the last day we had some extra time before needing to be at the airport, so we decided to take a 30 min trip to see the Ajloun castle, which we wouldn’t have been able to do on short notice without the car.

I’ve been to Jordan three times now, once for 6 months, and the others for shorter trips, but every time the country takes my breath away. Follow our stops along the way!

Wadi Rum

This spectacular desert was the highlight of our trip, and if you’re planning a trip to Jordan is a sight that cannot be missed! We made the 3.5 hour drive straight from the airport to   the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center, and for the full experience, we stayed a night in a Bedouin camp. We were met by our guide in his well-worn Toyota pickup, and we climbed into the bed which was modified with “benches” for an off-roading experience. We spent the afternoon climbing rock formations, the burnt orange sand dunes, and exploring the caves until sundown, when we were driven to the campgrounds.

We ate a traditional dinner of meat and roasted vegetables, cooked underground and finished the night around a campfire with sweet (very sweet) sage tea. We two tiny beings absolutely in awe of Mother Earth, surrounded by the profound silence of nature and the clear, starry sky. It was incredibly breathtaking.

The following morning we departed on a 2-hour camel trek back to the visitor’s center, and our desert experience came to an end. It’s not the most comfortable mode of transportation, but knowing that you are recreating the routes people have taken for centuries upon centuries is spectacular.


From Wadi Rum, we drove an hour to Petra, through on back roads and through tiny mountain towns (which I still am unsure as to whether it’s the actual route or the GPS took us the wrong way), but we managed to get there despite an intense fog covering the roads. It got to the point that I was driving by the yellow line of the side of the road since I couldn’t even see 2 feet in front of me!

The roads down to Petra were so steep, that at one intersection Peter told me to keep going straight, but the road looked like it was a complete drop. Like I was about to drive off a cliff. There was a bulldozer trying to come up the road I was coming down, there were people trying to pass through the intersection, and I was frozen thinking about trying to drive straight down this hill. The bulldozer flashed his lights at us, and I just started crying. Peter looked at me like “oh my God what is happening here” and immediately offered to take over, so we switched drivers. The bulldozer is still flashing his lights, people are trying to pass us on this hill, and now the Peter can’t move from park to drive. A Jordanian man comes over to the window and I’m half crying, half yelling “fi mushkila” (there is a problem), and the guy reaches into the car and starts it, Peter manages to move the gear to drive, and off we go down this hill. Turns out that Peter (who has only driven a manual car) didn’t realize he needed to keep his food on the break in order to switch gears.

Despite this harrowing experience, we made it to Petra. We stayed at the Movenpick, which is right outside the gates of Petra. And let me be honest, the bright white hotel sign was the the beacon of hope that kept us going those last 20-30 minutes of hiking back to the main gates.

And Petra really is a hike, especially if you climb the monastery. The walk down to the treasury is downhill, but boy, is that walk back to the entrance is daunting, uphill and seemingly never ending, especially considering that you’ve already walked the entire site from the Monastery to the Treasury, and there’s still 30 more minutes to go!

We entered the site at about 1:45, and we were warned that it would close by 5 or 5:30 latest. And by 3:25 we had seen the Treasury, hiked up to the tombs, explored the caves, and walked down to the beginning of the Monastery trail. We saw increasingly fewer people on our way, and we were told that the full hike up to the Monastery is about 1 hour. Since it was already quite late, Peter was hesitating as to whether or not we should start then or just leave it for tomorrow. But there was no question for me. We had made it this far, we were hiking the Monastery and not coming back the next day (that was my true motivation). And so we hiked.

The walk was tough, but worth the view, and we made it in exactly 30 minutes (although we did go quite fast and took 2 short breaks). We could have gone up by donkey, but honestly the stairs are steep and slippery so it’s almost easier to walk up yourself. The path was littered with tents selling jewelry, scarves, and other knickknacks, but the really tempting tents are the ones selling refreshments making for a nice little pitstop! But onwards we went, past the tents, past other couples resting, for fear that we would be locked in Petra until the following day! Peter had even already picked out our cave for the night.

But we went quickly, stoped to take in the breathtaking monastery and view from the top, and made it back to the front gates by 6:00 PM! No cave dwelling for us!

Dead Sea 

Peter and I have both been to the Dead Sea before, so we didn’t stop again. However, we did take the “scenic” (and also very scary, mountainous route) from Petra to Amman that goes through the Jordan Valley and along the Dead Sea. It was worth the view. From the mountainous terrain to the farmland of the Jordan Valley to the beautiful turquoise of the Dead Sea, the 4 hour drive was breathtaking at every turn.

*Also, I have to put this little tidbit in here just for Peter since it was legitimately one of the highlights of his trip. Whilst driving through the mountains we came across a couple of stray dogs, which for Jordan is not abnormal, but we were so confused by what they were doing in the mountains. Then we turned the corner and we saw hundreds of dogs and an old abandoned train car teetering off the side of the cliff. As we slowed the car in awe, the dogs surrounded us barking loudly, to the point that if we had gotten out, I think we would have been attacked. So that option was off the table.  As we drove off, they faded into the distance, and Peter’s only regret was not taking a photo.


From Amman, we drove about an hour north to Jerash. What astounds me about Jerash is how an ancient Roman city is preserved right along side the modern Jordanian one, where the old city walls run alongside the main through street.   Jerash “boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years,”*  and the ruins are really well preserved. You can walk down the Cardo Maximus (the main road of the city) that is lined with in tact columns and still see where the chariots passed through thousands of years ago. The site also features Roman baths, two amphitheaters, many temples and churches, old markets, and rolling hills for miles. Ultimately the city faced fire and an earthquake that led to the destruction of some structures, but what is left in tact is worth a visit.


As the capital, Amman cannot be missed, however you really only need one or two days to cover the city. Having lived in Amman for 6 months, there really is not much to do. Nobody walks around the city since it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and it’s very, very hilly (the city was built on 7 hills), so you can’t really even go for a walk. But there are a couple sights worth exploring. Unfortunately for us, it was rainy, windy, and really cold, which made touring around miserable, but we still managed to see the main sights.

Our first stop was Rainbow Street right off of Circle One, which is a nice almost-pedestrian street lined with European-esque cafes, restaurants, and shops. To escape the pouring rain, we went had a burger and french fries at a particularly Westery-style restaurant, and then got ice cream as we walked to the lookout point before turning back to the hotel to escape the weather. We ventured back to Rainbow Street the next day for a little walk and brunch at Books@Cafe, which was one of my favorite spots when I was studying in Amman.


From Rainbow Street, we went to explore the sights downtown. First stop, the Citadel, which sits at the highest hill of the city and has a breathtaking view (even in the rain!). It was occupied in since the Bronze Age, and like Jerash, it is amazing to stand in ruins from centuries prior and look out over the modern city of Amman. After the Citadel, we went to the nearby Roman Amphitheater, which is very well preserved as well. It was built in the 2nd century and sat 6,000 people!

To escape the rain again, we went to Hashem for their famous falafel, and we didn’t even have to order; we sat down, and they brought us the full spread of foul (a bean dip), hummus, falafel, and french fries to build our own sandwich – all for 4.50JD. When we finished,  we walked 250 meters down the road to Habiba to try their famous kenafa for desert! We had more than enough to eat in Amman, especially after having finished up the night at Jafra, a restaurant serving typical Jordanian food with a great atmosphere.

A bit outside downtown, we visited the King Abdullah II Mosque (or the Blue Mosque) is absolutely gorgeous. It’s quite modern inside, but beautiful with the blue and gold inscription, the stained glass windows, and the marble surroundings. We made it just before prayer time, which made it seemingly more serene, and was the perfect way to end our sightseeing tour in Amman.

Peter’s and my first vacation together was a success, so here’s to documenting many more adventures around the world!