This photo essay documents a short journey taken by three photographers, myself, Ramy Salem and Hend Ismail, to Wadi El-Rayan in the Egyptian governorate of Fayoum. It makes for an easy day trip from Cairo.
Much of the roughly 150 km from Cairo to Wadi El-Rayan involved driving along the Cairo-El Fayoum Desert Road. This view was a fairly typical one for most of this, and the wide expanses of open space were very welome after three weeks in sprawling Cairo. The omnipresence of sand reminded me of my sand mining story from India (see my March 2011 journal posts). Such irony.
As we bypassed the city of Fayoum, we drove alongside Lake Qarun. Here, we stopped to take a few photos, such as of these seagulls who were trying hard to intercept some fishermen's catches.
Here's a close-up of the same birds as they circled round to try again.
After reaching Wadi El-Rayan and entering the protected area, we headed first to Lower Lake where we found a boatman to take us out on the peaceful waters. Soon, I myself was having a go at the oars! Ramy grabbed my camera to capture the moment.
Then it was Hend's turn. However, she decided we'd be safer if she took just one of the oars and left the other in the capable hands of our boatman.
After a relaxing stint on the water, we headed to a tea shop for a refreshing drink, while also taking shade from the hot sun. Soon, our drink turned to lunch as a man guarding his family's picnic nearby insisted on showing us typical Middle Eastern hospitality and feeding us. Vegetarian? No problem. My plate was piled high with salad items. As we tucked in, this beautiful dog came in hope of getting some scraps. He was not to be disappointed.
As many people know, I am a big fan of shutters, especially when they are colourful. So naturally those of the tea shop caught my eye.
From lunch, we hiked across to the waterfall that carries water from Upper Lake (yes, appropriately named) to (you've guessed it) Lower Lake. As it was a national holiday, this was proving a popular spot. Here, a group of friends was taking turns to photograph one another against the backdrop of cascading water.
This brave young woman was calling out to her friends who were preparing to take a dip in the plunge pool below.
With so many people enjoying themselves at those particular falls, we decided not to set up my tripod just yet. Instead, we headed back to the lake. As we waited for our boatman to spot us and pick us up, we found these upturned boats and spent a short while photographing them. There was ample scope for us to play with the light while the sun was making its descent.
From another angle, I was also able to capture the reflection of the setting sun, which cast brilliant rays across the water.
As our boat carried us back to the other side, I caught these two people's silhouettes on the lakeshore.
Back on dry land, I saw this man sporting a keffiyeh, the traditional Arab men's headscarf. I asked him if I could take his photo, and he was thrilled to be my model!
Here he is again, soaked in the (very glorious) last light of the day.
And again, this time with the rowing boats of Lower Lake forming the backdrop.
Rowing boats, Lower Lake.
As a couple approaches with their child, a Lower Lake boatman prepares for his final passage of the day.
Finally reaching the other waterfall between the two lakes, we found it free of day trippers. So we set up the tripod and spend some time shooting it at different shutter speeds, capturing a variety of moods. Ramy managed one quite magical shot that I'll admit to being slightly envious of. (You can follow the link to his blog post above to see it for yourself.)
As we were leaving, I spotted this man looking down on the lake, dressed in his modest and comfortable traditional attire.
As Ramy and Hend headed back to the car, I lingered for a moment to capture this beautiful shot of a small line of trees, silhouetted against a dark yet colourful sky. Then I had to run, as we had just minutes to reach the nearby sand dunes from where we hoped to see the sunset all over again over a different vista.
We parked the car on the side of the desert track and dashed across the sand before launching ourselves into an utterly comical scaling of the nearest dune. It felt like the Travelator on Gladiators, as every three paces forwards saw us pushed backwards by two paces as the sand sank and slid beneath our feet. Once on top, the tripod was out again. Here's Ramy, composed once more and ready for action.
As Ramy and I enjoyed the re-run of the sunset, we seemed to be missing someone. Peering over the edge of the dune behind us, we found Hend below, less than convinced that this would be worth all the effort!
Happily, she summoned up the willpower to heave herself to the top, and was more than glad she did so.
Here she is again, lit by the last possible light. Within minutes, the sun had given its last to this highly enjoyable day, and it was time for us to head back to Cairo in the dark.