Fun and Learning for Kids in Cairo
by Heba Fatteen Bizzari
The word Fagnoon itself is a combination of two interesting words Fonoon (art) and Gonoon (wild). It is a place for families to play, run, dance, paint, draw, as well as as well as trying out a bouquet of crafts including pottery, word carpentry, agriculture, baking, jewelry making, iron smithy, and much more.
Over the past few years, Fagnoon has become one of Egypts most popular destinations for young and old, Egyptian and non-Egyptian. It has become a place where one can freely express themselves and develop both artistic and creative talents.
Fagnoon was founded by Mohamed Allam, an artist who had a vision of having an ideal society where there is freedom of expression, respect for the environment and respect for one another. He believes that providing a place of freethinking for children without constraining them is a very healthy approach to discover their talents and creativity. He also believes that children nowadays are so occupied by their tight daily schedule at school that they have neither the time or an opportunity to express themselves freely.
Children are given the freedom to chose what they want to do from the workshops available at Fagnoon. They can paint on walls, play with clay, or enjoy the freedom of the vast playgrounds giving them the chance to mess around without getting into trouble. There are also two huge monkey bars for children to play on, and a small green house to visit. Children can choose to ride on the back of a horse, a donkey or sometimes a camel.
Families are allowed to bring their own food and drink for a picnic, though they can also buy Feteer (pancakes) with honey or cheese to eat at the facility. However, parents can also try bread-making in a traditional brick oven and then enjoy their freshly baked bread.
Ahmed or Toot as the children call him, is Allam's nephew who acts as the general coordinator of this Cairo institution. Although he graduated with a degree in computer science, he prefers to work at his hobby in art. At Fagnoon, his job ranges from selecting general activities for children, to designing activities for specific children. He also manages the facility while the children play.
Allam chose the staff working at Fagnoon carefully. Each staff member must be friendly, talented and helpful as well as being experts on dealing with children. Most of the children know them by their nicknames. Although visitors have freedom to do as they wish, if they need help they can ask the supervisors for assistance at any time.
Fagnoon is open daily from morning till sunset. To reach Fagnoon from the Pyramids Road, turn on the Maryoutiya Canal towards Saqqara. Fagnoon is 12.5 kilometers down the canal. If one is traveling by public transport, take a microbus in the direction of Saqqara and ask the driver for a drop off at Sabil Umm Hashem. If one is coming from the Mounib Ring Road, take the Badrashein- Maryoutiya exit. From this point it is 9.5 kilometers to Fagnoon. One of the things one will notice just before arriving is a bridge named after Nobel prize winner Ahmed Zuweil over the canal. There is an entry fee of 25 LE per child. Parents do not pay a charge unless they are taking part.