Way out in the Ain Sokhna desert in Egypt, near where the Red Sea meets the Suez Canal, untouched landscape is interrupted by a Chinese-built industrial city. Nearing the center of town, a flurry of factory buildings and shipping containers give way to lines of storm troopers, wandering animatronic dinosaurs, and colossal Transformers–all inhabitants of a colorful amusement park called Fun Valley.
Photographer Klaus Thymann paid a visit to Fun Valley in May, intrigued by the four-part theme park in the middle of a two-mile “economic zone” that looks like its been air dropped into the Egyptian desert. His photos show a surreal environment where a dinosaur park located right next to petrochemical plants and a fluorescent-lit Candy Land give the families of Egyptian employees of Chinese industry a place to go on weekends.
The so-called Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone was built by the state-owned company TEDA to encourage Chinese industry abroad. According to the New Yorker, the zone offers subsidized rent to entrepreneurs, and is home to over 50 companies, most of which are Chinese. Last year, TEDA broke ground on the Fun Valley amusement park, a $6.3 million investment, as an employee perk.
The result is four separate amusement parks that bring together a hodgepodge of cultural references, from Hello Kitty to Jurassic Park. When Thymann visited, the park was nearly empty except for a few families and visitors here and there. “It looks a little bit off,” he says. “It’s so clean it almost looks like a Sim City.”