Guess What Came Today?

Building Update June 2018

If you’ve been following our building progress the last update back in April showed how far we’ve come with the service buildings . It’s just the roofs to go now, the plasterer, plumber and electrician have all come and assessed the buildings we’re just waiting for the roofs to be completed.

The roofs will all be made from straw with wooden beams on the inside but not visible the outside, they’ll be flat and covered with earthen plaster. The straw and earthen plaster is both cooling and insulating and is consistent with the style of the local housing that’s been made in Egypt for thousands of years.

marsa alam desert retreat example of a flat roof ancient home
Ancient Egyptian Flat Roof Home

A special team of roofers are coming from a place near Luxor where this type of building has been passed down the generations, father to son. They really do an excellent job.

But no pictures yet; because it’s Ramadan – a month of fasting. I’ve paused the work until  Ramadan ends on the 17 June.

Here people try to follow their normal rountines as far as possible during Ramadan but businesses tend close earlier or some have a long siesta (particularly small businesses) and reopen later in the evening.

In fact the night-time is much more vibrant during Ramadan, people tend to stay up later at night and families go to sit by the beach or visit relatives and friends, sharing meals, sweet treats and deserts that people reserve especially for this month. Not surprisingly, people sleep much later in the day .


marsa alam desert retreat desserts in ramadan
Kunafa a favourite Egyptian desert Far too sweet for me but it gives the people sustenance during the month long fast


Things amble along at a quiet pace, I really respect how people adjust and really take things easy on themselves during this month.

The builders gave me the option to continue or pause the work, but with temperatures reaching 34 degrees some days and those fasting don’t even drink water between sunrise and sunset. I decided that a few weeks was not really going to set us back too much and so have completely stopped the work for this month.

Although they assure me that it does not affect them, I don’t want anyone ‘keeling over’ whilst building a Spiritual Healing Retreat that’s just not acceptable!

Anyway, look what was delivered today!

Marsa alam desert retreat earthbag domes
Delivery of rolls of polypropylene for building our domes

The bags are here!

It’s  taken a while to track down a good supplier who could make the bags in the sizes we wanted and with UV protection but finally we found a great company who really did their best and delivered in good time.

The problem was that we wanted two different widths and it was the larger size that was causing problem because nobody seems to make that size here and we certainly didn’t want to go against our sustainable principles and import it from outside that would just make a nonsense out of the whole thing.

Once Ramadan is over it will be full steam ahead to get the dome buildings on the way. In the meantime they will be kept in a store room away from sunlight to stop them disintegrating.

Marsa a,am desert retreat earth bag dome building
These are the different size rolls we’ll be using for our domes.

The tubes are a woven material like what’s used for rice bags. The weave is tight enough to hold a compressed earth and water mix but loose enough to let it breathe for the mix to dry solid.

It’s amazing how few of these rolls you actually need – Nader Khalili was indeed a genius!


Marsa alam desert retreat example of earth bag building
Cal-Earth tubes – we are improvising and having them made locally.

We’re just waiting on the delivery of barbed wire. This goes between the earth bags to create tension, it stops the bags slipping and also adds strength to the finished domes.

marsa alam desert retreat cal- earth dome building in progress
An example of a dome building in progress by Cal-Earth

This is how the tubes will be used, filled with earth compressed flat and used to build, they really do take shape very quickly.

I’m feeling really excited in anticipation of the next stage!


Single roll of earthbag tubing
Our delivery


Cal-Earths Eco domes in Oman

Well maybe, at least this is what we’re aspiring to.

Have you got any creative projects in mind or in progress? Please share we’d love to hear.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Congrats on the progress of your retreat center and your high standards for building it sustainably, including the people! I’m not sure what the bags are for. Care to explain?

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thanks Brad sustainability all the way! The bags will be filled with a mix of soil and water, then compressed tightly to form the tubes you can see in the post thats what we actually build the domes out of, hence the name Earth bag domes. But keep watching this space because I’ll be posting pictures of the build as we go along step by step. The local people are so taken with the idea of using grain bags that some of them want us to help them to build cheap houses out of the bags of earth. Let’s face it we have an abundance of earth here in the desert and it’s so cheap! But more about that another time. Thanks for your support😊

      1. Thanks for the extra details. I love earth homes and the growing ways we are learning to be more sustainable. I look forward to your future posts!

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