Building Update-We’ve Started Our first Earthbag Dome!

Dome test alert! It’s so exciting,  working on our first dome!

Dome buildings are growing in popularity so much so that there’s actually been an article in Vogue Magazine about them.

But the Earthbag for me, is the most superior of them all. So I am elated that finally we’ve started this part of the build.

Earthbag dome construction

Earthbag domes are constructed with polypropylene tubes (or bags) that are filled with soil mixed with water.

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag dome building

The bags are then compacted by tamping to form the walls of the dome. The curve of the dome is achieved through  geometry.

Hence the balance of the soil mix is crucial to having a strong building.

Soil Tests

I carried out a jar test, to measure the soil ratios of sand, clay and silt. The results were as expected of a desert, very sandy and gravelly with very little clay and hardly any silt.

Not the best soil for earthbags.

We were still faced with this problem even after sifting out the course gravel, so we decided to stabilize the soil.

Even though we’re looking to build sustainable buildings, safety is paramount. So we needed to add a stabilizer because loose sand doesn’t hold very well together even when compacted.

Moreover, it’s acceptable to add up to 10% stabilizer to the soil to make a strong construction and still be classed as a sustainable building.

We chose to add cement as stabilizer to add strength to the domes. It’s produced locally so was the best choice.

Test Soil Bricks

In the thumbnail on the far right, you can see the two test bricks. The one on the left is 5% and the one on the right is 10%.

As you can see one of them is broken. This happened when we did the drop test for strength. The 5% cracked on impact with the ground whilst the 10% withstood the fall.

Set the foundations

Tests completed, we set the foundations. Incidentally the foundation bags have to be stabilized with a mix of 30% cement for obvious reasons. Below that there’s a course of bedrock.

So the foundations of the dome are very sturdy.

Notice the barbed wire? This is very important, it gives the dome tensile strength.  As well as helping to grip the bags to stop them slipping when they are being tamped to compact the earth inside them.

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag dome building

Watch it grow!


…….and grow!

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag dome building

Almost there now

It’s a wonderful process to see the dome taking shape, as if by magic! Now that’s what I call sacred geometry!

How’s this for a first attempt?!

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag dome building

The builders a have done a terrific job on this test dome. We’ve identified a few anomalies but on the whole it’s fantastic!

A coat of a traditional mix of earthen plaster has been applied this will be followed by a smoother mix.

Not bad boys! I feel really proud of the team because they’ve never worked on this type of earth building before.

However, they do have extensive experience of working on Coptic domes and vault ceilings which are in some ways are architectural precursors to earthbag domes.

So much so, it’s fair to say that they are masters of ancient traditional building techniques.

So, this combined with knowledge and guidance of how to build with earthbags has created this successful first attempt. Well done to all of our team! I am so thankful and grateful for your wonderful energies.

A special mention goes out to Mr Ahmad Shahat, a most amazing and experienced engineer. To call him and engineer sets limits on his exceptional talents!

Seen here supervising test mixes for earthen plaster. A master in his craft.

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag dome building
Expert in traditional building techniques

He’s a little camera-shy, hopefully he’ll give us a better shot next time!

More snaps!

marsa alam desert retreat earth bag building

Once the earth mix was set, the bags were removed to make the rendering/plastering adhere better.

marsa alam desert retreat earthbag domes building update
A nice Egyptian Style Skylight

Of course there’s still a lot to do on this before it is finished more rendering and plastering and the final finishing touches.

Because this test is so successful, we’ll  keep it and use this small dome for one of our Dukhan or body smudging rooms.


Once again I am so grateful to see my dream being manifest in and on earth.

My path is opening smoothly and beautifully just like a flower blooming.

When I say ‘dream’, it’s not as some may think a fantasy or an aspiration that I have frustratingly fostered for years and years.

No, it was an actual dream I had in January 2015. A dream that Carl Jung and others may call a ‘prophetic dream’.

I was told by a woman in the dream that;

“You’re going to the desert in a strange tent that looks like a beehive, many people coming

Somewhat abbreviated but the content of that dream and others proceeding it, is for a whole nother post! 🙂

I am in effect following my destiny and I love every single moment of it.

I am grateful that I have aligned with my life’s path and  purpose; and that I am able to follow it with the loving guidance and blessing of the universe. To whom I say;

marsa alam desert retreat


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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Kudos Isis on following your life’s dream and purpose! The first dome looks good. It sounds like you have a great building crew.

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thanks Brad and yes builders are fantastic, I am so grateful to have these guys working with us 😊

      1. Wonderful!

      2. Wonderful attitude and crew!

      3. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

        Thank you, Brad. I feel the more grateful and thankful we are in life even for the little things and even for things that appear negative, the more positive energy we attract to ourselves. Peace, love and light to you. Thanks for your likes and comments💓💖💓

      4. Agreed Isis, and I want to practice this more. 🙂

  2. Shan says:

    This seems so cool. And this is supposed to help be sustainable ?

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      I just love these domes 💖 and yes they are absolutely sustainable. The earth we are using come directly from the site. Check out our post
      For more information about these wonderful domes. Thanks for visiting our site, liking and commenting. We’d love to have you follow us!🤗

  3. Marquita says:

    This is so cool! I have never seen this done before! Thank you for breaking down the process.

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you Marquita and thanks for visiting our site, and commenting. Please follow us for more updates on the building of this wonderful retreat!🤗

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