Rumi, Poet, Mystic and Eco-Warrior?

Rumi the Sustainable building Poet

rumi Nader khalili marsa alam desert retreat
The Poet Rumi

Rumi a 13th Century Sufi poet has more than a tenuous link with the modern drive for Eco building and sustainable architecture.

You may wonder, how a poet born in 1207 in Afghanistan and later residing in Persia managed to influence the natural building movement today?

Well, it was through the passion of the modern architect, humanitarian and writer called Nader Khalili. Who was also the  Founder of  CalEarth Institute of Earth Architecture.

nader khalili - marsa alam desert retreat
Nader Khalili (1936-2008)

Nader Khalili

Pioneered the SuperAdobe building technology and was renowned for designing and building the Eco dome, Moon Cocoon or what we now commonly call Earthbag domes!

Earthbag Dome Construction in Oman by Cal Earth

Khalili was a Iranian architect whose career began in Tehran designing high-rise buildings, something he continued to do when he emigrated to America.

Until 1975, I was practicing and lecturing around the world. I was one of the 300 known high-rise specialists.  I had been running an office in Tehran during the time when there were about 30,000 Americans in Tehran creating a lot of projects.  We were in this whole building and promotion rat race.

Nader Khalili

marsa alam desert retreat rumi the poet and nader khalili

An expert in building the metropolis but his passion was not for the glitz and the glam of the cities. But rather for the needs of the poor;

900 million people in this world today are either homeless or they live in shantytowns and shelters that are totally unacceptable

Nader khalili

Born into a family of nine children he championed working towards developing affordable housing for the poor.

They will never have any hope for having shelter unless they work with what is under their feet.  The Earth is the only answer.

Nader Khalili


marsa alam desert retreat rumi and nader khalili
Source – CalEarth

So what has all this got to do with the 13th Century Sufi poet?

According to the Cal-earth Institute Rumi, the Persian language mystic poet, was the inspiration behind Khalili’s work, for his wisdom concerning, humanity and the elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.

The Rumi Dome

Nader Khalili's tribute to the poet rumi
The Rumi Dome – A tribute to Rumi

This dome is a fitting tribute to the poet. Khalili named the process of this construction Geltaftan. Gel- means clay and Taftan- means firing, baking and weaving in Persian. Essentially is a ceramic house which uses the  four elements: earth and water to build the forms, and fire and air to finish them.

Khalili’s love for Rumi can be compared to Rumi’s love for his master teacher Shams Tabrīzī. He wrote,

Why should I seek?

I am the same as He.

His essence speaks through me.


Just as Rumi and Shams were as two souls entwined as one. So was Nader Khalili with Rumi.

The mystical Poet was a major influence in Nader Khalili’s life and work. So much so that he even translated works of the poet from Persian to English. (Fountain of Fire, Dancing the Flame, the Spiritual Poems  of Rumi and the Love Poems of Rumi). 

Making it possible for the western world to enjoy some of the most wonderful poetry ever written.

Most poets and writers have heard of Rumi, his works transcend physical and religious boundaries. His poetry is even studied in western school curricula.

His poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the “most popular poet”  and the “best-selling poet” in the United States.

Earth Turns To Gold

But it’s in “The Spiritual Poems of Rumi” where we see the full unity of the Mystic Poet and the architectural visionary merged as one in the verse,

Earth turns to gold in the hands of the wise


nader khalili and the poet Rumi marsa alam desert retreat

A phrase that has become a mantra representing the Architectural Guru Nader Khalili.

These words require no further explanation or exploration as they totally encompasses what sustainable Earthbag Dome building is about.

Earth turns to gold in the hands of the wise

So nice I have to say it twice!

So where do I fit into all of this?

When I view the world, I do so relative to my personal experiences, practices and environment. We’re constantly either reflecting; or absorbing reflections from our environment.

Being conscious of what I emit and reading the signs and signals around me, not only helps me to grow as a person but also assists in developing my personal path.

Thus helping me fulfill my life and soul purpose; and to define where I ‘fit’ in this world. In this context I am both the student and the teacher on my path.

Love, Love, Love!

Once in a blue moon my loved ones will hear me exclaim,

“I’m in love!”

Which is sharply followed by rolling eyes and a toss of the head as if to say,

“Here she goes again”

On the rare occasions when this happens it could be with art, literature or even  something ‘appearing’ inanimate such as a beautiful rock or crystal. But when it does happen I love as deeply as any other love.

Earthbag domes were one of these passions as was Rumi and Nader Khalili.

By the way my latest ‘crush’ is Hassan Fathy 1900 – 1989. An Egyptian architect who also championed building affordable housing for the poor.

More about Mr Fathy later when I post on the buildings that we will use for our stables. But I digress a little.

When this great surge of love occurs, I study my object of affection so deeply and intensely until I am familiar with it’s every aspect. Totally immersed in its essence until I attain oneness.

This may sound strange but hey, I’m sure we can all relate to this if only a little.

When I decided to have Earthbag domes for my Retreat, I loved them and they seemed to resonate with a prophetic dream that I had early in 2015.

You’d expect that my first port of call would’ve been to study and research all things dome and Earthbags.

But in this case, that’s not what happened

Instead I researched everything I could about Nader Khalili and discovered that Rumi was at the core of his soul.

So much so that before even looking at an Earthbag dome plan or manual, I read Rumi!

Know the man and you’ll understand his work. Understand his work and you will know the man.

Isis Warner

I wanted to understand the man Nader Khalili, before I even attempted to look at his work. To get inside his heart, his mind and explore his soul.  I found him in Rumi.

Immersed in the passion of Rumi I would sometimes see visions of Khalili reciting the words as I read. Or hear his voice whispering softly, repeating the last line of a verse, which would echo in my mind for days.

I still sometimes randomly hear him reciting Rumi. Reminiscent of Khalili himself when he said

“Rumi’s poems, in Persian, have been whispered in my ears for over fifty years…..”

“Of Course I Will”

When I eventually got round to researching SuperAdobe building and Earthbag domes. Without any building or architectural training, it all seemed very daunting to say the least.

One evening after studying lots of resources, I said casually;

“Oh Nader will you help me with the building?”

It was more an exasperated plea than a request. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a voice gently but reassuringly with a soft middle eastern accent say;

“Of course I will.”

From that moment I knew it would all fall into place, an inner strength and confidence replaced all shadows of doubt.

The Poet, The Architect and The Seer

Heard the one about the poet the architect and the seer? No, I thought not.

For me the building of my retreat is the culmination of a divine plan transcending time and space;

“Earth turns to gold in the hands of the wise”

These words form the divine thread that unites all three of us;

The Poet’s verse ~ Rumi

The Architect’s Plan ~ Nader Khalili 

The Seer’s Dream – Me!

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

My dream being Manifest in Love and Light

Earthbag dome building rumi connection marsa alam desert retreat
Domes being built, Marsa Alam Egypt

Earth turning to gold in the hands of the wise

This post is a tribute to the great man and wonderful spirit Nader Khalili my guiding light and inspiration.

SuperAdobe domes……. have been built in at least 49 countries on 6 continents and the list continues to grow.


A wonderful legacy left for the future of our planet.

Please leave a comment  let me know your thoughts, or if you wish  to contribute anything to this post. We’d love to hear from you.

May peace, love and happiness fill your day.

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19 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a beautiful story Isis. It’s lovely to learn of the soulful connection you have to Rumi and Nadir with the unfolding of your passion and dream. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this sacred part of your journey. Kudos on your dream manifesting. I love the simplicity and elegance of earth and dome homes.

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you Brad for your continued support on this journey, I really appreciate it. 🤗🙏🏽

      1. My sincere pleasure. I admire you and your values and passion for this project.

      2. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

        After a week of dealing with bureaucrats, the shadow side of this project that I don’t often focus on. Your support and encouragement is particularly welcome. Thanks Brad!🤗😊

      3. I’m glad it helps Isis. 🙂

  2. Sean says:

    This is great! Thanks for this information 🙂

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you Sean and thanks for visiting our blog😊

  3. Great post! Very informative indeed!👍👍👍

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you for visiting our site and for leaving a wonderful comment😊

  4. Bryan Fagan says:

    Such a fascinating piece. Thank you for doing this. We’ve come a long ways but we have so much more to go.

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you Bryan😊

  5. Very cool structures, great photos and info!

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you, please check out our latest post too for more wonderful images 😊

    2. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you, please checkout our latest post for more wonderful images. Thanks for stopping by 😊

  6. What a nice post! This is amazing!

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thank you Diane, glad you enjoyed it 🤗

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Hi, Patrick, so glad you liked this post, thanks for sharing. Bless you.

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