Eco-lodge gives lessons in sustainability
Mon, 02 Jul 2012 10:23a.m.
Before charter flights and mass tourism, travel was a simpler affair and the impact of tourism was much less damaging than it is today. Protecting the environment and reducing this negative impact is the basis of Egypt's oldest eco-lodge, Basata, founded in 1986.
Aesthetically this vision is clear in the pristine bay and the construct of the buildings which blend into their surroundings. Environmentally this translates into a strict regime of recycling, conserving resources and reducing waste.
Sea water is desalinated on-site and waste food is fed to the farm animals, whose manure is used in building bricks and to fertilise the fruit and vegetables that are grown in certain seasons.
Basata Lodge Owner, Sherif El Ghamrawy, says that tourism is one of the most environmentally damaging industries in the world. However, he is optimistic that the tide can be turned and that the effects of tourism on the environment can be minimised.
"Eco-tourism is very important these days for several reasons. Economically because it raises income for the areas that have eco-tourism. The eco-tourist deals with taxi drivers, shop-owners and with restaurants, so the entire community benefits from the eco-tourist," said El Ghamrawy.
"On the other hand, the eco-tourist looks after natural resources such as water, electricity, petrol, he takes care of all the natural resources whether they are underwater, in the mountains or anywhere else. These natural resources are very important to conserve," he said.
El Ghamrawy is working with the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Development Authority to create a state body to represent and regulate eco-tourism in Egypt.
Noha Nashat Rasmy is a first-time visitor to Basata and she says the peace and quiet is the main attraction. But beyond the escape from the hustle and bustle of Cairo, she wanted her children to experience a more natural way of life and to learn some lessons she hopes they will take away with them.
"I think it's a beneficial experience for the children where they learn how they can depend on themselves and look after their resources and not overuse water so it's a great experience for them," said Rasmy.
On-site is a small school that caters for ten students between 10 and 14 years of age. El Ghamrawy founded it in 1997 when his four-year-old daughter needed to begin her education. Several local Bedouin girls joined the class, one of whom, he tells us, has become the first Bedouin girl in the world to graduate with an American Diploma.
The school buildings are currently being renovated while the children are on summer holiday, and the wash used to coat the buildings is made from a mix of local clay and water. This is the outer layer of a building that uses materials from the immediate area: clay, animal manure and straw.
The tourist chalets are built the same way and the building materials combined with a traditional Nubian architectural style, using 50 centimetre thick walls and domed ceilings, makes for a comfortable experience according to architect Hasan El Dahan.
The bricks are made on site, fermenting the mixture of clay, animal manure and straw for a week. The material is then formed into bricks and dried in the sun for another week after which they are ready to be used.
The buildings are plastered using lime and a small amount of cement, which are the only materials brought from outside the area, and then painted with the clay wash.
Basata currently uses diesel generators to provide the lodge with power, but the owner has plans to generate bio-fuel from animal waste produced in the mini-farm in the grounds of the lodge.
The animals are fed on organic waste from the kitchens so to have them create fuel would, as El Ghamrawy sees it, complete the circle.
Built with local materials using traditional techniques, Basata hopes that its holistic approach to living instils an appreciation of local culture and resources. It aims to provide a relaxing holiday with lessons in sustainable living intrinsic to the experience.
3 News / Reuters
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