A week SEKEM ESSENTIAL

a fully packed program, worth it every day!

Posted on 21 March 2019, by Felix and Esther Hitz

We followed the program SEKEM ESSENTIAL as given day by day in the description. We were impressed both by SEKEM's activities and by the contrasting reality of Cairo and the Old Monuments!

SEKEM ESSENTIAL

Contribution to Travel Journal SEKEM-Trips, March 2019
Within one week visit a special initiative, simultaneously taking in a few cultural “lights“ and all of this in the context of an organised group trip?Not a good idea at all!Arrival time at the Cairo airport - midnight. Surprisingly without any red tape problems. The driver? At the end of a long row of all sorts of drivers one is standing there with a big SEKEM sign. Not so bad!After a one-hour drive, passing poorly (or not at all) lit trucks, buses and other vehicles, we arrive at the SEKEM farm guesthouse. All is quiet, no one to see. The driver takes a suitcase and carries it up the stairs; pulling a key out of his pocket, he opens a door and sets down the suitcase. „Your room, please“ he says courteously. We almost have to force him to take the tip and then he disappears. His name is Mahmud.

Well-organised Swiss people that we are, this astonishes us beyond all measure. Can this be Egypt?On the first day we are allowed to sleep in. We miss the morning tour of the SEKEM compound. During coffee break Concierge Sayed explains where and when what takes place in SEKEM and what to expect during the coming week. By now we are standing in line for a wonderful noon meal in the cafeteria.We quickly make contact with young people from Germany and Holland. They are working and studying here in various projects and plans. Then we investigate the grounds on our own. Friendly faces everywhere. Greetings from every bypasser.A student in textile design from Germany is doing her practicum here. On a tour through the the textile factory we get first-hand information: clarification of demand, formulation of wishes, samples, design, completion of orders, production, quality management, packaging, dispatching, professional and strongly structured procedures, at the same time a peaceful, friendly and stress-free atmosphere. Here these qualities do not stand in opposition. Men and women working here proudly show their work. Although we have been briefed regarding the basic idea and the success story, already on the first day we get an in-depth introduction into SEKEM live!The following week continues in the same vein. Excursion to the pyramids, well-organised, the driver ready before breakfast. The „travel group“ consists of us and a friendly couple from Germany. Not the usual travel group's hurrying. On the way through Cairo we pick up our travel guide, Nihal, a historian who is also fluent in German. She will accompany us on all our excursions. Unsurpassable!Short break in Mena House on the way to the pyramids. Somewhat clumsily and with a few little glitches we soon learn how to politely keep our distance from all the vendors. Nihal explains relevant historical background along the way. Deeply moved we now stand before these monuments of far-gone days, blinding out the busy trading around us.Drive to the step-pyramids and the Sakkara burial site. Here we are more or less alone and undisturbed. Noon break in a garden restaurant with music and drive back along a route with a good number of carpet-making schools.We consolidate our cultural-historical experiences the following day with a visit to the Egyptian Museum. Then we enjoy a traditional noon menu together in the city and a walk through the colourful Khan-el-Khalili-Basaar. Thanks to Nihal we are not disturbed and feel safe.On the fifth day we again concentrate on SEKEM. The farm is a welcome contrast to the busy, noisy and dirty city. We attend the colourful school celebration and visit a musical program with parents and pupils. At the SEKEM Shop we eagerly indulge ourselves in the choice of products. Unfortunately the climax of the day doesn’t take place. The weekly closing ceremony with all the workers on the evening before the Friday prayers is called off due to rain.The longest and most impressing drive brings us to the Fayyum Oasis. Originally a swamp, it was drained during the Middle Kingdom (about 2000 B.C.) and subsequenty cultivated. We visit a fellahin family and together with the farmer we visit his farm with its elaborate irrigation system. Beans, camomile, dill, calendula, coriander are some of his products. In the garlic field, lemon grass tips peek out of the ground between the rows. After the garlic harvest it reaches its normal height and then the second harvest is ready.The farmer shows us his large family. With pride he explains that he comes up for 35 family members. Today the engagement ceremony for a niece will be taking place. 200 guests are invited, however, about 250 are expected.Throughout the trip we are accompanied by a heavily armed police escort. We can feel safe. Obviously visitors to this country are well protected. Every excursion of ours is reported in advance and the police maintains contact with our driver.The numerous intensive experiences of the past days feel like two densely packed weeks. We pass up the final item on the program: a visit to the oldest Coptic church, the well-known alabaster and Ibn Tulun Mosque. By coincidence there is a humorous presentation of the wonderful Light-Eurythmy Ensemble from Dornach-Arlesheim at the school auditorium.There is still enough time to take a lengthy walk through the SEKEM compound whilst a turbulent, intensive but at the same time peaceful week fades out, before we travel home to the other world on the following day.SEKEM ESSENTIAL? - a great idea!Esther and Felix Hitz

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