Before long-haul flights and mass tourism, traveling was a simpler experience, and less stressful on the ecosystem.
Egypt’s oldest eco-lodge, Basata, which means simplicity in Arabic, was set up in 1986 with the aim of protecting the environment with its back to basic style and philosophy.
The eco-lodge, located in South Sinai, follows a strict system of recycling, conserving resources and reducing waste. It features an on-site desalination system; leftover food is given to the farm animals and manure then used to build bricks and fertilize seasonal crops.
Sherif El-Ghamrawy, owner of the eco-lodge says that while tourism in general is detrimental to the environment, he believes the concept of eco-tourism can gain a new allegiance of tourists. He is currently working with the Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Development Authority to establish a state-body in charge of representing and regulating eco-tourism in the country.
“Eco-tourism is very important these days for several reasons. From an economic point of view, it raises income for the areas that have eco-tourism. Taxi drivers, shop owners, restaurants, the entire community benefits from the business the eco-tourist brings. The eco-tourist also 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.
Noha Nashat Ramsy, a first-time visitor to Basata, said the lodge’s tranquility was its main attraction, especially for those wanting to escape the loud sounds of the capital of Cairo.
“We chose to come here because it’s a new place and we can go back to nature and our origins and use natural resources to live a calm lifestyle. I think it’s a beneficial experience for children to learn how they can depend on themselves and look after their resources and not overuse water.”
Basata also features a small school that accommodates 10 students between the ages of 10 to 14. It was established in 1997, when Ghamarawy’s four-year-old daughter started her education. Several local Bedouin girls joined soon thereafter, and one of them became the first Bedouin girl in the world to graduate with an American Diploma.
The outer layer of the eco-lodge is made from disposal materials – clay, animal manure and straw, which are fermented for a week, then dried out in the sun for another week before being ready for use.
The tourist chalets are fashioned the same way, combining traditional Nubian architectural style, as well as ensuring a steady conduction system to keep winter nights warm and summer nights cool, according to architect Hasan El-Dahan.
The eco-lodge is currently powered by diesel generators, but Ghamrawy plans to generate bio-fuel from animal waste.
Basata, simply put, offers guests a holiday spot while teaching them lessons in sustainable living.