Between the mountain and the sky, Dr. Mervat Abdel-Nasser founded New Hermopolis Ecolodge in 2011. She built this non-profit ecolodge to portray heritage revival in a sustainable manner. In this article, we will highlight this social enterprise, ecological complex and its importance among locals and visitors.
About 3 Km away from Tuna Al Gabal village is the New Hermopolis located. Dr. Abdel-Nasser got a 10 acres land right at the antiquities borders in Minya Governorate. Multiple historic sites such as Bani-Hassan cemetery surround this location.
This eye capturing lodge vision is based on Ancient Hermopolis, the Upper Egyptian capital in Mallawi, Minya. The ancient capital stretched from Akhmunen to Tuna Al Gabal. The name Hermopolis derived from the Greek interpretation of “Thot”, which is “Hermes”. Thoth was the God of writing, wisdom, magic, and the moon.
The project layout is a reflection of Dr. Abdel-Nasser’s life, and New Hermopolis Ecolodge goals. In an ancient Egyptian manner, the complex design had all of its components in one axis. Starting with the life incubator, the well, until Dr. Abdel-Nasser’s tomb, with the lodge –expressing life- in between. The tomb itself has one window overlooking Petosiris tomb, in an everlasting connection between the souls.
New Hermopolis Ecolodge addresses three main components: Eco-farming, Eco-Architecture and Culture. Accordingly, it encompasses three ingredients respectively: Agricultural, Architecture, and Cultural Heritage. In this sense, New Hermopolis aims at reviving this historic context, and create a platform for heritage investigation. Also, the project’s goal includes the usage of Middle Egyptian economic and cultural development.
New Hermopolis Complex
New Hermopolis complex consists of two main areas, the Eco-Farm and the Ecolodge. The Eco-farm occupies 5 acres of land, and it is an Olive tree farm. Another 1.5 acres of the land house the Ecolodge, as it consists of 16 units that accommodate 40 people.
As for the Ecolodge itself, it has several units and spaces for its guests. One of those spaces is the Multi-functional hall, which hosts seminars, celebrations and more. Other spaces include the restaurant and the library, which open up together to create a larger space whenever needed.
Multi-functional hall – Photo Courtesy: New Hermopolis
Photo Courtesy: New Hermopolis
One of the Ecolodge’s major elements is the Lotus pond. This pond takes on the square shape, which achieves the “Octagon” concept of New Hermopolis when combined with the domes’ circle bases. As the octagon in Ancient Hermopolis defined the male and female versions of nature’s nodes. It is also important to note that the 16 lodges offer double the “Octagon” concept as well.
Water, Electricity, and Sewage lines do not reach the New Hermopolis site. Hence, Dr. Abdel-Nasser created complex services from scratch. Water for example comes from the well at the Eco-Lodge entrance. Electricity demand was accordingly high to get the water out of the well and serve the rest of the complex. In this case, she was not able to install solar power to apply electricity. Instead of solar energy, she installed the electricity tower for New Hermopolis and the villagers’ farms next to it.
New Hermopolis Architecture
Dr. Tarek Wally is the Architect who designed the project outline based on Dr. Abdel-Nasser’s vision. The Ecolodge and complex developed in construction organically, based on many trials and adaptation to resources and sites. Nevertheless, Dr. Abdel-Nasser and the people involved in this project were able to achieve around 75% of her original idea.
Dr. Wally and Dr. Abdel-Nasser got the expert builders from Fayoum. That is because wall bearing and pointed domes are not common in Egypt and require special expertise to implement. It is worth mentioning that in Fayoum a lot of efforts to preserve the local environment-friendly building solutions were done by different stakeholders. Read more about Five Vernacular buildings in Fayoum.
She built the whole project with bare limestone, to reflect the natural context. In addition, she chose to crown the lodges with pointed domes for both the Architectural value and the Historical one. This historical value also links New Hermopolis to its location, reviving its Architecture heritage along the way.
She took inspiration from the pointed domes in the City of the Dead and Tuna Al Gabal tombs. At the same time, she was able to adapt this historical technique with both the materials and spaces. The only traditional dome covers Dr. Abdel-Nasser’s tomb.
Materials and Resources
New Hermopolis founder picked everything used in the project carefully to match its philosophy, goals and the environment. For instance, she hired a Fustat Artist and worker for the recycled iron. Based on her ideas, he made the terrace overlooking pool courtyard, and the gates. Another carpenter who is highly skilled and does much work in Minya’s Churches made the benches for the project interiors.
On the other hand, she brought the limestone from Fayoum. She also made great efforts to get tree logs for the columns, as she wanted them to be original and homey. Besides the columns, an interesting visual in the complex is the lodge’s doors. As the doors had different sizes, you can spot the diversity in lodges’ elevations as you walk through the courtyard.
Other than the wall bearing structure, New Hermopolis combines heritage with more environmental attempts. One of which is the three solar heaters installed at the project from the beginning. Currently, only one of them is working while electrical heaters suffice for the rest of the load.
The Olive trees alone is not water demanding and is part of the desert and history of the complex location. In addition to the farming type, the Eco-farm works on the dripping system, to save water consumption.
They also used recycled iron for some works in the project. Some of those are the metal gates and lighting fixtures. They also used it for the terrace enclosing the pool courtyard.
New Hermopolis Events
While New Hermopolis structure in itself highlights Architecture heritage, it hosts multiple events to encourage cultural heritage. One of the most prominent events is Thoth festival for Petosiris. This yearly festival used to be on 30th of September, which is the 19th of “Thoth” month. Nowadays, it coincides with the modern engineer of literature Taha Hussein on 28th of October. Other events include Egyptian folklore dancing and music.
This Middle Egyptian Ecolodge in Minya is living proof of heritage revival. New Hermopolis Ecolodge is also a proof of vision meeting reality and has great potential for both the locals and the visitors. To continue reading about sustainable architecture in Egypt, take a look at Handover Architecture projects.