A Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert

Ibrahim Abouleish; Photography by Markus Kirchgessner

Out of print

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The astonishing story of the Sekem initiative to create a sustainable biodynamic and holistic community in the Egyptian desert.

240 x 170 mm
Floris Books
Philosophy of Human Life; Biodynamics & Organics
120 colour photographs
240 pages
Publication date:
27 Oct 2005


The Egyptian desert can be a hostile place. Yet in 1977, Dr Ibrahim Abouleish founded a new agricultural and social settlement on seventy hectares of desert land in Belbes, 60 km north east of Cairo. The Sekem initiative was born.

Dr Abouleish's goals were to build a new type of sustainable community. His vision was for a farm which grew biodynamic crops and plants out of the harsh desert sand. Where the workers and residents were given holistic primary health care. Where their children were well-educated in the sciences. A place which could sell its wares and be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. A place where Islamic religion and Western technology could come together in harmony.

Nearly thirty years later and Sekem has gone from strength to strength. In 1981 it shipped its first medicinal herbs to the USA; by 2004, it oversaw a network of over 800 farms across Egypt and the Sudan, producing high quality organic crops, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Its mobile health units work with local rural populations and it has brought about real social change.

This is the story of Sekem -- the original vision, the challenges and hard work, and the eventual successes -- in Ibrahim Abouleish's own words.

Stunningly illustrated with colour photographs throughout.


'This is a remarkable story told by a remarkable man. The story is fluently told and is an inspirational tale. Given the present inclination of many in the West (including its senior leaders) to see Islam as hopelessly backward looking and wrong-headed, the synthesis [between the Islamic world and European spirituality] that has been achieved through the work at Sekem may turn out to be among its most important achievement.'
-- Richard Grover, New View, December 2005

'This is a gripping read, a must read. It can teach us a lot about taking initiative, community building, associative economy, social threefolding, the importance of public relations work and, in these troubled times, to understand the Islamic faith. With many beautiful photographs.'
-- Christoph Hanni, Camphill Correspondence, May 2006

'One of the features of this book is the author's explanations of biodynamic farming and the hazards of chemical pesticides from an Islamic perspective. [...] This book is a thoughtful account of the community's development.'
-- Pesticides News, December 2005

'The amazing story of the Sekem community in Egypt. The pictures in the book tell the story alongside the text, with flourishing plants and people. Will surely be an inspiration for our current century.'
-- Scientific & Medical Network Review, December 2005

'This is an inspiring and heart-warming read, one of those stories which, by their very nature are rare.'
-- Sean Byrne, The Local Planet

'This book is a must read. It can teach us a lot about taking initiative, communtiy building, associative economy, social threefolding, the importance of public relations work, and, in these troubled times, to understand the Islamic faith. It can renew our hope and trust in the future, or even inspire us to discover Sekem and Egypt first hand.'
--Journal of Curative Education and Social Therapy, Easter 2006

'His biography makes gripping reading'
-- Christopher Cooper, Perspectives, June - August 2007


Dr Ibraham Abouleish (1937-2017) was born in Egypt. He studied medicine and worked in Germany, Austria and Switzerland before founding the Sekem initiative in 1977. In 2004 he was named as one of the world's Ten Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation.

You can also visit the author's own website at

Markus Kirchgessner is a professional photographer who was born near Heidelberg, Germany, in 1963. He has travelled widely in the Islamic world and had several solo exhibitions.

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