ERVAT – TEST

Why Hermopolis, why me and why now?

New Hermopolis is an individual non-profit social enterprise founded by Dr Mervat Abdel-Nasser with the mission of capitalizing on Middle Egypt’s heritage for the cultural and economic development of this region.  

The project was conceived back in the 1980’s when I was struck by the increased dissociation of the Egyptians with their ancient past and the growing wave of religious fundamentalism and recession of liberal values.

The years I spent studying ancient Egyptian history as well as my life and work experience as a psychiatrist in the UK led me to ‘Hermopolis’ and its ‘philosophy.’  The idea of reviving Hermopolis, such as an ancient seat of tolerance and dialogue seemed to me like the right response.  The founding of New Hermopolis therefore is connected to this philosophy with its belief in the possibility of harmonious living, reconciliation of differences and the power of art to transform man and society.

Hermopolis is the name given by the Greeks to the city of ‘Thoth’ that lies in El Minia governorate, middle Egypt. It was named after ‘Hermes’, the Greek equivalent of ‘Thoth’, the lord of time, the guardian of thought and the ultimate communicator of knowledge.  Hermopolis became a world capital of learning in Hellenistic Egypt and inspired the development of Alexandria as a Cosmopolis.

The sum of knowledge produced by the ancient Hermopolis (Hermetica) was brought to Florence in the 15th century and had a great influence on the philosophy of Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and beyond. This is reflected in the life and work of major European figures of science, philosophy, art and literature. This shows the enduring legacy of this city and the tendency of its thought to emerge at times when humanity is faced with difficulties and uncertainties making a persuasive argument for the need to revive its spirit to serve our turbulent times.

New Hermopolis: description, operation and impact on the local community

New Hermopolis is an integrated model of development built on a privately owned land close to its ancient counterpart in Tuna el Gebel village (20 KM from the main city of Mallawi/ 320 kilometres from Cairo). It lies at the heart of many archaeological and historical treasures of this region including ancient temples, monuments, churches, and museums. (www.newhermopolis.org)

It serves the main city of Mallawi and its surrounding villages (24 major villages each with population of around 30.000). Based on local government figures, this area exhibits some of the highest levels of poverty and marginalization in the country. Despite its wealth of culture, the land that was once a great centre for learning and cultural dialogue has become impoverished and overlooked. Economic opportunities are scarce but opportunities for free and critical thought are even scarcer with resultant religious intolerance and fictional strife particularly along the Christian-Muslim juxtaposition, higher in this region than any other area of Egypt.

New Hermopolis consists of a Green Farm (10 acres/5 planted olive groves/ we had our first olive oil production in 2017), Hospitality Centre (Eco-retreat) and Cultural/Heritage Centre for the benefit of the local community as well as national and international visitors.

The work on the New Hermopolis Complex (Farm, Retreat and Cultural Space) began in 2004 and was ready for operation by 2011 (the early work involved required searching for the land, digging a well, generating energy and reclaiming desert in addition to other building issue) .The political events and the turmoil that beset the country in 2011 prevented the functioning of the project up until 2014 when we began to receive visitors mostly Egyptian and very few international tourists. The situation has nonetheless improved in 2016/2017.

However, Egypt’s tourism has long been governed by policies of mass tourism. This led to controlled tourist experiences which often entail staying at large concrete hotels and resorts, moving between only a few select archaeological sites. This strategy has proven primarily profitable to a handful of businessmen and big investors, while small businesses, investors, entrepreneurs, and local populations most often neither benefit from nor participate in the profits.  In this enterprise, sustainability is sought through demonstrating the role of culture/heritage in initiating new models of alternative tourism, re-define perceptions and promote values of responsible/solidarity tourism.

The New Hermopolis Retreat is at the core of this development. It is designed and built in accordance with ecological principles and adheres to practices of environmental sustainability. Our architectural designs maximize insulation and ventilation, keeping the site cool in the summer and warm in the winter. ‘Water’ is preserved through the use of our ‘local well’, and our ‘energy source’ is solar. All decorations are designed by local artists, using recycled materials.

It consists of 16 individual studios, all are named after thinkers, writers and artists connected with the philosophy of ancient Hermopolis from ancient history till our present time. The studios surround a square shaped ‘Lotus pond’ (This is a revival of the Egyptian Blue Lotus that is currently threatened with extinction). It has the capacity for 40 visitors.

Our food is mainly based on Egypt’s heritage cuisine and primarily prepared and served by well selected and trained villagers particularly women. This is part of an ongoing outreach program with the local village of Tuna El-Gebel to revive Egypt’s rural cuisine and offer local women skills in catering, food preservation and hospitality. In fact the entire work force of New Hermopolis including administrative, transport, housekeeping, maintenance (electricians, plumbers, joiners, etc), farmers, gardening and security are drawn from the local village.

Why Hermopolis, why me and why now?

New Hermopolis is an individual non-profit social enterprise founded by Dr Mervat Abdel-Nasser with the mission of capitalizing on Middle Egypt’s heritage for the cultural and economic development of this region.  

The project was conceived back in the 1980’s when I was struck by the increased dissociation of the Egyptians with their ancient past and the growing wave of religious fundamentalism and recession of liberal values.

The years I spent studying ancient Egyptian history as well as my life and work experience as a psychiatrist in the UK led me to ‘Hermopolis’ and its ‘philosophy.’  The idea of reviving Hermopolis, such as an ancient seat of tolerance and dialogue seemed to me like the right response.  The founding of New Hermopolis therefore is connected to this philosophy with its belief in the possibility of harmonious living, reconciliation of differences and the power of art to transform man and society.

Hermopolis is the name given by the Greeks to the city of ‘Thoth’ that lies in El Minia governorate, middle Egypt. It was named after ‘Hermes’, the Greek equivalent of ‘Thoth’, the lord of time, the guardian of thought and the ultimate communicator of knowledge.  Hermopolis became a world capital of learning in Hellenistic Egypt and inspired the development of Alexandria as a Cosmopolis.

The sum of knowledge produced by the ancient Hermopolis (Hermetica) was brought to Florence in the 15th century and had a great influence on the philosophy of Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and beyond. This is reflected in the life and work of major European figures of science, philosophy, art and literature. This shows the enduring legacy of this city and the tendency of its thought to emerge at times when humanity is faced with difficulties and uncertainties making a persuasive argument for the need to revive its spirit to serve our turbulent times.

New Hermopolis: description, operation and impact on the local community

New Hermopolis is an integrated model of development built on a privately owned land close to its ancient counterpart in Tuna el Gebel village (20 KM from the main city of Mallawi/ 320 kilometres from Cairo). It lies at the heart of many archaeological and historical treasures of this region including ancient temples, monuments, churches, and museums. (www.newhermopolis.org)

It serves the main city of Mallawi and its surrounding villages (24 major villages each with population of around 30.000). Based on local government figures, this area exhibits some of the highest levels of poverty and marginalization in the country. Despite its wealth of culture, the land that was once a great centre for learning and cultural dialogue has become impoverished and overlooked. Economic opportunities are scarce but opportunities for free and critical thought are even scarcer with resultant religious intolerance and fictional strife particularly along the Christian-Muslim juxtaposition, higher in this region than any other area of Egypt.

New Hermopolis consists of a Green Farm (10 acres/5 planted olive groves/ we had our first olive oil production in 2017), Hospitality Centre (Eco-retreat) and Cultural/Heritage Centre for the benefit of the local community as well as national and international visitors.

The work on the New Hermopolis Complex (Farm, Retreat and Cultural Space) began in 2004 and was ready for operation by 2011 (the early work involved required searching for the land, digging a well, generating energy and reclaiming desert in addition to other building issue) .The political events and the turmoil that beset the country in 2011 prevented the functioning of the project up until 2014 when we began to receive visitors mostly Egyptian and very few international tourists. The situation has nonetheless improved in 2016/2017.

However, Egypt’s tourism has long been governed by policies of mass tourism. This led to controlled tourist experiences which often entail staying at large concrete hotels and resorts, moving between only a few select archaeological sites. This strategy has proven primarily profitable to a handful of businessmen and big investors, while small businesses, investors, entrepreneurs, and local populations most often neither benefit from nor participate in the profits.  In this enterprise, sustainability is sought through demonstrating the role of culture/heritage in initiating new models of alternative tourism, re-define perceptions and promote values of responsible/solidarity tourism.

The New Hermopolis Retreat is at the core of this development. It is designed and built in accordance with ecological principles and adheres to practices of environmental sustainability. Our architectural designs maximize insulation and ventilation, keeping the site cool in the summer and warm in the winter. ‘Water’ is preserved through the use of our ‘local well’, and our ‘energy source’ is solar. All decorations are designed by local artists, using recycled materials.

It consists of 16 individual studios, all are named after thinkers, writers and artists connected with the philosophy of ancient Hermopolis from ancient history till our present time. The studios surround a square shaped ‘Lotus pond’ (This is a revival of the Egyptian Blue Lotus that is currently threatened with extinction). It has the capacity for 40 visitors.

Our food is mainly based on Egypt’s heritage cuisine and primarily prepared and served by well selected and trained villagers particularly women. This is part of an ongoing outreach program with the local village of Tuna El-Gebel to revive Egypt’s rural cuisine and offer local women skills in catering, food preservation and hospitality. In fact the entire work force of New Hermopolis including administrative, transport, housekeeping, maintenance (electricians, plumbers, joiners, etc), farmers, gardening and security are drawn from the local village.