A window over the desert: when business meets community development

written by Lucrezia Zito

Image a fairy-tale Kasbah from a Thousand and One Nights, a castle of clay, salt and sand.
Arriving at a forecourt you find yourself surrounded by high clay walls with openings through candlelight can be seen flickering in the distance. Above you the Milky Way shines in the blue-black sky. Absolute silence. You can hear the stars.

This is the paradise built by Sir Monir Neamatalla, Adrère Amellal , white mountain in Arabic, a luxurious eco-lodge, located in the Siwa Oasis , in Egypt.
Here, there is no electricity and mobiles, apart from the rooms, are prohibited. The buildings are in traditional Siwan style, the furnitures are made from palms or solid blocks of salt and the candles that light at night the rooms  are pure beeswax.

The creator of this secret place, Dr Neamatalla, after his degree in chemical engineering obtained a doctorate in Environmental Health and Quality Management from Columbia University. “Engineering wasn’t really my passion”, he revealed during an interview for Cairo Agenda, “So I made the shift. I have always been more interested in social issues and the state of mankind”. 
Founder and President of Environmental Quality International ( EQI), one of the Egyptian leading development consulting firms, Dr Neamatalla turned a utopian vision into a profitable investment, the result? The Siwa Eco-lodge.  With this Hotel he showed that it is possible to manage resources successfully, integrate people from the surrounding area into the project and at the same respect nature and the region cultural heritage. Mr Neamatalla has facilitated the development of micro-enterprise in the area and he has taken part in the governance and at the meantime has established a successful business.
So, it is no coincidence that Adrère Amellal has been seen as an initiative of sustainable development and it has received many prestigious awards from well-know Institutions such as the International Chamber of Commerce and UNDP (World Business Award for the Siwa Initiative 2006). 

However, the development of Siwa trough the Eco-lodge is not only attributable to Dr Neamatalla. The local community, the eleven tribes of Siwa and the local authority play all a fundamental role in this process. Only in this way, with an active contribution of all the stakeholders involved in the region, has been possible to realize the mission and guard the evolution of the oasis. 
Sewa has become now a symbol of an advanced community that has learnt the worth of wise management of environmental resource and clean energies.