Table of Contents
- 0.1 We started the program with 3 farm resident volunteers
- 0.2 Work at the farm
- 0.3 Fees
- 0.4 Meals Served
- 0.5 Sleeping setting
- 0.6 Answering the call of nature
- 0.7 Eco-friendly & zero waste
- 1 In a nutshell
- 2 Useful Info
I have no idea if I was living the dream or the nightmare. If I prefer to be the city girl who has everything within reach, and can survive its chaos & fast pace, or that no-frills human who appreciates a primitive life, walking the streets in shorts & flipflops, and finds a hot shower or a normal bed to be a luxury? -Well, I choose to be a mix of both, more of a no-frills though :D.
We genuinely enjoyed the experience of volunteering, at The Little Oasis Experimental Desert Permaculture Garden in Dahab, with all its ups & downs, although those animals we fed scared the hell out of me, yet I got used to them, I can now get into a cage with 4 goats fearless, feed 11 ducks without a problem, maybe haven’t got used to those crazy 21 chicken just yet, seeing a mouse used to freak me out, yet I only imagined it as Remy the mouse-chef from Ratatouille, who is sneaking out in the look for a Gusteau cooking show, or some herbs to prepare his favorite recipes, -Dina will kill me for this statement, haha.
Spotting a butterfly at the farm
And those loyal dogs who only 2 days after we arrived, have already got used to us, and were our guardians everytime we went out of the farm, they would walk us to the main road and bark at any dog who dares to make a sound even from afar, this is my very first time to consider getting a dog although I was never a pet person, but anyway my mum won’t allow it, and I still haven’t made peace with their jumping and licking.
Birdeye view of the farm
Besides CARITAS and some charity works, this was my first time to volunteer in Egypt, or abroad for a long-term, and I assure you that something in me has changed during & after this experience, the connection you make with nature, the distance & space you get from the chaotic city, & fast-paced lifestyle; make you realize how demanding we humans can be, greedy, and always asking for more, focusing on what we don’t have -and not necessarily need-, forgetting to enjoy the little things in life in the process.
Enjoying the little things in life such as sitting on the beach eating Cheese Sandwiches & Chips by Dina Fawzy
Every time I watered those plants I was so alert, aware of the present, enjoying every bit of it, expelling all the negative energy out of my system in a way I can’t even express. Meditation gurus say that to measure the success of your meditation, you must be totally aware of the present, it is something that people mistakenly think they can only experience while sitting comfortably with eyes closed, I’ve only experienced those feelings when hiking solo, and now when watering the plants.
Our outdoor chill-out, sunbathing, & natural hair drying spot
One thing in common about those who volunteered at the farm; is whether they have just quit their jobs, about to, or have got over city life long ago, it’s not a farm but a home, you will be heartbroken to bid farewell to. I haven’t been lucky to meet the amazing French lady behind this farm, the founder & owner of this masterpiece Olivia who passed away last August, leaving behind 3 lovely kids, I had the pleasure to meet two; Matts (known as Booboo), and Lowey (known as the Walking Tornado) a well-deserved nickname for a restless child. Everybody in Dahab knew Olivia, loved her and still visit her farm to kind of pay tribute to her work of art, & feel her presence, they don’t call it The Little Oasis, but call it instead Olivia’s farm.
Another chill-out space on the pond
Ten days before Olivia’s passing she asked her trusted former volunteer, & friend Yasser to look after the farm till she’s back on her feet, unfortunately she passed away, and since then Yasser is trying his best to maintain the farm as good as it was when Olivia was in charge.
Entry to the farm is from this door
We started the program with 3 farm resident volunteers
- my friend Dina from Alexandria, I met her through a common friend in Siwa on a 5 days trip, she’s an architect, now working as a math teacher, who volunteered in India & worked in the U.S. for 6 months in supermarkets & restaurants just for the experience
- Yeeming from Hong Kong, who was staying at the farm for a month but in Dahab & Egypt for longer, a lady with previous farming experience, she recently quit her job, taking a break to travel, she came to Dahab long before us to volunteer, and made lots of friends
Our hut is the last one & from the balcony has a sea view
- Yasser; who left corporate slavery and his life in Cairo, & chose to flee to Dahab with his amazing 11 years old daughter Jana to restore his sanity, he had the most “appealing to my ears” music playlist on his phone, that we enjoyed when working in the kitchen
- Jana the “too mature for her age” girl; who’s pretty famous among Dahabians, addicted to movies, pets, & loves to eat chicken, enjoys creating handicrafts, hated studying, and taught us all how to make thread bracelets
- His German-Swiss partner Tanja (pronounced Tania); the natural creams & dream catchers maker, the one who knows the benefits of every leave cultivated in the farm, LOVES eating salad, and fights over radishes with Yasser (haha), she fell in love with Dahab, yet flees to Switzerland in summer to avoid Dahab’s heat
- And her German-Swiss friend Shelley who came on a 3 weeks vacation, she was enjoying every bit of Dahab’s sun, I don’t remember ever seeing her sitting under the shade, yet was always dressed in too many layers “for a native European” after the sun went down. Shelley enjoyed mixing anything together to come up with her own recipes, she’s a coffee & tea addict, who wanted to become a teacher but a “non-sense” compulsory singing test avoided her from realizing her dream.
This is what happens when I step into the kitchen <3
Besides helping at the farm, Shelley & Tanja were in charge of the kitchen, one night they made us Cheese Fondue brought from its birthland Switzerland, they’d go grocery shopping & cook if none of us stepped in.
I practiced with them my “very little” German I learned from my nieces, could sometimes understand them talking, I admit that their Basel-ese German is pretty similar to Germany’s.
This is the view we woke up to for 2 weeks
But the number randomly grew, one weekend we had two more volunteers from Cairo; Andrew, & Ragui who recently quit his job, left everything behind including his phone, and fled to Dahab, both of them volunteered before at the farm, then Azza joined an enthusiastic Egyptian lady who recently moved to Dahab, after 4 years in India, she wrote a book about her experience there, a non-resident of the farm, Akram a Yemeni guy, who started farming at a young age, a former Little Oasis vvolunteer who visits every once in a while to give a hand, and to share his experience with other volunteers.
This scenery is a 5 minutes walk from the farm
Andrew left, Dina followed a week later who was replaced by an Egypto-Dutch young lady named Justina who came to Egypt to visit her family, discover Egypt & learn Arabic, she is an excellent singer, ukulele player, yogi and into everything natural.
Posing with those beautiful ducks we fed
Work at the farm
Our daily routine was to wake up around 6:45 and snooze till it’s ten to seven, start preparing/collecting food for the goats, ducks, dogs, and chicken -there used to be donkeys as well, but since Olivia’s passing it’s been difficult to take care of them.
During our first week, we started the watering around 4 pm, followed by feeding the animals, until a collective decision was made that it’s better to do it in the morning, so we used to do it after taking our morning tea/coffee with biscuits.
Dina watering the plants on our first day
After breakfast, -that never had a fixed time- but something around 9:30 AM we were free to go out till the next feeding which starts at 5 pm and lasts until 5:30 PM, chicken eggs are collected too for us to eat whenever we please –I wish I could say next is shower time, but it wasn’t the case as the shower was so freaking cold, not only but also placed in a hut made of straw, so even if you can handle the water, it wasn’t possible to handle the wind while getting dressed inside, so taking a shower was a collective decision, when the weather was warm enough & the sun is shining.
What happens is that you arrange with other volunteers day by day who will do the feeding in the morning, and who will do it in the evening, but the watering is for everyone unless it’s your day off.
Look at her eyes! I guess this is Jane, one of the goats
9:30 AM till 4:30 PM is your free time;
Sometimes we will just sit back & chill-out, enjoy the sun & relaxing atmosphere, while reading a book, writing, chatting with each other, with farm visitors, or do some art & crafts like bracelets, or dream catchers with Jana, or cooking, some other times we’d do some more chores like producing stuff for the Friday Market, learning goat-milking, de-weeding the plants, digging some sort of tunnels around every circle of plants then put some stones to stop water from coming out & going to waste.
Me digging tunnels to prevent water from flowing by Dina Fawzy
Some days, we would just go out for a walk, grocery shopping, grab a bite & stay on the beach, hike the neighboring hills, watch the sunset while enjoying our favorite Cheesecake from Everyday Café, or at the Laguna. We went with Homadventures to Wadi Gnai for a quick hike and another time for a hike from the Blue Hole to the Blue Lagoon, where we spent the night. On my last day at the farm, when it was warm enough Justina, Jana & I went to the beach.
Are you looking for better ideas to get the best out of Dahab? This guide is for you
Friday Market Preparations
In Dahab, there is a weekly Friday Market where people mainly sell food, & crafts.
Snippets of Dahab’s Friday Market’s atmosphere
The Little Oasis sells;
Products from the farm
- Mixed salad (different types of lettuce, green leaves, beetroot leaves, spinach, ruccola, etc.)
- Duck eggs
- Goat cheese
Dina, Yasser & I at the Friday Market
Products made at the farm, but not homegrown
- Peanut butter (only made with peanuts, no additives like sugar, honey or oil)
- Pesto with cheese
- Vegan Pesto (without cheese)
- Tahini (made from sesame without any additives or oil)
- Hummus spread
- Ginger Ale
- Kombucha drink
- Tea with Lemon Grass
Preparations for the market start on Tuesday -except for the beverages that are prepared weeks in advance, as well as the farm products collected on Friday morning after the animal feeding-, somebody buys what we need, we divide the tasks and start the work as follows;
People chilling at the Friday Market
- Cleaning & sanitizing the jars
- Processing the peanut butter & tahini, adding ingredients to the hummus & pesto, processing them & pouring them into jars
- Collecting fruits, vegetables, and salad and putting them in bags
- Collecting duck eggs
Off-time is upon mutual agreement
- Saturdays are usually off, unless you pick another day
- Friday is the Friday Market Day -some volunteers go to the market, but don’t have to spend the entire time selling the farm products, they can hang around too, and the rest stay at the farm, as visitors come all the time, so it can’t be left unattended
- It’s usually hard to take Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday off as these are the Friday Market preparation days
Our hike back from the Blue Lagoon
Payment is done every Saturday to cover the week to come: EGP 30 per day covering 2 vegetarian meals, snacks, and chicken eggs freshly picked from the farm.
Sunflowers blooming at the farm
Two vegetarian meals are served per day to be eaten with the whole group, along with some snacks such as bananas, carrots, cucumbers, eggs, bread & cheese, except for Friday morning -as time is usually tight for a collective breakfast- and your day off.
You can bring in your cooking skills, if you feel like cooking for the group.
In Remy’s presence, I had to make Ratatouille (eggplants & herbs added were freshly picked from the farm)
Is in wooden huts covered in clay from the inside (to stop the air & to always keep good weather inside the hut), there are 4 of them.
Dina & I were sharing one, we had one large mattress (not bed), and 2 small tables, a lantern, and a tiny broken mirror to look at. The hut was big enough to accommodate us both comfortably.
Our hut from outside
After Dina left, Yasser asked if it was ok for me to share my hut with Justina who after checking in, made our hut smell like a spa thanks to her collection of essential oils that she uses on daily basis to inhale, mix them with other stuff to make natural deodorant, mouth-wash, you name it.
Our hut from inside
Andrew & Ragui camped on the farm, & Azza volunteered every morning but didn’t sleep over.
Answering the call of nature
No flushing toilets, there is only one toilet cabin, compost based.
Our toilet cabin
Meaning when you poop, instead of flushing the toilet & waste tons of water you just pour some sawdust over your poop, the sawdust gets rid of the smell, then the whole mix is used later as fertilizer. Also, animal poop is used for the same purpose.
The funny sign hanging in the toilet
There was only one as well, it had the tap & the freaking cold shower.
The freaking cold shower
Eco-friendly & zero waste
The most positive thing about this farm is being eco-friendly with zero waste, I just wish electricity was produced from solar cells.
- Food leftovers, fruits & vegetables skin are cut into small pieces and fed to the chicken
- Lights are basically dim, so not much electricity is gone to waste
Justina & I standing infront of the Farm’s door
In a nutshell
Why I’d go there again?
- To connect with nature at its rawest form, this place is so relaxing, & is filled with positive energy
- The whole experience of spending a long time at the farm, with likely-minded people was amazing, bidding farewell to them, the animals and the plants was heart-breaking
- Meeting tons of visitors to the farm from all walks of life – I even met a school friend I haven’t seen in so long
- Waking up to the sounds of nature
- I almost got over my fear of animals, and the need for a huge space to separate me from them
- It was another experience that taught me to appreciate the little things in life we usually take for granted, by thinking of them as a given
Bidding farewell to the farm :'(
I’d appreciate if anything could be done about;
- Making this volunteering program more organized, rather than random just like how anything in Dahab is :). Our two weeks were definitely not enough to learn so much about farming.
- There is no hot water which makes shower “a living nightmare”
- No washing machine for our laundry, it’s whether you hand-wash or take them to a laundry place at El-‘assalah square or the Lighthouse -not a Laundromat-, you just leave your clothes dirty, and have them washed & dried the next day, even ironed if you want
- Commonly seeing small creatures hanging around given that we were in the middle of the desert, and an open space
- Eating dinner leftovers for breakfast is a big no no, for dinner it’s ok
- Having no fixed meal hours makes the team STARVE
Sunrise & sunset at the Blue Lagoon
- Location: El-Zarnou’ 5 minutes walk from El-‘Assalah Square
- Age Requirements: none
- Eligibility: Egyptians & foreigners who don’t mind waking up early :D, and be nice & friendly to all farm’s visitors, and can handle little creatures that can appear in an open space
- Duration: minimum 3 weeks to a month
- Program Dates: flexible, upon arrangement with the farm
- Contact them: here
If you’re looking for other volunteer opportunities in Egypt, here is a list.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who was part of making this experience amazing <3
We hope you really liked this blog post, as much as we enjoyed putting it together. If you want to ask us any questions, or engage with other people, join our facebook group here.