A new retreat on the Nile, called Fekra, opened its doors this year to offer alternative healing methods that include meditation and yoga for those struggling with PTSD or those who want to enjoy the scenery and tranquil nature surrounding the retreat. Recent events in Egypt have spurred founder Karina Al Piaro to assist in the development of this type of retreat, using what she calls “the transformative power” of the Nile, to treat symptoms brought on by traumatic events.
“I have been working as a photographer and visual artist in North Africa and the Nile Basin territories for many years now, but it was during this process specifically on the river itself in Upper Egypt between Luxor and Aswan that I began to witness a powerful transformational connection between the untouched primordial qualities of the remote Nile-scapes,” said Al Piaro.
Al Piaro endured a near fatal experience in the course of taking photographs in Egypt in 2012, and this traumatic event made such a retreat more of a necessity. “Finding and preserving safe sanctuaries on the river started to become a personal priority,” she said. “It was during this search on the river that I became aware of Fekra, which means idea in Arabic; a remote farm on the river in Upper Egypt, or more specifically, a place on the river outside Aswan called El Shellal.”
The Nile retreat’s location overlooks the Temple of Philae and the farm is self-sustainable, using the Nile River’s resources. “The farm has been evolving for many years and is the vision of its owner, Abdelkhalek ElBetity. The land has been in his family for more than two generations. Fekra represents a sanctuary of traditional mud brick and palm, set amongst a primordial untouched Nile ecosystem,” said Al Piaro.
The purpose of the retreat is to create a destination on the Nile in Upper Egypt that is to be developed as a safe space and an eco-holistic sanctuary, offering alternative, non-medicinal healing pathways to survivors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), specifically targeting those from zones of civil unrest.
“It is my hope that the retreat will attract experts in this field, both domestically within Egypt and internationally, who can come to further develop their skills, knowledge and expertise,” said Al Piaro.
For Al Piaro, it is important for such a retreat to exist, citing the political situation in the region.
“Egypt and some of its neighbouring countries have been through an exceptionally challenging chapter in the past three years. Many of us who have witnessed and experienced these events since 2011 are fully aware of the challenges we are facing as a result and that a chapter of healing is now a necessity for many,” she said.
“The issue of PTSD has always existed, but traditionally, it has been solely related to soldiers who returned from war zones and the treatment has thus been focused on that community. What is emerging now is a new reality, where members of civilian populations, as well as professionals working to assist those in zones of civil unrest, are exhibiting PTSD symptoms from bearing witness to or experiencing trauma,and this is a significant challenge placed on the medical profession,” she added.
The retreatis touted as a safe sanctuary open to all. “Fekra is open to everyone who wishes to experience the transformative power and natural beauty of Egypt’s landscapes, which are remote, tranquil and natural.”
Guests can either come to enjoy the natural beauty of the Nile around them or wait for specific “retreat weeks”, if looking for PTSD-centric options. “We hope that in participating in the retreat, where clients can practise meditation, yoga and life coaching, they can form a basic foundation from where they can explore their own journey of healing,” said Al Piaro.
Al Piaro says Fekra can presently accommodate up to 12 clients on site and welcomes individuals as well as groups. “Additional camping facilities can be provided if necessary for larger groups wishing to experience the retreat. Rates for accommodation, including full board, are available on request and are tailored to clients’ specific requirements,” said Al Piaro.
One of the experts involved with Al Piaro and the retreat is Pablo Imani, a master yogi from Uganda. “Imani has an international reputation for holding retreats and his knowledge is born out of an ancient practice from the Nile Basin called Smai Taui. Imani is based between London and Uganda and we invited him as one of our leading mentors at Fekra due to an integral connection he has with the river itself and his positive experiences within Egypt and on the Nile,” she said.
According to Al Piaro, Imani has worked with injured dancers and athletes to overcome the trauma of their injuries and perform again at a professional level. “This could be a very exciting time for genuine alternative healing pathways in Egypt,” said Al Piaro.
The retreat has been open to receiving guests of this kind since March 2014 under the tutelage of Pablo Imani as well as other holistic practitioners, and information about retreat weeks can be found by contacting Fekraculture.com.