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posted Jun 19, 2011, 8:32 PM by Ashraf Al Shafaki   [ updated Jul 3, 2011, 7:43 AM ]

Biomimicry - An Approach for Sustainability in Egypt

After Ahmed El-Dorghamy introduced her, Sara El Sayed started by using the story telling technique and told the story behind her falling in love with studying organisms in nature and how they behave and adapt perfectly to their surrounding natural conditions. Her story, told in front of an interesting background slide, was interesting already from the second she said she's going to tell her story.

Sara then proceeded to show us one colorful slide after the other explaining how various organisms employ a number of interesting behaviors and possess unique adaptations enabling them to survive and flourish in their habitats. It was a story about harmony explaining how living organisms are interconnected and have evolved in such a way to keep an intricate balance for a sustainable natural system.

After the first batch of slides came to an end and after showing us how some innovative human designs were actually inspired by observations of natural organisms and their adaptations to nature, Sara then moved the ball to the audience, grouped them into small groups and provided them with an exercise to start their minds on a creative journey. We were asked to think in groups about sustainability solutions for Egypt.

At first glance we thought the exercise was not related whatsoever to biomimicry, but as we concluded the creative process Sara tied the results of our work with concepts from biomimicry after grouping similar answers from each group together on the wall. The linking process was in itself another enlightening exercise.

As the session came to an end, a chance for asking questions was granted. Sara started responding to an unending stream of questions which had to be cut by Ahmed El-Dorghamy due to time constraints.

The session was concluded by a long series of claps. The audience started to stand up but no one seamed to want to leave! They stayed long after the session was over discussing the session in small groups and networking.

I was thrilled to have attended this session about biomimicry for it was both inspiring and informative. Getting to network and connect with new interesting people was also a big advantage of being there at Nahdet El Mahrousa that day.


Groups wrote down a number of sustainability practices and ideas including:

  • Traffic (circular traffic to reduce the need for stops instead of the conventional straight line traffic)
  • Recycling (recycling e-waste such as computer motherboards in Egypt).
  • Energy efficiency (solar energy)
  • R&D (documenting and studying natural and cultural heritage as a source for inspiration for a sustainable Egypt)
  • Education (non-academic, applied, holistic)
  • Eco housing (using local materials for construction)
  • Decentralization (economic decentralization, self sufficiency, local interdependence)
  • Clean transportation
  • Water resource management
  • Organic farming

Natural organisms exhibit a set of properties and behavior to which the previously mentioned sustainability elements can be linked. For instance:

  • Birds would build their nests from local materials
  • Organisms would live in an interdependent local community
  • Wast in the natural world is automatically recycled, 100% of it.
  • Some type of ants exhibit a unique and efficient 3-lane traffic system!

Training Stuff

  • Slide show using video projector accompanied by verbal explanations from speaker
  • Story telling
  • Group activity
  • Piece of paper and blue-tack used for hanging and resorting paper on the wall.
  • Handouts printed in full color and set in transparent plastic folders
  • Video [unfortunately, there was no time for that]

[Report by Ashraf Al Shafaki]