Goethe’s Heart Beats Oriental: Orient and Occident in SEKEM on Stage

From time to time, our colleague Noha Hussein disappeared from the office during the past weeks. An hour later she returned with a wonderful smile on her face. She attended the rehearsal for the theatre play “Hulm”, which was performed by co-workers, teachers and students of different SEKEM institutions and the Heliopolis University.

As most of the other amateur actors, Noha performed on stage for the first time in her life. “In the beginning I was sceptic if this would be the right thing and place for me, but after the first sessions I had a lot of fun with the different colleagues and Dorothea was fantastic in leading and introducing us to the art of acting.”

Noha Hussein on stage.
Noha Hussein on stage.

The German artist of speech and acting Dorothea Walter directed the theatre in Arabic language with the SEKEM community. She is visiting SEKEM since decades to support pupils as well as managers in dealing with speech and the art of talking. “After all these years it is still impressive to see what speech can do with people when they start to engage with it”, the old SEKEM friend says. “In Egypt, speech always played a significant role. Egyptians love poetry and have a great talent for acting.”

Ancient Oriental Wisdom

“Hulm” (dream), based on a novel of Rafik Schami is more than a theatre from and for Egyptians. It is about the connection between orient and occident by learning from the literature of these, at a first glance, very contrary appearing cultures. Prince Tuma, who comes from Europe, presents the famous German writer to a commission of scientists. When telling about Goethe’s story “The Sorrows of Young Werther” one of the scientists recognizes: “By God, Goethe’s heart beats so oriental, as half of our poetry tells about unfulfilled love. Just think of Quais and Laila, who became famous through the story ‘Laila and Madschnun’.” Similar findings appear to the scholars when hearing about Goethe’s “West-Eastern Divan”. “It is containing so much ancient oriental wisdom. There are so many thoughts that are found in our books of wise sayings too.”

When talking about Goethe's Faust, Mephisto appeared in the background.
When talking about Goethe’s Faust, Mephisto appeared in the background.

“The play is connecting the classic oriental tradition of story telling with the never out-dated motive that wisdom is necessary for a peaceful world”, reveals Dorothea Walter. “In the same time it reflects the vision of SEKEM, a place that strives for holistic and wise learning and living.”

Creative work, fun and joy foster the team spirit

Noha Hussein, who is working in SEKEMs Public Relations Department, experienced this by herself. Two times a week she met with various colleagues from different departments of SEKEM to rehearse. “We had so much fun and in the same time every one of us was able to grow personally as well as collegially”, she tells. In this regards it seemed to be equal if there was a dean of the Heliopolis University or a SEKEM teacher standing next to her. “We laughed and had fun as if we were a family or good friends and we realized that we can only be successful if we stand together.”

The amateur actors did not only enjoy the weekly rehearsals, they also presented their positive attitude on stage.
The amateur actors did not only enjoy the weekly rehearsals, they also presented their positive attitude on stage.

This team spirit was also appearing on the stage on February 29 when the premiere was performed. The audience in the theatre of Heliopolis University was as varied as the actors on stage – co-workers from the SEKEM factories, teachers, students or colleagues from SEKEM Head Office. Obviously, everyone in the audience seemed to know one of the actors on stage and thereby they got the chance to see their colleagues in a different role and through different eyes. “I got to know my colleagues better and in a different way. We became more connected, which developed a more intimate communication between us”, reveals one of the actors, Sondos Magdy from the Human Resources Department of SEKEMs company ATOS.

This outcome does not only appreciate Dorothea Walter’s work, who sees theatre among others as an instrument to strengthen team spirit. In the same time we, the colleagues of Noha Hussein were benefiting from the positive attitude, which surrounded her when she returned from the rehearsal. Week after week, she delighted us with her beaming smile and it was wonderful to see her getting back to her work with an impressive energy.

Christine Arlt


Get to know the actor Hamada Shousha, who is supporting the Heliopolis University