People in SEKEM: Aly Zayed

On the 17th of August, one of SEKEMs first members passed away. Aly Zayed had been a gardener at SEKEM since it’s foundation in 1977. This time, we want to tell you Aly’s SEKEM story and are happy that some of his close colleagues and friends shared their memories with us.

“Aly brought the green to SEKEM,” Hammad Ragab

“The first time we met was more than 40 years ago, at a small Nile-port by the Ismailia Canal where Aly worked as a shunter,” says Hammad Ragab, Agricultural Maintenance Technician at SEKEM since 1978. Aly Zayed, lived in Gelfina, a small village nearby the former desert where today the SEKEM farm is blooming. He knew from the commuters about the need for gardeners at SEKEM. In such rural areas, it had always been common that most of its people inherit the farming skills and techniques from their ancestors. “But Aly was special. He brought the green to SEKEM. It was obvious how the sand areas began to diminish bit by bit at the farm since Aly joined,” Hammad recalls.

Aly Zayed (fifth from the left) next to Ibrahim Abouleish, shortly after the foundation of SEKEM in 1977.

“He was always accompanied by an egret,” Angela Hofmann

“Since I joined SEKEM, I used to see and greet Aly every morning while he was riding his donkey to the fields,” says Angela Hofmann, SEKEM’s agricultural coordinator who joined the initiative in the early 1980’s. Despite having a spinal deformity on his back, Aly was one of the most committed farmers at SEKEM. He was, for instance, the one taking care of the sowing process. “He had a unique connection to nature – even an artistic sense when pruning the trees”, Angela Hofmann tells. “Really special was also his interaction with the animals. He was always accompanied by an egret that never left his side no matter what he was doing on his farming missions.”

“Dr. Abouleish used to name him the man with the golden hands. But I see him also with a golden heart.” Ismail El-Sayed

The father of five daughters and a son spent his entire career at SEKEM as the gardener of the main farm. “He was brilliant in farming and the best in taking care of the plants,” says Ismail El-Sayed, who works as an agricultural teacher for SEKEMs children with special needs. Same as Aly, Ismail was one of the first farmers that joined the SEKEM Founder more than 40 years ago. “Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish used to name him the man with the golden hands. For me, Aly was also a man with a golden heart,” Ismail recounts.

The two colleagues became close friends. When spending their breaks and tea-times together they shared their daily experiences – success stories but also the challenges they faced. “It has been around two weeks now since Aly passed away. I’m still trying to get used to his absence, but I am sure that he is in a better place now – someone like Aly will definitely have a place in paradise,” says Ismail full of love to his life companion.

People like Aly Zayed are accompanying SEKEM for more than 40 years and contributing to realizing a sustainable transformation by sharing their individual human potential. By his passing away, SEKEM lost a precious soul whose impact will last forever. Therefore the SEKEM community is full of gratitude and sending their sincere condolences to the family of Aly Zayed.

40 Years of Vitalizing the Desert
Get to know Ismail El-Sayed, the agricultural teacher for SEKEMs children with special needs