During the boom, many Irish people became enamoured with the idea of owning a property abroad. Apartments in Turkey, farmhouses in France and villas in Spain became the norm. Antoinette and Donal Lyons-Glynn and their son Dylan were no different except that their dream lay slightly further afield and was that bit more ambitious.
The couple's goal was to build their own traditional village on the banks of the Nile by the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. That was in 2006. Some three years later, this ambition has been fulfilled and the Lyons-Glynn's Flower of Light Centre welcomes visitors who wish to encounter traditional Egyptian village life, as opposed to the usual tourist experience of a poolside bar in a Luxor hotel.
The centre, which sits on 3,000sqm, has 15 rooms and accommodates 30 people on a twin-share basis. There's a poolside eating area, meditation and relaxation areas, and the centre offers facilities such as free wireless internet access and a laundry service. All food is organic, with mainly vegetarian and vegan fare served daily. Some of the centre's main draws for visitors are the workshops, retreats and sacred journeys offered, based on the mystery school teachings (a predominantly oral wisdom encoded in symbols, music, stories, architecture and sacred texts) of ancient Egypt and other civilizations.
What was the lure of Egypt? Antoinette, who studied electronic engineering and has a diploma in ki energy therapy and massage, says her interest stemmed from her father, who had visited the country. As a child, she had spent hours listening to him speak of the mysteries of Egypt.
Donal is a jewellery designer and they are currently working on establishing an adjoining craft centre with real Nubian-made crafts.
If this was the realisation of a dream for the Dublin family, it was also a long labour of love. There was the language barrier (although their Arabic is improving) the cultural difference and the fact that it is difficult to acquire land in Egypt, a situation not made any easier by the fact that everyone in Luxor seemed to be related.
"You could end up in the situation where your lawyer is the cousin of the man you are buying the land from and you won't know it unless you make it your business to know," Antoinette explains. "There are so many loopholes in the property laws over here – and I use the word 'laws' in the loosest possible sense – that it's an absolute minefield."
Determined to take the most straightforward route, they went to the governor of Luxor, the antiquities department, the arts department, the tourist sheik and a host of other agencies to get permission to buy the land and build the centre, a process Antoinette describes as "a total nightmare".
But eventually, having squared all the legalities and processes away, construction on the centre began. Based on the designs of the architect Hassan Fahy, who designed and built houses for the poor of Egypt and India in the 1940s, they used natural materials and domed ceilings that are naturally cool in summer, warm in winter and environmentally harmonious. The building was completed in a year. "We were lucky as we had a very honest builder who finished his work on time, every time," Antoinette says. "I know a person just down the road from us who started to build a project before we started and it's still not finished. It really all depends on who you deal with in Egypt as to how you get on."
As to what other advice she would give to anyone thinking of buying property in Egypt, she suggests travelling to the country a couple of times before taking the plunge and doing your homework.
"For example, if you do not have the electricity or water meter transferred into your name when buying a property, then in the eyes of Egyptian law, the property is not yours," she says. "Having said all that, it's a really good place to invest – property prices go up at least twice a year. Since we were looking for land, the price has gone up by some 500%. You can also live like a king here on very little money because a euro is worth seven Egyptian pounds and an Egyptian pound will buy you as much as a euro does."
Nightly rates here, which are charged per chalet and not per person, start at approximately €20.
The next retreat, meanwhile, is the September Equinox journey, which begins in Cairo and includes entrance into the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid on the day of the equinox (22 September) before going to Luxor, where the rest of the retreat will be held at the centre.
The cost for one week (which doesn't include flights but does include accommodation, food, site-entrance fees, transportation, workshop etc) is €995.
Antoinette is convinced of the affinity between Ireland and Egypt. "Some words in the Arabic language are exactly the same in Gaelic and in Egypt, the word for any three-leaf plant is called a 'shamruckh'," she points out.
For more information visit www.floweroflight.com