The Season of Flowers

Where Garden Lovers Find a Haven
Part of the Annual Flower Exhibition in Al-Orman garden, Giza, Egypt. (By Amira El-Noshokaty)
Mr Tamer Said, the general manager of the Egyptian Association for Wood Trees and Environmental Protection, displays the veneers, branches and wood products to show off the Paulownia tree in the pavilion of the association during the exhibition. (By Amira El-Noshokaty)
Part of the Annual Flower Exhibition in Al-Orman garden, Giza, Egypt. (By Amira El-Noshokaty)

Now in its 88th season, Egypt’s annual flower exhibition opens its gates to the public from 13 March to 13 April 2021.

Located for decades in the historic Orman Garden facing Cairo University in Giza, this 28 acres of flowers and greenery is a great opportunity for nature lovers to enjoy the enchanting green effect and the flower power.

From the three entrances to the garden, you are greeted by ancient trees, and by ancient we mean over 100 years old at least. As you walk the small paths that coil between the colorful plants, the route unfolds into a central park with a low green fence and lots of picnic spots for the visitors.  At one end of that area lies a wooden bridge, where many heroes of classic Egyptian movies once walked. Perhaps the most popular scene in the collective memory of Egyptians is the finale song of the 1972 Egyptian film “Khali Balak Men Zouzou,“(Beware of Zuzu) directed by Hassan El Imam staring the iconic Soad Hosney and Hussien Fahmy.

Al- Orman (meaning “the forest” in Turkish) garden was created in 1875 during the reign of Khedive Ismail in order to provide the royal palace with fruits and greens.  He had the orchard planted with 100,000 lemon, orange and tangerine seedlings imported from Sicily.

According to the online excerpt of the book titled “Orman Botanical Garden,” a joint publication of CULTNAT and Bibliotheca Alexandrina,  “Originally the gardens were part of the Khedive’s palace, until the Khedive decided to bring the Bolonia forest to Egypt. It was set as a big park in its own right to which he brought trees from all over the world and engaged French landscape architects to design the park.

On a scale of 28 feddans, greenery and trees frame your horizon. Among the many spots that showcase dozens of colorful flowers there is a white sign which reads “Need air? Adopt a tree.”

“We have been working in gardening business for almost 18 years,” explained Tarek Ahmed, the technical director of Breathe project. As part of the Hassan Baraka plantation, Breathe has been exhibiting its work for the past eight consecutive years in Al-Orman. “This year is prosperous in contrast to last year,” he notes, adding that some forgotten authentic trees are now trending.  “The qeshta plant and the Ficus Lyrata are back in demand,” he concluded.

At the other end of the garden, and near to a big tree trunk lying peacefully in the sun, is the pavilion of the Egyptian Association for Wood Trees and Environmental Protection.  Here the Association has various veneers and branches on display to show off the Paulownia tree which it has propagated in Egypt.

First established in 2016, the Association’s main focus is to raise awareness and promote the cultivation of Paulownia trees, explained Tamer Said, the general manager of the Association.

“The Paulownia tree is the most versatile fastest growing and best producer of wood which is very light, durable, water resistant and highly flame retardant.  It is originally Chinese but is now cultivated all over the world.  Germany, Australia and Japan named it the “Princess of Trees” owing to its great value.  Since 2007, we have been trying to grow it in Egypt.  However, in 2015 Ashraf Oraby, our CEO, succeeded after several years of research to develop the “Paulownia Oraby,” a tree that could endure in the Egyptian climate with a temperature range of -10 to +50,” added Said.

Since 2015, he managed to plant the first Paulownia forest in Egypt and the Middle East with 125,000 trees on 5 sq. kms. of land on al Koraymat road, near Helwan.

This comes as a great breakthrough for the wood industry as Egypt imports USD$5 billion of lumber annually, he notes.

“For the first time in Egypt and the Arab world, a wooden plank is being grown and manufactured in Egypt,” he boasted.