Now for an update from the garden trenches, with the bad news first. After a lengthy drive to a workshop in an insalubrious area outside north-eastern Cairo called “El-Khanka” we discovered that the lawn mower may never work again.
Somewhat improbably, the workshop supervisor commented:
“You look surprised.”
“Well, yes, wouldn’t you?”
“This is a one-use only machine, for Europe and North America.”
Of all the explanations for faulty machinery, this was perhaps the least likely. So what was the mower designed for? Astroturf?
He kindly amplified that our model has the kind of engine that, once broken, has to be: well, discarded. So, smarting that our pocket was already several thousand Egyptian pounds lighter after purchasing the machine, and now practically smelling the new hole burning in it, we entrusted the mower to the workshop for further investigation, and set off home.
Now for the good news: another Eureka moment! We stopped for petrol some way down the road and, as if by a miracle, found ourselves opposite the headquarters of Sekem, which might be described as the centre of all things sustainable in Egypt.
Arguably, the most difficult thing about trying to garden sustainably here is not knowing where to go to get advice, or how to find people with the sort of expertise we need. After all, it’s experience rather than theorizing that really counts in this field. And here we were, right on the very doorstep.
Sekem, founded in 1977 by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, is dedicated to sustainable development. By now, its activities reach from farming and the production of organic food, teas and herbs to herbal remedies and pharmaceuticals to the growing of cotton and the manufacture of textiles. There is a university and a research centre, plus numerous other educational, social and cultural activities.
We were able to meet staff, exchange phone numbers, talk about a potential visit to the farm: bliss to the ears for the struggling gardener! So the visit to El-Khanka – of all places – led us serendipitously to the very spot we really needed to go to in the first place. All on account of the broken mower.