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Jasmine by Nadia 2017

“It was a fair orchard, full of trees and fruit and vines and greenery. A Sufi there sat with eyes closed, his head upon his knee, sunk deep in meditation mystical……. What is all beauty in the world? The image, like quivering boughs reflected in a stream, of that eternal Orchard which abides unwithered in the hearts of Perfect Men”

Words from the medieval Sufi poet Rumi that span the external world of “symbol” (the ancient Indians would have called it “Maya”) and the deepest interior world of mystical experience. He uses words brimming with natural imagery. The colours and produce of the orchard, trees reflected in water: such images speak to us any time, any place, and across the centuries.

My dedication to creating a garden in New Cairo, Egypt, came from a sense that, after years in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, I had become disconnected from the natural world. For sure there were gardens in the towns, and the odd oasis in the desert, but it was difficult to feel much connection to them. Away from nature, I felt I had lost my bearings.

Returning to Egypt in 2011 just after the January 25th “Revolution” we encountered a country on the brink. Now, our home was a new house outside the capital city, surrounded by a plot of land filled with sand and builders’ rubble. To establish and cultivate a garden in a sustainable way on this land became my passion – almost an “idee fixe”. Perhaps it was a way of leaving behind the chaos and reconnecting with the essential rhythms of nature, as well as protecting our health by eating organic, home- produced, fresh fruit and veg.

The challenges multiplied, from poor soil to irrigation disasters and from mis-identified fruit trees (a “satsuma” that turned out to be a kumquat!) to infestations of bugs. The theory of good organic practice is one thing; the temptation to cheat – just a tiny bit – can be hard to resist. On the whole, we stuck with the plan, and the garden developed well: Herbaceous borders, fruit tree plot and kitchen garden with a gem of a herb bed. After a while we added bees, with the hives on the roof, and since then we have been almost self-sufficient in honey, “polyfloral”  and wonderfully tasty.

My blog is a way to write about our experiences and, more widely, of nature, gardens and heritage in Egypt. In ancient times a land of savannah and richly diverse wildlife, with a river valley and delta of exceptional fertility, Egypt today is mostly desert beyond the Nile valley. However, there is increasing activity to reclaim land and cultivate fresh areas, in order to feed a rapidly expanding population that is approaching 100 million. Within these limits there is extraordinary natural beauty and interest: at once rich and mysterious, historic and spiritual, Egypt is here for the exploring.

Yalla beena!” – “Let’s go!”





9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Just discovered your blog, and I am addicted. Inspiration for my own garden some day. Thank you.

    April 23, 2016
  2. I am very glad to know you have found the blog interesting – please continue to read it, and let me have your feedback (I take it you are in Egypt?) I do hope you will have your own garden: there is nothing more enjoyable than pottering in it, cultivating and talking to the plants and bees. In Egypt, it’s incredibly rewarding, as well as challenging.

    April 24, 2016
  3. Hi Sylvia. I came across your blog while I was writing a blog post about my patio garden in the fall/winter. I was actually looking for the name of this purple-leafed plant that is barely hanging on in my balcony and that I see all over Cairo. Let me introduce myself. My name is Asil Rashid. I am a foreigner here in Cairo and I live in your neck of the woods, coincidentally (New Cairo). Like you, I also lived for a considerable amount of time in the Gulf (Dubai, U.A.E). I started a blog when I moved here ( so I can write about my adventures here in Cairo, motherhood, cooking, and a little bit of gardening. Basically, I write about everything. I’ve written a couple of posts on my potted garden. However, I love your blog, and I am going to be referring to it a lot. I was wondering if you have any tips on container gardening.

    February 1, 2017
  4. Hi Asil – Thank you for getting in touch and please excuse the late reply: I have been in London making the acquaintance of my first grandchildren, so I have been diverted away from gardens and blogging. Welcome to (New) Cairo! I will be more than happy to assist with thoughts about gardening in containers, it’s amazing how much you can grow in a small space with a few pots and some decent soil/compost. I think we are coming up to a good time for planting and, hopefully, the spring flower show in El-Urman Gardens near Cairo University, so there is much to look forward to before the heat hits us. I am off to the Gulf for a few days now, and, once back, will resume coverage of the Jasmine Garden on the blog.
    All best wishes, Sylvia

    February 4, 2017
  5. janesmudgeegarden #

    How fascinating to find a garden blog in Egypt. I also garden in a difficult climate ( drought, frost, very hot summer) so am interested in what you do. I’d like to follow your blog and await with much interest your next post. Jane, Australia.

    August 9, 2018
    • It is very good to hear from you – I do hope you will find the blog continues to be interesting. I guess there will be quite a lot in common between our experiences of gardening, and I have some plants of Australian origin in the garden such as the bottlebrush tree, much loved by our bees when it flowers every spring. The next post may not be from Egypt…. I wander a good deal, and that leads to numerous digressions in the writing!

      August 9, 2018
      • janesmudgeegarden #

        Your travels will be interesting to follow too, Sylvia. I have bottlebrushes too- wonderful trees and very hardy.

        August 9, 2018
  6. Mohamed magdy #

    Hello am mohamed magdy .. am from Rehab new cairo
    I appreciate your interest in gardening cause its My passion too
    Just wanted to say that raised bed gardens from my experience
    Is not doing very well in our environment.. unless u have drip irrigation and mulcing ur in pants .. i am an Aquaponic gardener and I transformed my garden into a small
    Eco system.. hope we can have a community of passionnate organic gardeners
    Or make a community food forest ..

    November 29, 2018
    • Hello Mohamed – YES! Absolutely… we should exchange notes, and maybe form a society for interested gardeners. I have heard there are others here too. Do you blog? Instagram? Let me know. You can contact me on Instagram, via the link on the blog. Sylvia

      November 29, 2018

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