It was our first-ever visit to the Ministry of Agriculture’s month-long annual Flower Show, which started in the 1920s. This is the 98th show, and it runs until May 26.
The man at the gate of Giza’s 19th-century Orman Botanical Gardens was friendly and very helpful in finding us change when we bought our tickets.
Many nurseries from different parts of Egypt participate, and each get their own section. The place was clean and quiet, and the sections neat and well taken care of. When we arrived at the first section, a smiling man was watering some mutant cactuses with a hose.
As we looked around, he was interviewed by a TV channel and gave a long poetic speech about how the cactus has evolved from just a title for a novel 40 years ago, to a source of inspiration for lovers of nature, beauty and art (we thought he might have been referring to Palestinian author Imtithal Juwaydi’s The Cactus Tree, from 1972).
Andeel felt that the cactuses were obviously genetically engineered to look as crazy as possible, and indeed they were very attractive in a spooky way.
The next section was occupied by the Egyptian-German Agricultural Company, from Sharqiya. Companies often have international names in Egypt to sound more convincing, but this one’s genuinely international. It’s a partnership between an Egyptian agriculture engineer and a German one, who brings seeds from Germany and designs the plants while the Egyptians farm and sell them.
The people at the Egyptian-German Agricultural Company were happy to help us with the names of all the bushes and flowers.
The next one was from Daqahliya and was called the Arab Company and the Asqalani Institute, which sounds like a name from the Gulf. We asked about this and they were startled, saying: “No no no, we used to have a Palestinian partner, but he died, and his family retreated from the business.”
They said they are a very old company with very good relations with the government. They usually get commissioned to decorate state projects and buildings. Pointing at the beautiful small pots of gardenia, they said: “That’s child’s play for us, we do things like this.” And they pointed at a large, sturdy palm tree.
We were told that sales were starting to get a bit better after two very bad years. Last year was useless, they said. They actually had to leave after three days because the tear gas from the clashes in Cairo University next door was killing the plants.
The best year they remembered was 2011, just after the revolution. A lot of people seemed to want to buy flowers at the time.
There were other items on sale at the Flower Show as well as plants, herbs and trees: seeds, water features, fertilizers, gardening equipment and a jojoba company where they were eager to explain all the many incredible uses of jojoba oil.
There was also various Ministry of Agriculture stores, one of which sold honey, including some expensive, clear, dark honey from Yemen, and other foodstuffs such as chickpeas and cans of tuna.
There was also a pavilion for the Ameaster-sponsored Institute for Young People Who Love Egypt, which was empty when we were there.
Plant companies that didn’t have the privilege of being as close to the main gate as the larger ones were trying very hard to market their produce. Some of them actually painted on their plants to make them look more appealing.
People came in their cars and filled their trunks with pots. It costs LE1 to go into the park, and parking is LE5. If you want to bring a camera in, that’s another LE5.
The Flower Show is on until May 26 and is open from 8 am to 10 pm every day.
All photos by Amir Makar.
Correction: This article originally stated that the Flower Show ends on May 11, based on inaccurate information. This was corrected on May 3.