Friday, May 11, 2012

Kitchner’s* Island Aswan – Botanical Garden

Ten minutes by motorboat and finally there it was: the „island of plants” - جزيرة النباتات باسوان  - that I wanted to visit already in January 2011.

Of course, I had to bargain for the ferry trip. Of course, the ferryman lied to me. But I soon forgot about this…

Very old trees rise up into the sky, their leaves and palm fronds swish smoothly in the light breeze, provide comfortable shade and protect from the torrid African sun. Tree trunks, thin and thick, smooth and rough, rising straight into the sky like pillars or crosswise – all are carefully labelled with their Latin, English and some also with their Arabic names as well as their country of origin. They are from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar, India, Australia and and and…

Some show off with fascinating, colourful, luscious blossoms and others, however, show delicate, subtle, aromatic blossoms, whose miraculous beauty may be discovered only from very close.

I am drifting across the neatly cultivated alleys, I let myself get bewitched by the whispering of the leaves and the fragrance of the blossoms carries me away, enjoying the green and the colourful fauna that I’ve been missing for so long. Benches invite to gaze at the Nile and the opposite shores, to follow the boats with the eye, to linger, to dream…

At the very end of the island there is a greenhouse. A gardener leads me to young mimosas and lemon grass, to papyrus and other plants and herbs whose name I neither understand nor know but whose fragrance I inhale.

The island is a place of calmness and a place to replenish. The small museum at the entrance exhibits numerous plants, seeds and fruit together with their description – botanists will be amazed.

Much too fast does reality catch up with me: bargaining with the ferryman brings me back to the Egyptian daily life. Never the less: it was good for me.

Here are some pictures:


*Lord Horatio Kitchner (1850-1916) received the island in 1890 for his services to Egypt during the British colonial time. He was general governor and in fact ruled Egypt. Having a passion for horticulture, he imported plants from exotic countries and turned the island into a botanical garden.

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