On the corner of Canal Street and Road 83 in Maadi, one gets to see biodiversity at its best with an array of different trees.
It is here where the Tree Lovers Association, a local environmental NGO, took its 25th annual walk to discuss the amazing diversity of trees in the suburban Maadi neighborhood.
Though the experience brought back memories of my dreaded high school biology class, the scenery was breathtaking.
These small streets are home to more than 37 species of trees, many of which are natives of the tropical regions, the Mediterranean and the Indian subcontinent. The tour was attended by both Egyptians and foreigners, living in and outside of Maadi.
Lotfy Boulos, one of Egypt’s prominent botanists, was on hand, as was Samia Zeitoun, the current head of the Tree Lovers Association.
Throughout the tour, people were in awe at the sheer variety and quantity of trees. Bolous explained the anatomy of each, proving that you can’t judge a tree by its bark. What looked like a palm to the untrained eye was actually a cycad, a gymnospermous plant with large compound leaves.
Pulling out what looked like a small twig, Bolous explained that it was actually the female reproductive part of the cycad. “So this is a girl, he said smiling, which made the crowd burst out in laughter.
It seems like it is in the plant world where men and the women are truly equal because they all look the same to me.
Bolous and other presenters explained how people can use trees in their daily lives. “Every part of the tree is useful, Bolous said.
Some of the kinds of trees existed in Ancient Egypt. The Argon palm, thought to have been extinct, surprised Egypt’s botanists who rediscovered it. “The first living [Argon] tree was discovered in 1963, Bolous said, and it “survives on very little rain.
One Mediterranean species of tree was used in building Pharaohs’ coffins. The types of wood coffins were made from used to indicate the social standing of the deceased.
Inside a villa’s garden, the fragrances from the orchard saturated the air. Attendees talked about the way Maadi used to be decades ago while others chitchatted about random topics.
This walk was organized in commemoration of the founder of the Tree Lovers Association, Safeya Moyine, who passed away earlier this month. Based on the accounts given by the attendees, she earned the respect of the community through her activism in preserving the tree biodiversity in the area.
“She never used to plant seeds in straight lines, said Zeitoun. “Everyday she used to ride her horse around Maadi to make sure that no tree was being harmed . I used to call her the guardian angel of all trees.
Moyine was also known for her appreciation of the beauty of trees, which many take for granted. “I would sit with her in the garden and she would look at a tree and say ‘Look at the way the sun’s rays are hitting it’.
Many described her as a tree rights activist, and at the end of the tour, a small tree was planted in a garden in the middle of Canal Street in her honor.
What the diverse group of attendees had in common was their love for Maadi and their desire to preserve its natural beauty.