Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty in the Garden

A couple of years back, whilst working for a different company in Muscat, Jacob spent a couple of hours with me in the office. It couldn’t have been that exciting for him and he amused himself hunting for errant paper clips and elastic bands, but he loved it none the less and has reminisced about it on numerous occasions since then.
I’m not sure where the whole bringing your children to work tradition has come from, I think it is big in the States with formal days set aside, but I’m not so sure about the UK and Europe.
My father was self employed and mainly worked from home, but occasionally he would have jobs to do at an old Victorian(?) factory in London and, occasionally I got to go with him (before the days of health and safety).
I have vivid memories of the place throughout my childhood, all happy, although the last, after it had been shut down was tempered with sadness, the end of an era.

Well Jacob had been asking to come with me to work for a while now, but being site based there were obvious safety restrictions. I broached the idea of a family day with the company, and we received the green light.
So the much anticipated day arrived with our respective families turning up and being ushered into the visitors centre. A quick visit to daddy’s desk, just to check for itinerant paper clips and elastic bands before an introduction to the Oman Botanic Garden from Sarah, the head of education for the Garden.

From there we had a walk around of the Nursery facilities, where the 1200 species of native plants of Oman are being cultivated for the Garden. Oscar, was of course into everything and frequently disappeared off into the undergrowth. Most of my time was therefore spent corralling him and making sure he didn’t kill any plants or hurt himself whilst swing off parts of the greenhouses.
Due to a slight confusion over a loo break we discovered the site tour bus had left without us, so we jumped into our 4wd and headed into the garden for a private and exclusive tour with commentary supplied by little old me.

Oscar was of course besotted with all the excavators, dump trucks and payloaders, whilst Jacob wanted to know what exactly was being built where and, what it would be used for.
He certainly enjoyed himself and is in Sarah’s good books for wanting to bring his classmates for a visit.

So a big thank you goes out to all involved for hopefully making it a day to remember, hopefully Jacob’s childhood memories will be just as good as mine.

But what’s all this about a Botanic Garden??? I have no idea how many people know of its existence or the scale of the project. It is not as if it is a secret but when I first heard about it, I thought “a garden, big deal”, it wasn’t until I travelled around the project that I realized how big a deal it really is.

The OBG is a project of his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, as a showcase for the diverse Omani flora, of which there are one thousand two hundred species, and eighty of which are found no where else in the world!
The site is four hundred and twenty hectares in size and we are busy recreating the different environments found in Oman, from the heights of Jebal Akdar to the deserts of the empty quarter and the lush greenery of Dhofar.
Some of these environments such as the Dhofar region will be housed in Biomes, buildings that allow us to recreate seasons throughout the year that are ideal for the regional plants. Imagine being able to see the effects of the Kareef in Muscat!

One snippet of useless information is that the site, near Al Khoud, was the first place in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula where dinosaur bones were discovered!

Currently construction is underway on the visitors centre, research centre, educational facilities and heritage village. The heritage village will be a showcase for traditional Omani arts and crafts showing how plants have been an important part of Omani life and how they have influenced the world.

We have a couple of years left before the Garden is finished, but you can keep up to date with the news letter. Recently the OBG team have been out planting the first of the habitats, the Northern Gravel Desert, and different groups, such as the Womens Guild of Oman, and American Womens Group etc, have visits to see how the work is progressing.
When it is finally finished, it will be a very special place in a very special country.

One last thing, I should point out how the OBG has changed my life……

Yes, I finally did some gardening at home. You really didn’t need to see that did you.

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