Time Out Bahrain catches up with Sheikha Maram Bint Isa Al Khalifa...
Time Out Bahrain staff
Bahrain may not be renowned for its gardens (primarily owing to the fact that water is in pretty short supply in this desert-clad country), but it is becoming increasingly well-known for its plant-focussed festivities. This February, the Bahrain International Garden Show, under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, will demonstrate that there are plenty of green fingers in this country which is more traditionally know for its fishing than its farming.
Although the inaugural event was held in 2004, Sheikha Maram Bint Isa Al Khalifa, the head of the organising committee, explains, ‘it built on a history of amateur gardening shows, run by the Bahrain Garden Club, which were established in Bahrain in the 1960s.’ In 2003, Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, proposed the idea of expanding the show in an attempt to make it more of an international event on par with some of the famous shows around the world.
The following year, the event was transformed into a commercial, educational and competitive triumph. While the judging of vegetables, fruit, flowers and flower arranging remain the mainstay of the show, at Her Royal Highness’ insistence pottery has now been included as part of the event in an attempt to keep the historically important craft alive in the country. There will also be a commercial exhibition for those companies who offer products and services relevant to gardening and the environment.
A big part of the show will focus on interactive exhibits to encourage children and students to gain a better grasp of where their food comes from in the hope that they will come to appreciate what is healthy and natural and what is not. The initiative is paramount in a region in which has seen the highest increase in the rates of obesity and diabetes in the world.
The theme at this year’s show is ‘Seeds for our future’ and deals with food security, something of no little significance on an archipelago which imports the vast majority of what it eats. Sheikha Maram explained: ‘We are looking at food security from the personal aspect, in that I have a house with a roof that I can use to create a productive garden for myself. We want to look at ways in which individuals can provide their own food security in a fun way. The main display that we are putting on will cover how to create a productive garden in your house but also what Bahrain is doing as a strategy for food security in the future. We wanted to say let’s all plant something for our future.’
But while the future of the world’s food security looks increasingly precarious, the future of the Bahrain International Garden show is in safe hands. In 2008 the show attracted 13,000 visitors. Last year 21,900 paying visitors came to the show, a massive increase by anyone’s standards. Sheikha Maram, however, is relaxed about numbers. ‘As long as people enjoy themselves and learn something in the process, then mission accomplished.’ With an already long list of exhibitors and sponsors, and with gardeners busy at home fattening up their fruit and vegetables, it seems like 2010 is going to see the number of visitors once again sky-rocket.
The Bahrain International Garden Show runs between February 26-28 at the Bahrain International Convention & Exhibition Centre. Entrance costs 500 fils for a ticket valid for all three days, while children under 12 are free. For more information, visit www.bigs.com.bh. Those with green fingers who hope to compete should visit the Bahrain Gardening Club at www.bahraingardeningclub.com.
Bigger is better
Think your foot-long carrot or life-sized pumpkin is a sure thing for a win at this year’s show? We tell you what you might be up against with a look at some of the vast vegetables that have graced the world of veg-showbiz.
Carrots In 2007, Joe Atherton grew a carrot that was 5.84m in length. In terms of weight, John Evans from Alaska dug up a mammouth of a carrot that was 8.63kg.
Pumpkins Nick and Kristy Harp grew the world’s biggest pumpkin, which weighed in at an astounding 782.45kg. To put it in perspective, that’s pretty much the same weight as a small car.
Marrows Ken Dade, from Norfolk in the UK, grew a marrow that weighed 65kg (the same weight as the man who grew it). This man eater of a marrow was the result of 20 years of seed propagation.
Cabbages The world’s largest cabbage was grown by Bernard Lavery. When it was harvested, just 10 weeks after it was sown, it measured 3.65m by 3.96m and was still growing fast.
Potatoes It was Lebanon that produced the world’s largest potato. Khalil Semhat found a 11.3kg rhizome growing on his farm in 2008, coincidentally, the International Year of the Potato. The potato was certified organic.