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10 November, 2008

Tragic Tale of the Tomato Plant

One of the rarest books in Dubai is not Robin Moore's notorious bonkbuster but a tome known best among Jumeirah Janes of the Golden Era, when British expat wives could actually afford to live in spacious seaside villas, do nothing but shop and beautify all day, and employ half the subcontinent to wait upon them.

Gardening in the Gulf was published in 1990 but has been inexplicably out of print for years, despite Dubai's population boom. Now the local weather is cooling but the wider world is global warming, ones thoughts naturally turn to green stuff and gardening and becoming self-sufficient before the sea levels rise and the final volcanic tsunami apocalypse swallows us all. Unless we're camping in the Hajjars that day.

A few years ago one of the local newspapers had an inspirational feature on an Indian couple living in Sharjah who grew vegetables on their city-centre balcony. They used grow-bags, and had huge great harvests of tomatoes and peppers and so on, all thanks to the 365 days of heat and sunshine enjoyed in the sandlands.

By a marvellous coincidence, on a trip to the Dubai Garden Centre not long after, there was one tiny tomato plant left for sale by the till. At that time the garden centre was new,and the only one in Dubai, except for that CITES black hole of Al Hudaiba Street in Satwa. "Plant Street" with pink bougainvillea outside every shop and caged, half-dead endangered wildlife on sale within. If they ever find a living Tasmanian Tiger again, it won't be deep in the Antipodean rainforest. It will be in Satwa.

Anyway with great pride, the new leafy acquisition was set on a sunny corner of the verandah outside Cell Block G. It promised to be the start of a whole new revolution of vegetable growing - a mini market garden that would make Spinneys defunct and bring The Good Life to 21st century Jebel Ali.

But in just a couple of days the tomato plant had developed a score of rots, blights, cankers, diseases and pests. This in itself was something of a miracle, given there were no other plants within about ten metres, save for three palms with their leaves still trussed up. The small solanum struggled, and withered, and died. And with it died all further dreams of self-sufficiency in the Southern Gulf.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Secret Dubai Diary,
Would you be willing to give me an email address so that I could contact you?

11 November, 2008 04:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only thing that grows around in this heat and humidity ( " all round sunny weather" in PR language) is glass towers.

if anything was meant to grow, how come you don't see it around the country in its natural stage.

11 November, 2008 12:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Because there is not enough rain perhaps?

16 November, 2008 10:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's odd about your blog in recent weeks is that while, for the last several years, you've gleefully (and at times even maliciously) sought out the dark side of what's happened in Dubai, you've suddenly fallen silent. Now, while I'm not necessarily a fan of everything that's gone on here, I've also thought you went overboard a number of times in your schadenfreude with Dubai's misfortunes.
Now, however, it's clear that the crap has hit the fan - the financial crisis has clearly splattered all sorts of stuff all sorts of places - and your blog is, at this of all times, silent. What's up? Did you get fired at last?

18 November, 2008 12:22  

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