Parks in Egypt are rarely used for public gatherings or for raising awareness about various issues, and some are even rarely used except by those fighting against their destruction by contractors who might not see their real beauty or purposes. However, such ideas have been challenged by the Kafr Abdou community in Alexandria that has decided to make better use of the city’s Allenby Park.
Situated in the heart of Alexandria and surrounded by embassies, historical villas, and bygone surroundings, Allenby Park is one of the oldest and the finest parks in Alexandria. It dates back to Lord Allenby, the British high commissioner in Egypt in the 1920s. Though it has been known as a park used mainly for walking dogs for some time, it has now received a new name as Alexandria’s “Family Park”.
This was also the name of a networking event that took place in the park a week ago and was founded and organised by the Kafr Abdou district community in collaboration with GoodLife Egypt, an NGO. The event aimed at spreading awareness about how people can be eco-friendly in their own environments by saving water, recycling, and helping to become zero waste in their consumption patterns.
Art and Crafts in the Family Park
When any park loses its function of gathering the public, it loses its raison d’être, or at least this was what many people at the event said when discussing Allenby Park. “I come here twice a week to walk the dog,” said Mohamed Abdel-Fattah, 25, an accountant, who added that prior to the event he had never thought he would bring his whole family to enjoy the park.
“The event is really enjoyable. Each one of us has had his or her share of happiness,” Abdel-Fattah added, who was enjoying a meal with his family under one of the park’s large trees.
Despite the abrupt bad weather conditions that hit the city during the week, the Family Park Day started at 11am and ended at almost 9pm and gave its share of happiness to everyone. Kids had the largest share, since there were many competitions, play events, zumba classes, handicrafts, art and science activities, and workshops to show them how to save the environment in every possible way.
Ziad Ahmed, six, was one of the children enjoying the day. From collecting rubbish and putting it into colourful bins to enjoying crafting a plastic bottle, he got the most out of the day when the science show started. As he watched the show, he learned how to do scientific experiments like examining flowers, observing seeds, and planting plants and finding out how they grow.
“The scientific experiments for the kids veered away from the dry atmosphere of the classroom environment and brought them out into the fresh air in the park that they otherwise rarely enjoy. The kids become part of the learning process, and they learn how to play and how to enjoy the healthy foods they can also help to grow,” commented Aliaa Tageddin, manager of Stay and Create, an initiative that mingles the learning process with scientific and cultural knowledge.
As he collected rubbish and carefully sorted it into four bins, Ahmed learned that he had won a prize offered by the group Go Clean. “It’s the best day in my life,” Ahmed said with a big smile on his face.
Go Green and Save the Planet
Tageddin, who had brought many children to enjoy the fresh environment, said that “creating an event in an open air with the aim of recycling is a brilliant idea.” Stay and Create had organised scientific experiments and planting activities for the children to enjoy and to learn from their environment. “We have taught them how to plant seeds in plastic bottles and how to make the best use of recycled products,” he said.
“Kids learn quickly and are the next generation that can help to save the environment.”
Yasmina Fadi, nine, who was sitting on the grass with her friend Rahaf colouring, said “it is my first time to be in the park. I learned from the scientific show and found out about many new experiments like the oxygen experiment with balloons,” referring to one of the experiments the children had been shown.
Fadi likes dogs, and she said she wished she could come again to the park to enjoy the environment and walk them. “I would like to try new things, like the puppet show, the dog shows, and the animal shows,” she said.
Fadi’s mother, doing some shopping in the bazaar that was part of the event, said that it was the first time she had seen any park in Alexandra doing so many activities and working on bringing the community together. “They thought of parents and of children when they created this event. For mums and dads, they brought bazaars, market booths, and small exhibitors, so we could make the best use of our time and do some shopping,” she said.
Sara Kheira, another mother at the event, said that “kids enjoy nature. This is the essence of this event. We do not have many places where we can enjoy a place as much as our kids. But now we have found it. It was just under our feet.”
Sarah and Rahaf colouring wooden chairs
“Events like these teach kids how to be independent and how to save the environment,” she said. “We need to spread things like this locally and globally. We support all these kinds of initiatives,” she added.
“We do not want only our homes to be clean. We want our environment to be clean as well. We need to make it a habit, not just something that happens by chance,” Omar Sherif, a member of Go Clean, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Go Clean tries to reduce waste in Cairo and Alexandria by raising awareness and carrying out door-to-door services collecting recycled products in return for a small sum of money. “When we talk about recycling, we mean plastic, paper, bottles, cans, metal, cloth, and so on, all of which we transport to companies for recycling,” Sherif said.
He added that the event had seen all kinds of enterprises and exhibitors displaying their services and products. The first step towards protecting the environment also started at home, he added, with the sorting of organic waste into black bags, metal in red boxes, paper in green boxes, and plastic in blue boxes, and so on.
“Sort your garbage into four colours. You will help to save the environment and eventually save the planet through the small steps you take,” Sherif concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.