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Zamalek's Banyan Tree Rooted in History

It's often said that history is rooted deep into the fabric of a city, and quite literally in the case of Zamalek's enormous banyan tree on Sharia Al Borg. On the beautifully leafy and green street that leads up to the Cairo Tower is an impressive 150-year-old tree that towers above you and whose dangling roots stretch down to the street.

However, the banyan tree is not native to Egypt and its presence in the country hides an interesting story. Khedive Ismael, keen to imitate colonial powers and express the country's reach, imported the unusual trees from India in 1868. The exotic trees were initially planted across the capital, although only a few still exist, mainly along the corniche bordering Garden City, Azabakeya and of course, the most impressive in Zamalek's Sharia Al Borg.

Banyan tree at the Azabakeya Gardens, Cairo, date unknown. (Image from Brooklyn Museum)

Ismael wanted to make Cairo a world city that showed off its wealth and promote himself as a cultured man of the world, and a large part of this was the import of exotic flora and fauna, typified well in the founding of the Giza Zoo in 1891. Coincidentally, the Giza Zoo also houses another spectacularly large banyan tree imported from India and has many other imported plants from Asia, South America and Africa, then tended to by hundreds of European horticultural specialists.

If not for the history, a stroll past the impressive tree is worth it for the Instagram shot and greenery.

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