The Weeping Willow

The willow tree is not only Native to North African countries, but turns out it exists in Europe and is called the weeping willow tree in English. It is actually native to Pakistan. Anyway their English name is quite sad! They have a beautiful name in Egypt ‘Om-el-Sho’or’ which translates into something like ‘The one with long hair’. Another name for it is ‘Safsaf’. Maybe they are different families. They remind me of the route we used to take to our village in Sharqia along the Ismailia Canal. A lot of those trees used to grow in abundance along that canal, which was constructed in 1863 to supply drinking and irrigation water from the Nile to the villages. I was told there was a King who planted a lot of those willow trees because his army used to make gun powder from its’ barks. He would trim its branches to kill his enemies. But the trees are as old as the Palm trees and as old as the Pharaonic civilisation. They Pharaohs kings and Queens considered this tree sacred and used to make crowns from their leaves.
The route we took to my father’s village was the Ismailia-Zaqaziq road which extends along the Ismailia water canal. Heading north, the willow trees were planted on the right side all along the Ismailia-Zaqaziq road. On the left side of the same road were small villages, most of which still have their pharaonic names such as Bahtit and Amrit. Women and their kids from those villages used to cross this two way road to reach the canal on the other side. The woman would wash their aluminium pots and clothes in the canal under the shade of the willow trees. They would then hang their colourful clothes on their branches to dry. The pottery makers from those villages as well would make use of the space around the trees and arrange their pottery under the tree trunks for the road travellers to see and maybe buy from. I always felt they were in harmony with the urbanscape at that time. They completed the natural scene. Recently, a lot of the trees have been dug out. Farmers tell me that its’ barks can be converted to coal, much needed nowadays. Others say the roots have grown so big that they destroyed the asphalt. Such a pity because these trees don’t need a lot of effort to survive. They just grow along the water canals and witnessed a lot of stories to tell.

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