“The beauty of age is that you don’t feel the need to impress people anymore,” said Heba Yassin, Khadra’s owner and founder, smiling shyly.
Gardening for Yassin wasn’t a life passion. She was a mother occupied in her kids’ city daily active, but at some point she had to rearrange her priorities. In fact, as she fell ill and met the umpteenth specialist, she was advised to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and get some rest in the countryside, where her two sisters had previously settled.
“It was then, when I was in my late thirties, that I decided to move to the outskirts of Mansoureia, but it wasn’t right then that I discovered my green thumb,” said Yassin.
Looking at her sisters’ keenness on looking after their gardens and growing several varieties of plants and flowers, Yassin felt admiration and a pitch of insecurity, as she thought she would never achieve half of what they had.
Yassin’s lack of self-esteem wouldn’t prevent her from growing more and more curious towards the green world surrounding her. “One day I was staring at my old gardener,” she said, “and I felt so sorry for him and the heavy burden he had to carry all by himself, that I rolled up my sleeves and started helping him.”
As she touched the soil, the green leaves and the velvet colourful petals, and she started pulling different plants and flowers together into simple but refined compositions, Yassin was surprised by what she saw.“I can barely describe what I felt but… It was then that I understood that I had a gift,” she said proudly.
Making a business out of her talent had always been the last of her thoughts. And, even now, that she opened a one-brand Khadra shop in Sheikh Zayed, 6th October City,with her daughter Naila, money is none of her interests.
Yassin enjoyed losing herself into the greenery of her country mansion. She would play for hours and hours with plants, shrubs and trees, and with the colourful pots made out of wooden barrel, metallic buckets or ceramic, in the private peace haven of her greenhouse.
“When I was young, I used to wear only colourful clothes and that’s why all my creations are still based on strong colour contrasts,” she says. “At the beginning even my closest friends wouldn’t understand why I had an obsession for colours but, eventually, they got it.” She adds, “Colours cheer people’s lives up.”
The first compositions Yassin made were wooden boxes, she herself painted with flashy tones, and filled up with kitchen herbs. Even now, as Community Times reporter strolls around Khadra’s shop, the Egyptian lady has no doubt that Khadra’s Kitchen – this is its name– is her most successful creation.
“My friends would come over and get pleasantly surprised how different a space can turn with the right combination of plants and colours, and how even something simple like kitchen herbs can become arty pieces of furniture,” she explains. “Eventually, they asked me if I could help get a similar touch in their house-holds. And, for me, it was nothing but a pleasure.”
Later on, pushed by her two young daughters, Yassin decided to stand up and be counted in the Egyptian society.It is then that she opened up a Facebook page and started selling her products online.“The only thing I’m good at is gardening,” she admits. “Sometimes my daughter Naila shouts at me because I upload pictures with my foot or my dogs in the background but, honestly, I think people appreciate my naiveté, because at least they recognize that what I do is real.”
“Perfection is an overrated concept.”
What distinguishes Yassin from the other people mingling the same green field is that she,sells only finished products, and it’s her choosing of flowers, plants, colours and the materials of the pots. “Once I was in a flower shop in Dubai,” she recalls, “and there were hundreds of different items I could choose from,and me and the other customers were completely lost and struggled to make any decision.”
Yassin’s old-style outlook clashes with the fresh entrepreneurial nature of her daughter and partner in business, Naila.“My daughter keeps insisting that I should let our clients select what they want, but Egyptians don’t know much about plants and they end up picking always the same varieties,” she says.
Yassin believes people must be educated to gardening and colour matching, like to any other practices. For instance, until few years ago, water-retaining plants were only used to decorate graveyards and tombstones, but Yassin turned them into one of her most successful products.
“I try to address kids as much as I can,” Yassin says. “I want them to enjoy other things but technology and electronics, and develop the art of patience. I recommend their parents to start by making them nurse cactus, because they have funny shapes and colours,and don’t need many gardening skills.”
Each of the green compositions Yassin makes comes together with a card of instructions explaining the amount of sun or shade the plants need and how often they need to be watered.
Within a few years, thanks to the help of Naila and Naila’s best friend, Alla Hudine, Khadra shifted from being a homey hobby, to dealing with fancy restaurants, landscaping – etc. The Platform in Ma’adi – and, finally, to representing an integral part of the market business with its newly born shop.
Regardless of Khadra’s popularity, for Yassin not much has changed since the beginning of her green life.“I still spend most of my time in the greenhouse playing with plants and colours and I leave bureaucracy and technicalities to Naila and Alla,” she says. “I don’t know and I don’t want to know anything about money and, even now after all these years, the only thing I’m confident about is my instinct for plants.”