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The Egyptian Plant Specialist Keeping the Memory of its Late Founder Alive One Cactus at a Time

Egyptian brand, Passion Field, has just launched online and its doing its darnedest to change how people see the prickly plant.

Passion Field Cactus

Passion comes in all shapes and sizes, but for one Egyptian, the late Hazem Ashry, it took the form of what he considered to be the most underappreciated, maybe even misunderstood, of plants: the humble cactus.

Having lost his battle with cancer towards the end of 2018, Ashry left behind Passion Field; a project that plants and grows cacti and succulent plants (those thick, fleshy almost felt-like plants you get the urge to bite), and sells them to fellow cactus-appreciators in customised pots. After his passing, Passion Field’s Instagram account came to be.

Growing these particular types of plants was one of the activities Ashry considered most soothing when he was undergoing his chemotherapy and he wanted to share this very specific love. Keeping the legacy alive is co-founder Farah Mestekawy, Ashry's wife, Dina Abdel Moneim, his sister, Hanan Ashry and his two daughters, Mariam and Nour Ashry.

“Hazem loved plants and greenery. We both loved cacti, especially," Mestekawy tells CairoScene. “It’s his legacy and we consider Passion Field to be a family business. For now, all of the proceeds go to cancer research or anything cancer related."

Based out of a workshop in New Cairo's Diar Compound, Passion Field also aims to change misconceptions about cacti, with Mestekawy explaining that many Egyptians consider them to be bad luck. What adds a little element of uniqueness to every plant is that each one is individually grown and tended to – think of them as bespoke cacti.

“Each plant has its own story, how they grow, who their mothers are. It’s crazy, but you form a connection with plants. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a connection you get when you see the plant growing, it feels like an accomplishment,” says Mestekawy. "I believe them to also be like art and when you match each plant with the right pot, you’ve created a masterpiece.”

While most of the handpicked cacti and succulent plants are from local farms, Passion Field have also imported seeds from places like South Africa to form hybrids.

“People don’t know that we have big cacti farms in Egypt. It was part of our journey; we’d spend days trying to track down unique cacti. And even the pot takes hours to make, but we do everything with love because we’re passionate,” says Mestekawy. “Plants are like pets, but without being as much work. So when people talk to me, I always tell them to get a plant first and try it out before getting a pet. You get that sense of responsibility from growing a plant."

While most of the handpicked cacti and succulent plants are from local farms, Passion Field have also imported seeds from places like South Africa and intend to start growing hybrids.

“People don’t know that we have big cacti farms in Egypt. It was part of our journey; we’d spend days trying to track down unique cacti. And even the pot takes hours to make, but we do everything with love because we’re passionate,” says Mestekawy. “Plants are like pets, but without being as much work. So when people talk to me, I always tell them to get a plant first and try it out before getting a pet. You get that sense of responsibility from growing a plant."

Aiming to keep Ashry’s memory alive, each plant currently on the page was handpicked by Ashry himself.

“Each and every piece someone takes home is in honour of him,” Mestekawy says. “We want people to fall in love with cacti the same way we did. And it was actually Ashry who wanted the proceeds to go to cancer patients, because he knew, better than anyone, the suffering and the financial burden of the disease.”

Check out Passion Field on Instagram.


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