▶ Ramy Enab tells Anna Zacharias his love for the Ja­panese art blos­somed dur­ing the pan­demic

The National - News - - NEWS | EMIRATES -

Ramy Enab got hooked on bon­sai af­ter watch­ing

The Karate Kid. It was the mid-1980s and he was just a boy, curled up on the sofa in his flat in Cairo, watch­ing the film on video. He sat trans­fixed as karate master Mr Miyagi cleared his mind by prun­ing a bon­sai tree.

Decades passed be­fore Mr Enab, 37, picked up the an­cient art. Now he is us­ing it to help oth­ers dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break.

Dur­ing Dubai’s stay-home order in April, Mr Enab posted videos of how to grow and main­tain bon­sai for his neigh­bours in The Greens and was hon­oured as peo­ple asked him for ad­vice.

“The art of bon­sai is a very creative way to think about things,” he says.

“To look at the tree and think about which way it’s go­ing to go – it’s ex­tremely calm­ing. When­ever I do it, I just for­get all of the pres­sures of the world.

“I’m ac­tu­ally hon­oured to see that peo­ple are in­ter­ested.”

Mr Enab moved to the Emi­rates to work as an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive in 2005 af­ter com­plet­ing his mil­i­tary ser­vice in Egypt.

He taught him­self bon­sai from YouTube videos and en­tered the world of on­line bon­sai fo­rums, where dis­cus­sions abound on how to cul­ti­vate the curl of a branch, se­lect the right wire or com­pose the ideal soil blend.

He has 12 bon­sai plants at his home, each cov­ered in bits of black wire. His crown­ing achieve­ment is a 15-year-old cas­cad­ing jade.

“I used maybe five me­tres of wire for this one and it is go­ing to be the one that is, hope­fully, with me my en­tire life,” he says.

Mr Enab spends an av­er­age of two hours a day with his plants, prun­ing, wiring and re­pot­ting.

“Ev­ery day I just go to the bal­cony and sit for a bit and say, ‘oh, this can be done, that can be done’,” he says.

“It’s re­ally an ab­so­lute beauty that you are with a live thing that is al­ways grow­ing, ev­ery day evolv­ing.”

Ev­ery day, he un­furls a green can­vas belt of pli­ers, shears and scis­sors or­dered from Japan and snips a del­i­cate jade.

Pots are or­dered from Japan and China. When im­ports slowed due to the pan­demic re­stric­tions, he stayed in touch with pot­ters as new hold­ers were fired for his grow­ing plants.

Gran­u­lar soil is im­ported from Japan, China, the US and Ger­many and blended with Mr Enab’s se­cret in­gre­di­ent to make an ideal com­pos­ite for the UAE heat. He per­fected it over four months un­der the tute­lage of two bon­sai masters.

“A lot of peo­ple think when they buy a bon­sai, it will be with them for ever but if it’s not in the right soil, it will die,” Mr Enab says.

He learnt the hard way – his first bon­sai with­ered af­ter a month be­cause of poor soil.

“It al­most broke my heart. This was when I de­cided, OK, if I love bon­sai that much I need to learn how to make it,” he says.

Other bon­sai sold in Dubai did not meet his stan­dards.

“When I tried to find a bon­sai to buy, they were ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive. I told my­self, ‘no bon­sai of such low qual­ity should be that price’. So I told my­self, ‘OK, I’m go­ing to make my own’.”

He con­sulted masters in the US and Japan. “All of us have the same men­tors from Japan and all of us are branch­ing out to do some­thing more,” he says.

His over­seas peers go to forests for in­spi­ra­tion but the desert and moun­tains hold their own mar­vels.

“Ev­ery­thing we do in the bon­sai is nat­u­ral, but in­stead of it tak­ing 150 years, it takes two or three months,” he s ays. “Bon­sai is not about twists in the tree. Bon­sai is how to im­i­tate na­ture and life.

“For ex­am­ple, if you go to the desert, from Dubai to Aj­man or to Oman, there are a lot of trees that show how the bon­sai should be shaped.”

He now passes his knowl­edge on to neigh­bours.

“I wouldn’t even have thought about do­ing a video and post­ing it on­line if it weren’t for Covid-19 but it gave me the out­let to try some­thing new,” Mr Enab says.

“Usu­ally I’m not very ac­tive on so­cial me­dia but when I saw the in­ter­est, it mo­ti­vated me so much.

“I don’t think I’m ever go­ing to stop mak­ing bon­sai – no mat­ter where I am, what I am do­ing.”

A lot of peo­ple think when they buy a bon­sai, it will be with them for ever but if it’s not in the right soil, it will die RAMY ENAB Bon­sai en­thu­si­ast

Chris Whi­teoak / The Na­tional

Ramy Enab holds his 15-year-old jade bon­sai, painstak­ingly grown and crafted us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques


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