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Posted On: 18 August 2020 05:13 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:07 pm

Qommunity Voices: Meet the two awesome women behind Hadiqaa and Gardening Club Qatar

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While gardening has always been a popular hobby, Qatar has also seen a gardening boom during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Many have utilized their extra space at home to grow fruits and vegetables. Indoor plants also saw a surge in demand, with plant nurseries happily trying to keep up.

Even Facebook groups for gardening enthusiasts experienced an increase in new members, who are looking for like-minded people and gardening advice. Gardening Club-Qatar is an example of that. So we reached out to the two ladies running the group to find out more about their gardening journey and to tell us more about their website which aims to help home gardeners in Qatar and the Middle East!

ILQ: Please tell us a bit about yourself and what do you do?

Sara: I have been living in Qatar for 22 years. I am an engineer and started a road safety and simulation business in QSTP almost 7 years ago. In March, I started my second business Hadiqaa and started a Computer Science Ph.D. at the University of Melbourne. Quite overwhelmed at the moment actually, but loving it.

Vicky: I am an Agronomist from Greece, and I have worked in garden centers and agricultural supplies companies in Europe for a few years before I moved to Qatar permanently in 2010, with my husband. Since 2010, I have worked in various agricultural and gardening businesses here. We enjoy life in Qatar and we see it as our home. Our daughter was also born here, and that makes it even more special.

ILQ: How did you get into gardening?

Sara: The first time I really got into gardening was when a lady was selling a mulberry tree on Facebook. It was actually growing berries in Qatar, and I was so impressed. So, I bought the tree and many others after that. I do have to admit, I sadly killed the mulberry tree a few months later.

Vicky: To be honest, I don't remember how I got into gardening, as it was so many years ago :) I decided I wanted to become an Agronomist when I was around 12, and I was very much into repotting my mum's plants. Probably I had killed a few plants in the process, but at that age, things come more naturally and we don't face failure the way we see it as adults, so I just kept going!

ILQ: Please tell us about your garden at home. What are you growing?

Sara: At the moment, I am just growing succulents indoors. I am practicing propagating them.

Vicky: I have had various indoor and outdoor plants at home, such as Aloe vera, Leucophyllum, Mandevilla, Dracaenas and Zamioculcas, all in pots. During the months that we stayed at home, I got a lot of aromatics and seasonals for my daughter to experiment with. In October, we will move house, so this time we will definitely find a home with a garden, where I am planning to grow my vegetables and experiment with trees.

Vicky Damalou: Hadiqaa Co-Founder, Agronomist by degree and by experience

ILQ: What is all about?

Sara and Vicky: We made Hadiqaa to support gardeners in Qatar and the wider Middle East so everyone can get gardening advice that is suitable for the hot climate. The gardening season in Qatar is entirely different from the rest of the world. So, when people Google when to start planting, it can get very confusing.

Also, soil types and watering frequency, tools and techniques such as the importance of indoor hydroponics are different for Qatar. So, we want to be a place that supports urban gardeners in this challenging climate.

ILQ: Why did you decide to start the Gardening Club Facebook Group?

Sara: I started the group after I bought the mulberry tree and begun experimenting with tomatoes and herbs. I was unsure of the steps or even the tools I needed, so I made the group to connect with other gardening enthusiasts, to learn from each other and share plant cuttings.

Currently, the group has almost 7,000 members, and some months we have over 50,000 interactions a month. That means our members are liking, commenting and posting A LOT! They help each other with challenges, and where to find certain supplies in Doha. We have also started Live Q&A sessions with the more experienced members and competitions in partnership with gardening suppliers.

ILQ: Why do you love what you do?

Sara and Vicky: We love what we do because we love gardening and we want the world to be more green! It's also a way to play a part in Qatar's goal to achieve food security by supporting urban farming. Just think about all those villas with sunny roofs, if we made it all green, people could grow their supply of many vegetables at home. Additionally, urban composting means we can help people turn their waste into soil, helping Qatar be more sustainable!

Vicky Damalou growing tomatoes

ILQ: What advice do you have for people who want to start gardening/taking care of plants for the first time?

Sara and Vicky: First of all, they should make peace with the fact that they might kill a plant. :)

In general, to simplify things when people start gardening, there is a methodology, which includes

  1. Choosing the right plants (low maintenance, medium-size plants, inexpensive).
  2. Reading and learning about their needs (light, water, soil, temperature). When someone knows about something, it's easier to care for it.
  3. Knowing their space (Is it too sunny? Is it too dark? Is it too windy? Is there an A/C?). After knowing their plants' needs from step 2, one can place them in a suitable spot.
  4. While continuing with their maintenance, which includes watering, fertilizing, repotting and pruning, observing our plants regularly and attending to their needs is the key for them to flourish.

ILQ: What if you don't have a green thumb? What's the hardest plant to kill?

Vicky and Sara: As we like to say: Green thumbs are a myth. No one is born knowing how to take care of plants. It all comes with consistency, watching your plants, reading about them, experimenting. And, of course, some guidance from an experienced gardener or attending online classes helps a lot. Also, starting with plants that are hard to kill, such as Sansevieria, Aloe Vera, or aromatic plants, can boost someone's confidence in gardening and push them to move on with more sensitive plants.

ILQ: What can you say is your biggest achievement so far?

Sara: Last year, I moved my simulation business to Australia and raised $100,000 from an Australian investment firm after being interviewed by a panel of Billionaires, CEOs and lawyers.

Vicky: I am afraid I can't really answer that. Probably a significant achievement is always being happy with my life as it is, and this consists of many small results - having a happy family, being healthy, doing what I love professionally and now starting my own business are all part of it.

Sara Khorasani: Hadiqaa Co-Founder, Engineer and passionate about gardening.

ILQ: What are your plans?

Vicky: We want to teach gardening in a complete way, and that is by hands-on practice. We are now preparing more online workshops, and hope that soon we will be allowed to teach gardening in person, in a real garden.

Sara: In the long term, we want to make sure that Hadiqaa offers value to the Qatari community. We want to learn what the gardening community truly needs, and eventually grow the business to do the same for the wider Middle East.

ILQ: Do you have any message for the people of Qatar?

Sara and Vicky: Gardening is therapeutic, it is excellent for the environment, and it makes Qatar more sustainable! Turn those gardens, balconies and roofs into green spaces. If you don't have outdoor space or even big windows, use grow lights to grow an indoor garden. And do it with your kids!

Sign up for their online workshops on gardening and join the Facebook group here:

Have you taken up gardening during this pandemic? Or do you have your indoor garden even before the stay-at-home started? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to share this with your friends who love plants!