The Beauty of Islam – the serene garden by Kamelia Bin Zaal

Thinking about ways to portray religion in a manner that is pure, true to its meaning, and symbolises the essence of its message is not an easy task to undertake. Even more so, using real elements without text or speech is even more of a challenge.

However, Kamelia Bin Zaal’s The Beauty of Islam garden at this years Chelsea Flower Show managed to encapsulate the ‘serenity and peacefulness’ of our beautiful religion using the simplicity of nature and elements of Arabian culture.

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We had the pleasure of viewing this garden, and were overwhelmed by its calming presence and relaxing atmosphere that it exudes to its viewers.

The garden explores the relationship between humankind and the earth, incorporating elements such as poetry, calligraphy, flowing water, fragrant flowers, herbs and spices as well as Islamic art in the form of a sculpture, all in all, leaving guests with a true sense of the Beauty of Islam. We are not surprised it won a Silver Award at this year’s show!

Haute Arabia had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Kamelia Bin Zaal, the young Landscape Designer behind this living artwork, and learnt more about her inspiration behind her garden, her passion for Islam and nature, and what she credits as being her main source of inspiration.

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How did you get into the horticultural industry?

I have grown up always watching my father in the garden. He has always loved flowers and the sense of peace a garden can give. I have an artistic background and although I loved working in the government of Dubai I felt something was missing. At the time my father was planning the concept of Al Barari, a plant nursery, maybe a horticultural school, and it was this conversation that made me think of garden design. Within one month I was at the Inchbald School of Design studying garden design.

I then returned to Dubai inspired to create intuitive and stylised outdoor living spaces. I began my career as a freelance garden designer in 2004 working on residential villas until I established my own landscape architectural practice, Second Nature, in 2006, working on both large commercial projects and unique residential projects. Later I formed an association with my family’s property development company, Al Barari, where Second Nature, now part of Green Works, created the lush botanic surrounds and themed gardens that the address has become recognised for. I have served as the Creative Director at Al Barari for the past seven years.

What inspires you to create such unusual landscape designs?

I am inspired by natural landscapes, interior design and architecture primarily, from all over the world, especially when I travel. However each design is tailored to what the client needs and likes. The key is to understand the purpose of the garden and who it is intended for. Everyone is different so every garden is different. People may love a certain artist or architect and want to theme their design on that, or they may simply love a place like Thailand and want their garden to emulate that feeling when they are away on holiday. It’s a very personal process with your client and it is so rewarding to be able to give them their ideal garden.

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Who in your life has inspired you throughout your career path?

My father and mother. They taught me to always believe in myself, and have always encouraged and guided me.

What would you say is the key driver for a successful career?

Sheer hard work and passion for what you do.

What was your inspiration behind The Beauty of Islam garden for the 2015 Chelsea Garden Show?

I wanted to create a garden that would resonate with the public and have a positive effect on people’s perception of Islam and Arab culture. My aim was to share the positives of our religion and culture. To show how we also celebrate diversity, peace and harmony as all religions do. With so much negativity in the media and the world today this was an opportunity to share these values with the public through a garden design. The Chelsea Flower Show was the ideal platform.

My personal inspiration for the garden was His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His love of nature and his people were always a priority. His Highness Sheikh Zayed understood the importance of protecting our environment and that it was key to sustaining our community and to the growth of the country. If I can keep supporting this, even if it is in a small way, then I feel I have done something to make him proud. I wanted to honour him through my Chelsea Flower Show garden.

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What would you say is your signature style in differentiating your work from others?

I am very linear and simplistic in my overall structure of most of my gardens. I believe in a balance between the hard structure of the garden and the softness of the planting surrounding it. I love structural elements whether it’s architectural or through the use of trees or plants.

We really admired your use of portraying our beautiful religion in such a creative way. What was your favourite element in this garden?

It’s hard to pick my favourite but I just loved the play on light and shade with the sun shining through the Arabic Mashrabiya pattern in the cantilevered stainless steel domed shade structure onto the verse on the wall. “The gates of the Garden of Eden will open up to them,” are the words from the Holy Qu’ran, Surah Sad: Verse 50 that were carved into the white marble water wall that majestically overlooked the garden. With the sound of water, it was not only stunning but peaceful.

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Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Hopefully I will get another chance to participate at the Chelsea Flower Show but in the meantime my focus is the family business and we are going to replicate “The Beauty of Islam” for the public to enjoy in Phase 2 of Al Barari. I would also like to help others get into the field of landscape design.

My goal is to leave behind a green legacy whether that’s through the development of the Al Barari community and its beautiful gardens or by making people happy through designing their gardens in which they can enjoy life.

Any advice for other young horticulturists out there?

My advice is to never give up on your dreams and work hard. If you are passionate about what you do, stay focused and keep pushing forward to make your dreams a reality. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

For more on Kamelia Bin Zaal’s landscape designs, do check out her website http://www.secondnature.ae/.

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