Sharjah: A thatched hut in the middle of a rice paddy field. A rustic gazebo tent on a mound with a waterfall flowing from the top. A large pond with a traditional wooden boat, fish and water lilies. A variety of vegetables growing on a field and a well with water at the centre.
Welcome to Green Heaven — Indian expat Sudheesh Guruvayoor’s dream project in Sharjah.
When you soak in nature amidst the tweets and chirps of birds at this 3.5-acre holding, you could be forgiven if you think you are in a rural setting from Kerala.
Guruvayoor, perhaps the most acclaimed Indian agricultural enthusiast here with many records, including a Guinness World Record to his credit in the field of farming in the UAE, wants you to feel that you have entered a village in his homeland Kerala, known for its lush greenery, paddy fields, waterbodies and age-old traditions.
Sociocultural life of rural India
“I wanted to create a mini green village here in Sharjah and make it my new livelihood,” the electrical engineer-turned-organic farmer told Gulf News.
“Paddy cultivation plays a major role in sociocultural life of rural India, especially Kerala. I had proved that we can do it here also. This time I am doing it in a slightly larger plot,” said Guruvayoor, who lays claim to have done a first in the UAE by traditionally farming rice in the backyard of a villa where he used to live.
While it had taken almost four months to turn the desert soil into a patch of rice paddy back in 2016, it took only three months to do the same at his new project in Al Zubair area of Sharjah.
Guruvayoor said he took the farm on a 20-year lease from its Emirati owner three months ago to make his dream project come true.
Though all the big trees bordering the farm and some animals had already been there, Guruvayoor’s idea was to transform the barren land in the centre into a Kerala model village as he had visualised.
‘Catalyst’ for the project
His wife Ragi, daughter Sradha and son Shreyas have been his pillars of support, toiling with him in the soil day and night. Two months back, the family turned the majlis in the farmhouse into their new home. Seven of his workers from his firm Green Life Organic Farming were also employed at the plot.
Relief from pandemic stress
“Due to COVID-19, many Indian expats were not able to visit their homes for a couple of years. Children have been missing the chance to be close to nature, an experience they used to have during their vacations. That was another catalyst for our project,” said Ragi.
The couple feel that visiting their green village will help in reducing the stress that many have been going through during the pandemic.
Pulley, rope and bucket
It is not just the greenery that they have set up to evoke nostalgic memories of Kerala for the Malayali expats, estimated to be more than 1 million in the UAE.
An old-fashioned tea stall, a petty shop selling candies from the past and the well from which they can draw water using pulley, rope and bucket are also surely meant for that.
Obviously, the “dug well” with concrete and brick case has water stored in it to give the feel of a ‘real’ well, said Guruvayoor.
The hut, all sides thatched with woven coconut palm fronds from Salalah in Oman, comprises a large room with an attached bathroom. “We opted for the red oxide floor to give that traditional feel to the hut,” Guruvayoor said.
Things of the past
Visitors can see several things of the past that were popular in Kerala including a ‘charukasera’ (wooden rocking chair), ‘ammikkallum kuttiyum’ (grinding stone and roller stone), ‘ulakkayum uralum’ (wooden rice stamper and large wooden mortar) and ‘muram’ (winnowing fan).
While the field is mainly powered by solar lights, lamps in the shape of traditional kerosene lamps are used for lighting in the shops and the area surrounding the hut.
Around 30 varieties of vegetables and herbs are cultivated in the plot that also has a beautiful patch of sunflower field. A large arch frame for the climbing plants adds a little drama to the green space.
Guruvayoor said the idea of the gazebo tent on the mound cropped up when he was left with a huge pile of sand after the pond was dug up and the paddy field was levelled.
“I wanted to reuse the sand for something good. So, we made this small hillock and set up a rock waterfall. It added so much beauty to the plot. It is also a great spot for taking aerial pictures of the entire plot.”
Green Heaven Farm and Camping has already attracted many visitors.
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- Watch: Mohammed bin Rashid meets Chief Minister of Indian state of Kerala in Dubai
- Watch: Kerala to announce 12 projects for expats, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says in Dubai
- Kerala’s famed Nehru boat race coming to the UAE in March
Operating hours and charges:
The farm is open to visitors from 8.30am to 6.30pm.
Entry charges to the farm: Dh20 for adults, free for children.
Camping in the hut: Dh499 (with breakfast and barbecue facility).