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Former First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali fondly remembers the late Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, when he visited Trinidad and planted the two Samaan trees next to the Preysal flyover yesterday. The trees can be seen in the background. 

Trinidad and Tobago has deep-rooted ties with the United Kingdom and the Monarchy. As a part of the Commonwealth, this country is mourning the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

But as the Royal Family, the UK and world leaders get set to say farewell to the Duke, Guardian Media uncovered a well-kept secret about Prince Philip when he visited Trinidad and Tobago in 1993 for the Food and Agriculture Organisation conference.

During his solo trip to this country, he planted Samaan trees with then First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali.

The two Samaan trees are located at the Preysal Flyover in Couva, a place where many traverse not knowing that Prince Philip planted the trees that many admire or don’t notice at all.

Former First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali visited the site as she shared the history of his visit.

“It is a well-kept secret that the Duke of Edinburgh planted one of these trees and I planted the other. This ground here was supposed to be the site for the Agriculture Society main building at the time Dhanoo Sookoo and all the others were there. At the time I was a member of the Agriculture Society. We had delegates from all over the world and they came, we had two lots of them because there was over 80 of them,” she said.

The former first lady said, “The Duke of Edinburgh was so interested in Agriculture and he was interested in all our flowers, our fruit, our food and anything. And you know at that time at the President’s House I did our garden where we grew our fruit and vegetables and in Tobago we had our fruit and vegetables there too and he was so interested in everything, it was a pleasure being in his company.”

The site is now covered with overgrown bush but the Samaan trees stand out as they overlook the Solomon Hochoy Highway.

“I think the Agriculture society had a small plaque saying it was planted by him… But we need to preserve it (the trees), we need to really keep it nice and clean and take care of the whole area and all of that because it is the only thing left. We have his signature in the guest book, we have the files and all of that but the trees really stand out because he planted those,” Mrs Hassanali said.

The trees were threatened some years ago as plans were underway to conduct road works but the former First Lady was instrumental in sharing the story and preserving the trees.

She said, “When they were doing road upgrades they wanted to cut down the trees and I came with my son and told them that they cannot cut down these trees and that the Duke of Edinburgh planted these trees. So luckily, we were able to save it and it is so beautiful, very lovely and it just needs a clean-up”.

Mrs Hassanali is concerned about the lack of interest in the environment and this country’s heritage as many are unaware of the rich history in this country.

She hopes that a good Samaritan will come along before the Duke’s funeral on Saturday and clean the site in Prince Philip’s memory.

Prince Philip, who was married to the Queen for 73 years, died on April 9, just two months shy of his 100th birthday..