I just know that this post is going to get me into trouble. I was passing through Nazlit Semman today on my way back from doing an errand in Mohendessin. We stopped at the corner of the Mansureya Road and Aboul Hol Road (the road into the Sphinx) so that Catherine could take a photo, and we noticed a huge crowd of horses and camels crowding around a feed shop where bags of corn were being distributed and hauled off on horse and camel back. Four Paws, from the Princess Alia Foundation, was distributing and a camera crew were there filming. There has been a huge deal made in the press about the starving work horses of Giza and many animal groups have come to help. I've met Princess Alia of Jordan once and she is a very fine woman...I was very impressed with her intelligence, concern, and down to earth manner.
Now for the part that will get me into trouble. I've lived here for many years and am a horse owner, so the businesses of Nazlit Semman have always interested me. I know stable owners there and I used to take people riding to Giza...but I stopped doing it a number of years ago when in the midst of a perfectly good tourist season I had to ride my horses past the bodies of at least 30 dead horses who had been left where they'd dropped dead in the desert and then at least another 20 carcasses at the rear entrance to the stable area there next to the desert. There are people at Giza who take care of some of their horses, others who take care of none of their horses, and people who board horses there and work like the devil to see that their horses are cared for. I've accompanied friends to the pyramids as tourists and watched how the businesses run. Most of the 15 thousand tourists a day who visit Giza are hauled in on buses and hauled out on buses to meet appallingly tight itineraries and they go nowhere near the stables. There are very few of the stables who are licensed to have horses inside the Giza plateau walls. These are the few horses who actually service the tourists. Most days when I've been down in the stable areas, at least 60% of the clients there have been locals, their guests and friends...not the busloads of tourists who visit. If the tourism has stopped for these stables, then much of the shortfall has to do with their local clientele not coming.
The story put out in the press is that the stable owners are starving and because of this the horses are starving. So why not provide food for the stable owners and their families so that they can buy food for the animals? That would make some sense and perhaps imbue a sense of responsibility in them. In fact, during the revolution, all of us were having a very hard time finding horse feed because the truckers weren't hauling it in from the provinces. Anyone working with animals was having a really tough time. One friend of mine who boards horses for foreigners living here was stuck with over a dozen horses when the owners evacuated with out bothering to leave money for board or horse feed. She was scrambling, borrowing from friends to try to scrape together funds to feed her charges...and then scrambling to try to find something available.
I don't deny that there are and were horses dying in Giza. My point is that there are always horses dying in Giza...with or without tourism. The issue isn't the tourism, it's the education of the stable owners who would rather let a horse die than care for it. I talked about this with the vet accompanying Four Paws. He's Egyptian and conceded that my points were valid but said...and I had to agree with him...that if you don't try, nothing will ever happen. This is what he said he'd learned from the people who went to Tahrir in protest. He had thought that there was no hope for change in Egypt and didn't even teach his children to speak Arabic. Now he's giving them lessons in their own language because he feels that there is some hope for the country. It's a good lesson.