Saturday, June 30, 2007

Natural Air Conditioning

Oddly enough, one of the things that I most enjoy about Egypt is probably something that would drive other people nuts. People here do all sorts of things that would never be permitted in a more organised, regimented country where someone is looking out for everyone else's safety. You see people riding in the back of trucks (forget it in North America...would void your insurance) all the time. Is it dangerous? Sure. If someone is injured or killed, obviously people are upset, but there is a basic realisation that we are all going to die at some point, and that we have choices about how, when and where. Make a stupid choice and you can get a stupid death.

These men are probably more comfortable in the short run sitting on top of the load of their truck than they would be in the cab...and there probably isn't room in the cab anyway.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Immortal Games

School is out and the kids are simmering in over 40 degree heat (Celsius, over 100 Fahrenheit) and entertaining themselves with quiet games. While in Maadi doing errands I saw these two boys who were playing a game that I used to call "lagging pennies", tossing stones against a low wall and collecting those that came closest to the wall.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Taking Cover

Summer in Egypt is hot and we seek shade where ever we can find it. Sometimes it's indoors, sometimes it's a tree and sometimes it's what's left over from a pharaonic temple.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Astonishing House 1

I think it has to do with a lack of housing codes? Or an excess of cash? Or maybe it's that aliens abducted someone's sense of taste and propriety. At the end of the day 99% of Egyptians don't have the money to buy the front door of a place like this, so what on earth is the point of building it? I've "admired" this amazing construction for years. Don't know who it belongs to, but I've been told that this is foreign money that created this whatever. I can't even figure out to what architectural style it alludes...maybe 1001 Nights meets The Taj Mahal?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Shouldn't You Have Thought of This Before?

When the temperature is over 40 degrees C it's a good time to do errands in an airconditioned jeep to take you to airconditioned offices and shops. So that's what we were doing and on my way back home we took a route that had been undergoing some improvements. Not the least of the improvements was a significant widening of the road, which was now accomplished but there was a crew of workmen and a small bulldozer blocking the center of the newly-widened road. As we drew up to them, I could see that they were removing the stump of a tree that had once stood beside the road, but was now exactly in the middle of the road...during rush hour traffic when most of the drivers were hot, thirsty, tired and probably not interested in the work crew's safety. The crew didn't appear all that concerned, but the whole chain of events does make you wonder....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Aladdin Meets Dilbert

Buildings are usually just buildings as far as I'm concerned. But sometimes they are either wonderously out of place like the ferocious red building I shot not long ago, or they are fun and whimsical, like this office building in Maadi. There are some truly appalling villas that people who employ blind architects construct out in the countryside. One of these days I'll go out and shoot some of them and do a series. Those things give bad taste a new meaning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Saint's Tree

At the north end of the village of Sakkara stands the tomb of a saint. What this person did or who he/she was seems to be pretty much forgotten now. I haven't found anyone who knew whenever I asked. Next to the tomb is a very old sycamore fig tree. This gnarled giant is probably about 150 years old, and the villagers have hung cans in the tree for pigeons to nest in. During the fruit season, the tree sprouts what appear to be figs on the bark rather than on branches. The fruit is delicious.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Importing the Best?

When we first moved to Egypt in 1988, the only fast food other than the terrific local stuff like tameya (felafel) and foul sandwiches, kofta, kebab, or koshari was Kentucky Fried Chicken or Wimpy hamburgers. Wimpy has quite deservedly gone belly up...their hamburgers always were terrible and couldn't compete with McDonalds or Hardees or the like. KFC is still here, still greasy, and seems to be in good corporate health. Now where was that felafel stand again?

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Staff of Life

Asma' is probably about twelve or so. She lives in a village near me that is on the main road out. Her father sells bread along the roadside and after school or on her holidays, she helps him out. When we started baking our own bread, I stopped needing to buy from them. There are a lot of people who think that kids shouldn't work, but I see a lot of working kids here. The same kids also go to school. I'm sure that for some of them it's a terrible experience, but for many it isn't. Asma' always has a laugh and a smile for everyone.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

They're Back!

One of the sporting activities that young Egyptian men enjoy and in which they do well competitively is apparently bodybuilding. Anyone who has ever met me will know that I do not go in for lifting heavy weights and creating muscles that can quiver and jiggle, but I do have a client who brings me the latest in Egypt's bodybuilders every year. Ulrich is a photographer from New York who contacted me last year to do a photo shoot with some of Egypt's competitors at an international contest, and he contacted me again this year. He likes to take pictures at quiet pyramids and use horses in the photos. I help him out with both. It's certainly good for three days of work and a few laughs.

Monday, June 11, 2007


This is supposed to be one image, and in a way it is. If the image is that of an impending disaster, then these tell the story. I was riding with some neighbours near the entrance to the Sakkara pyramids when we saw a procession of three "peacock" camels coming down the road towards us. I began taking pictures of them because I just happen to think that they are amazing sights, when the last camel in the group seemed to lose track of what it was doing and it walked into a tree at the side of the road. Trying to regroup and get back on track, the camel almost fell into the canal. A fully loaded camel would definitely have some problems getting out of the canal, and we watched in horror as the handler ran back to catch the lead rope. The camel gods were watching out for it, however, and it regained its balance, the handler caught the rope, and they turned around to continue on their way. Enough excitement for one day.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sunflower at Sunset

I had to take some photos of the farm for a guidebook and was walking around at sunset when I saw this sunflower that we had planted alongside the corn between the house and the paddocks. The more slender corn stalks will be feed for the goats, donkeys, and water buffalo, while the corn and sunflower seed is a treat for horses and parrots.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tracks In The Desert

During pharoanic times a lot of the travel in Egypt was carried by the Nile. With prevailing winds from the north and the current from the south, it was possible to sail upstream to the south and then drift with the current downstream to the north. Of course, the riverbed was treacherous as every flood changed the river's path. Mohamed Ali, when he came to power in the 1800's made the decision to modernise the country and built the railroads along the Nile Valley. The railway is still one of the best ways to travel between Cairo and Alexandria, much safer than the highway and faster. This particular stretch of railway is a line that goes between the Fayoum Oasis and Cairo.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Working Man

With all of the equine workers in Egypt, blacksmiths are still an important part of our lives. You will see a man set up in a quiet nook in Nazlit Semman shoeing the poor pyramids horses and the donkeys that pull the carts, or at a village market the farmers will stop by to have their donkeys trimmed. Not all of our smiths are well-trained unfortunately, since the last outside influence over training left with the British in the 50's. My farrier, for example, was trained by a local farrier who had been British trained, but his mentor only trained him when Yassin realised that he was going blind. Since then a number of us have arranged training for Omar with visiting farriers and vets, bought him good tools and so on, and we have an excellent farrier now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bridge Season

I came to Egypt from North America where bridges were mostly a way of going from one place to another. In fact many of our bridges had minimal pedestrian walkways. In Cairo during the summer, bridges are parks. Even bridges that have virtually now pedestrian areas accumulate summer visitors at night along the sides. This is a family fishing during the day on the wooden bridge. They may catch some Nile perch, which will put up a good fight and probably have some accumulated toxins in the system this far down the Nile. If they come from upper Egypt, they are superb fish and grow as large as 150 kg in Lake Nasser. The bridges have the best breezes in summer, so every evening they are crowded with families and during the day there are the diehard fishermen.

Monday, June 4, 2007


I think that in most cities this colour for a downtown building would be illegal...or it certainly should be. I suspect in this case that someone got a great deal on an awful colour.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Wooden Bridge - Part 2

This is another view of the wooden bridge between the corniche of Cairo and the island of Manial (Roda). It's a favourite haunt of lovers and fishermen, as witnessed by the declarations that "Ahmed loves Fatima" on the concrete walls leading up to the bridge. Despite it's lovely lines, I can find no information on who built it or why. There is, however, a similar structure just inside one of the main gates of the Giza Zoo. If it was built at the time of the zoo's construction, that would be about the turn of the last century.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Fantasy in Wood

This bridge from the Cairo corniche along the Nile to the island of Roda, also known as Manial Island is unusual in that it is made of wood. I don't know the history of the bridge other than the fact that it is simply called locally "the wooden bridge", since there aren't any other wooden bridges on the Nile. It provides a crossing to Manial near the Roda Nilometer. This is a stone structure that was built to measure the level of flooding on the Nile during the inundation. These days, the Nilometer is just an interesting artifact since the floods stopped in the 70's with the building of the Aswan High Dam

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