Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Dancing Saddle

This is not your everyday saddle, definitely. This is an Egyptian dancing horse saddle and they aren't that comfortable for riding, in my opinion. The dancing horses are a tradition similar to high level dressage in that the movements find their origins in warfare and have now been refined to be performed to music.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Changing One's Stripes

This is an architectural fashion that one doesn't find much outside the Arab world, striped buildings. I believe that it dates back to Mameluke days although this building was more likely constructed in the early 1900's.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Getting Rid Of Rain

Now that we are going into summer, this photo brings back a pleasant memory of a winter rain storm. These men were sweeping the rain out of the street in front of the Egyptian Museum

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Shopkeeper's Stillness

Pedestrians blur past the owner of this metal work shop as he waits for an assistant to take an item down from a distant spot with a long pole.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Heavy Metal

Cart horses are still important in Cairo and some of them are cared for with the utmost of concern. This stallion who was standing alongside a busy street finishing his lunch has a particularly nicely turned out harness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sidewalk Shopping

Unlike Toronto or LA, where car parts are usually sold in a Canadian Tire store or some strip mall, Cairo has an area for car parts. This area is downtown where parking is almost impossible and rents for stores are astronomical, so some enterprising individuals buy vans and set up shop on a convenient sidewalk. Lower overhead means lower prices, but things don't have much of a guarantee.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Carrying, The Guys' Way

No one can say that Cairene's aren't brave. You wouldn't catch me riding a bicycle anywhere in urban Cairo, much less doing it with an enormous tray of bread on my head.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008, Round One

Happy Easter, everyone...or at least Happy western Easter. We celebrate both the European Easter and the Eastern Orthodox/Coptic Easter, which will come in about a month. So today was the first Easter of the year. I spent it at an early Easter brunch with my Lebanese/Finnish/Egyptian/Canadian adopted/extended family in Maadi. We had a lovely lunch and then an air-conditioned (it was over 100F/38C today) Easter Egg hunt after which the adults had a great time assembling Kinder toys from inside the chocolate eggs. After that I headed back to the countryside to join another Easter lunch/dinner in a garden at a neighbouring farm with an outdoor Easter Egg hunt that had children working in teams to solve puzzles that would lead to the location of a buried treasure. The adult team leaders, including myself, had to be able to explain the directions of the game in English, Arabic, and Danish...though other languages were helpful and we resorted to a mom to help out with the Danish.

I don't think that I will be hungry for a while.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Natural Model

I love the faces of people everywhere but Egyptians are very open and they are right your face. This old man came up to me on his camel near the pyramids and demanded to have his photo taken. He was a bit disappointed that I would have to download to a computer to have a large view, but thought that the small picture he could see on the camera's display was pretty good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Cash Man

I'm often surprised by tourists who tell me that they've been warned about their safety in Egypt. I bet that this guy, the man who collects the cash at the gas station in Maadi, would last about ten minutes in Detroit or Chicago. No one pays for gas with credit cards here. It's all cash and it's all in his hand.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Squash of Pedestrians

I know that there are herds of horses, packs of dogs, and flocks of birds. A lot of Cairo pedestrians will wait until a group gathers to venture into rush hour traffic figuring that there is less likelihood that a driver will want to hit all of them than there is that one will get nailed. So this must be a squash of pedestrians.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Heavy Load

Somehow the idea that there is an appropriate load for a car or truck seems to have eluded the driving public in Egypt. Creative overloading is rampant and sometimes the end result is disastrous...but oddly enough many times disaster is avoided.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One Of My Favourite Donkeys

I love this donkey. It is bronze and it stands in the garden at Wissa Wassef Art Museum. It is a piece of Adam Henein's work and his atalier is just down the road. Adam is an extraordinary sculptor whose work has been shown both in Egypt and abroad. If I ever have the money, one of Adam's animals will surely find a home in my garden

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not Buried But Not Moving Either

I took some friends out to the desert to see the sights and we found a delightful 10 cm x 3 mm piece of steel that had been anchored in a block of cement, probably as a surveying tool for some of the antiquities people. No, we didn't take it away...never fear, but we did find that rebar can shred a tire nicely. A quick call to a neighbour with a jeep to arrange that the rescue was on hand to help change the tire in the sand and we were on our way after an hour to enjoy the sunshine and rock collecting. This is what neighbours are for out here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Salesmen

Guys selling objects of dubious provenance that are supposed to be souvenirs of Egypt are a mainstay of the Giza plateau and a few other tourist sites in the city. These gentlemen have brought their store of dust-catchers to the plateau in bags that they also hope to sell. Many of these little statues look pretty slick, but they are cast resin made in China. What can you do?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Birthday Present

By the time you hit my age, wondering what you are going to get for a birthday present isn't really one of your major preoccupations. Yesterday was my birthday and to my delight when I woke in the morning one of my grooms was at the front door to tell me that my mare Stella had given birth to a foal earlier in the morning. Her son, Hilal, whose name means "new moon" peers out from the safety of his mother's legs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Holding Down The Fort

Guarding blocks of stone that are thousands of years old must be a daunting task. The enormity of their age would give the guardian pause to wonder at his job most definitely. In fact, the police are more there to see that visitors don't harm themselves than to protect the pyramids, which are, after all, almost synonymous with eternity.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Can Fly!

What is it about the pyramids that inspires such lunacy in people? I really don't know but I like it. I recall visiting Stonehenge eons ago before it was all put behind walls and explanations, when it was just a bunch of rocks in a field, and my brother posing for a photo on the edge of one of the horizontal stones in a traditional surfer's stance, hanging five. What will we do for dreams when everything has been made safe?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Looking for Blue Skies

Cairo is at the very least the second most polluted city in the world. One of the problems with pollution is the fact that from the ground you can't see the blue sky to remember what it looks like and to remind yourself of the quality (or lack thereof) of the air that you are breathing. Get out into the desert on a windy day when the pollution has been blown to the other side of the valley and the world has a way of reminding you what you are missing.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cleaning Up After Work?

I ride in the desert a lot and I try to respect the rules of the Antiquities Council. We avoid areas where the archaeologists are working, we don't mess about with the antiquities and we never, never leave trash behind if we are riding. Lunch trash goes out with the horses. I just wish the Antiquities Council had the same respect for the desert that we do. These are piles of debris from excavations as well as piles of simple garbage that people at the Sakkara pyramids area have seen fit to dump in the desert. Maybe they figure that since it isn't by the road inside the tourist area it doesn't count? I think that it does.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Date Season

One of the best parts of having a lot of visitors is taking them to places that you love. The Wissa Wassef Art Centre is one of those places and my last set of visitors insisted on a second visit because they felt that taking something handmade home really meant more than many of the mass produced souvenirs that they'd seen. This small wallhanging of the date season will be decorating a wall in northern California near Auburn soon, and the owners of the wall will have their own small piece of Egypt close at hand.

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