Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Please Call Home

Telephones and a table provide a business opportunity for one clever shopowner. This is a small shop set up near Khan el Khalili where phones are used by passersby to call friends and family.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Time For Your Summer Hat

Today is Sham el Nessim, a pharoanic festival that signals the beginning of summer, the name translates to "Smelling The Breeze", and it is a day on which everyone heads for the nearest green space for a picnic of fish, eggs, onions, and lettuce. Since my farm has quite a bit of green space and quite a few people head this way, I don't venture too far. The photo is one of my young geldings who was trying on a visitor's sun hat. Wadi has always been a bit of a clown.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Pigeon Tower

This rather medieval looking structure is a tower for the raising of pigeons. Pots and pipes are cemented together in horizontal layers with some of them opening to the outside of the tower and others to the inside. Inside the tower there is either a ladder or a stairway by means of which the owner can climb up to claim the squabs (young feathered pigeons who are not yet flying) to confine them and fatten them up for eating. Pigeon is eaten stuffed with either rice or whole wheat or it is grilled or made into casseroles. They are a dark meat bird and very tasty. Most pigeons that have any colour plumage other than the feral dark greyish blue (the wild rock dove) are owned by someone in Egypt because they are so easy to raise.

One of the most famous incidents of Egyptian/British conflict (the Dinshaway Incident) came about as a result of a group of British soldiers going out pigeon shooting near the village of Dinshaway in 1906 not realising that the pigeons they were shooting belonged to the villagers. When the villagers protested, the soldiers not understanding Arabic, thought that they were being attacked and began shooting at villagers and running away in the extreme heat. Although the villagers actually tried to assist the officers suffering from heat stroke, one officer died and the villagers were rather brutally punished for defending their pigeons, leading to a great deal of anger.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just Waiting

Having furniture reupholstered in Egypt is fairly inexpensive compared to outside. Wood generally has to be imported, but we manufacture a lot of fabrics and for the most part the labour costs are lower than in Europe or North America. Buying furniture usually means the higher cost for the wood and such is included and sometimes it can take a while to find the particular look that you want. In Old Cairo a lot of furniture is made to order and this set was just sitting in an alleyway waiting to be collected for delivery.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Hand

Life is tough for a Cairo cabby. He's driving his totally not airconditioned car through busy crowded streets, dealing with crabby, stressed out passengers. But without them, most Cairenes would be lost.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One Reason I Love Egypt

This is a picture of a blue sky behind thirty foot tall date palms and rubber trees. Nothing terribly exciting, but I remember being a grad student in Canada caring gently for a variety of indoor plants, including some palms and small rubber trees, to give me some green through the cold white winter. I never imagined that they could grow so big in a friendlier climate.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Feed Man's Boy

I spent an afternoon at my feed supplier a week ago working out the best horse feed for a reasonable cost. Food prices aren't just going up for people, you know. While there, I was trying out my new little camera and taking pictures of the feed storage area for the benefit of some of my horse-owning friends in the US. The owner's son watched for a while and when I asked if he wanted me to take his picture he nodded. The lovely thing about digital photography is the fact that the kids can see it immediately on the screen of the camera.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

And When I grow up....

This is one of the older stallions at Albadeia, I believe Mansour. He has a huge box stall with windows that look out over the courtyard inside and also the garden outside. Not a bad life at all. He found our little Hilal quite fascinating and vice versa. The Alabadeia horses have been sold to stud farms all over the world, including to the farm belonging to one of the Rolling Stones. Our horses of Egypt are lovely.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Colt's Keeper

I spent my morning today at one of the world's finest Egyptian Arabian stud farms, and although I count the owner of Albadeia Stud, Nasr Marei, as one of my friends, it wasn't a friendly visit. Nasr has built a surgery room at his stud and I had a month old colt who had somehow or other managed to break his femur near the stifle joint. Hilal needed a screw in the bone to stabilise the joint and a visiting orthopedic vet was on hand to do the surgery. The alternative to the surgery wasn't at all a pretty thought. The surgery went well and Hilal is back home with his mother and a shiny new titanium screw in his leg. My groom Farag and another groom came with me to keep the youngster calm and quiet before his surgery so that he wouldn't injure himself further.

One of the things about Albadeia Stud is the fact that it and its horses are marvelously photogenic, so there will be more shots from the farm later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And Then There Was Wood too.

The men with the sheet of wood were going in the opposite direction as the men with the ladders, so they don't seem to be related even if they are in the same area of the desert. The ladder carriers are a tiny dot on the horizon just above and to the right of the wood carriers. To give you an idea, they are about a kilometre walk from the nearest road. Not much fun in sand.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sometimes It's Hard To Say

I was out riding in the desert with some friends and behind the pyramids of Abu Sir we encountered two young men carrying ladders and walking towards the pyramids from the direction of the desert. We didn't get a chance to ask them what they were going to be doing with the ladders, and I presume that they were being brought to some of the archaeologists working in the area. But the possibilities are endless.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Loofah Man

A crowded souq area in Old Cairo contains all sorts of treasures. This young gentleman with the cart is selling loofah. These will be used for scrubbing everything from bodies to dishes, as they are the biodegradable version of steel wool. The loofah are the insides of a vegetable that look much like zucchini but are borne on a climbing vine that has lovely yellow flowers on it earlier in the season. The flowers become gourd-like fruit that are allowed to dry to give the fibrous interior framework that is the loofah.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And The Wheels Go 'Round

When I was sixteen a friend of the family took me to Mexico for the summer to help care for their two young kids. As an ersatz nanny, the kids and I wandered around Guadalajara and I discovered photography. One of the sights that always fascinated me, oddly enough because I'm not interested in cars at all, was the dispay of shiny chrome hubcaps hung on a wall. When I came to Egypt the first time, the connections to Mexico were enormously strong for me, visually and socially with the same warm, family oriented society. And they like hubcaps here too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Egyptian Fast Food...take two

The most common warning to visitors from abroad is "Don't eat from the street carts" and it is a valid warning. But it can take major discipline to walk past women frying patties of fava beans or seasoning the paste for sandwiches. This tasty treat is mumbar, a rice-stuffed sausage that is usually a bit on the spicy side, but oh, so good.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Egyptian Fast Food..take one

This is koshari, a mixture of pasta, brown lentils, chick peas, rice, fried onions, a tomato sauce, a vinegar/cumin/garlic sauce, and an optional really hot chili sauce. This particular koshari was being consumed at El Maalim Koshari (The Koshari Boss) right next to the Sultan Hassan mosque and the Rifai mosque in old Cairo. Cost for lunch was about $4.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sawarny...Take my picture!

While I was in old Cairo running errands, these two little girls came up to me and asked me to take their picture. When I took it, I showed it to them and they were delighted. Digital cameras can be incredibly cool.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Good Day To Stay Home

Well, there was a general strike called, but the morning itself was enough to keep me indoors. It's a pretty close call whether politics or concern for one's lungs caused a lot of empty streets today. I've heard that the traffic was wonderful for a change.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Still Working

There's talk of a general strike and demonstrations tomorrow. Could be interesting downtown, but I doubt that I will see much out here in the hinterlands. Farmers have no one to strike against. These two, the donkey and the water buffalo will be working as usual, two of the true supporters of the people, with their hauling and supplying of milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Definitely A Kodak Moment

A pair of tourists on camels pause briefly in front of ... what else? A Kodak shop. Egypt had the second Kodak store in the world, and the Kodak building is a downtown Cairo landmark. What would you expect from one of the most photogenic countries in the world? George Eastman fell in love with Egypt's light very early on and the photographers who have followed have been most thankful.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Egret Apartment Building

It's nesting season for the cattle egrets and they are building their nests in the casuarina and eucalyptus trees that line the canals in the country...and in the trees along the perimeter of the Giza Zoo, much to the dismay of those who must park cars under them. The "I'm coming home with dinner, honey." calls and the squabbles of neighbours make for good entertainment for bird watchers. Soon there will be spikey white balls of fluff in the nests demanding attention too.

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