Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Lost Island

A few years ago people driving into Maadi noticed a flurry of activity of activity opposite the Maadi Military Hospital. Dredgers were hauling river silt up to the banks of an island offshore, rocks were being piled up along the island's banks, palm trees and sod were being planted. People tried to find out who had authorised the construction, but to no avail. No one at all would own up to ordering the changing of a natural island in the Nile to an artificial island in the Nile. Even UNESCO got involved since the changes to a major river like the Nile affect everyone along the river. Work stopped abruptly but possibly only in the hopes that the commotion would die down, because there are now further signs of life on the mysterious island. Whose life? Who knows.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Doing It The Hard Way

The threshing machines are working overtime on the wheat with the last face of the berseem crop and a seed face of the love grass yet to come. The farmers will chop the stalks of the feed crops and harvest the seeds for planting next year. This old guy had laid out some of his wheat on a bag and was beating it to release the kernels, threshing by hand. That's hard work on a hot spring day.

I will be away from home for two weeks visiting my children in the US, so there will be a bit of a break in the photos...unless I post from old ones that I find on file, but time is short on a visit like this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Apprentice

It's very common for children to help out parents in their shops here when they aren't in school, especially so in the villages and cities where perhaps both parents are working and childcare isn't that easy. Out among the farmers, kids will help in the fields or with the animals, or they will be out playing along the canals or around the home. I don't happen to think that a bit of child labour is such a bad thing having been raised in the old days when we were expected to have our jobs around the house and to get a summer job once we were old enough. This young man was helping out by putting items in bags for his father.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Who? Me?

The epilogue of the boating adventures was, as is so often the case, a situation of avoiding maternal wrath. As a sound indicating the arrival of mother wafted on the breeze, our young sailor scampered ashore and pretended to know absolutely nothing of how his mother's dish ended up in the canal.. Of course!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rub A Dub Dub

I was out riding with friends and as I came around a corner I saw this young boy who had taken one of his mother's aluminum washing dishes and was sailing on the canal in it. Even as my own well-trained mother's heart was stopping in fear that he might tip over into the fairly deep water, I was reaching for my camera and snapping off a series of photos. It's every child's dream, of course!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Local Visions

Embroideries from Upper Egypt are marvelous pictures of village life recorded with a needle and thread. The sewing is quite good and the colours are brilliant, but the scenes themselves are priceless. They are often made into pillowcases or wall hangings. The dolls are made by an artist called Nevine and each one is an individual with clothing that sometimes shows that the doll is from a particular group or location.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Old Symbols For New Beauty

Egypt means antiquities, pyramids, camels and sand to many people. But it is a very modern nation and Cairo has some amazing artists here. Azza Fahmy designs jewelry, while her sister Randa designs some exquisite brass work. I have two of Randa's lamps in my home. You can see more of Azza Fahmy's work online at her website.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Corner Store

When I came to Egypt in the late 80's most "supermarkets" were about this size. Now we have huge hypermarkets that stock everything under the sun and quite reminiscent of Europe or North America. It's nice to have a lot of choice, but there is something also soothing about going down to the shop on the corner for a packet of sugar and chatting with the owner about the local gossip.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Selling The Desert

When I first moved to Cairo about fifteen years ago, I moved my two mares to a stable next to the desert near the pyramids of Abu Sir, about a kilometre from where I live now. I was delighted to be able to ride in the desert straight from the stable, and on late spring/summer days it was especially nice to ride up the hill from the club to the plateau that rose behind it. It might be hot closer to the valley, but if there was any breeze at all, it would be on the plateau. I rode up there today with a friend and most of the plateau is gone, missing, defunct. Fifteen years ago, the ridge that can be seen behind the rider's head was not a was the top of the plateau. Where there now is a vast canyon a few hundred feet deep, there was a flat sandy riding area that eventually led to the Giza dump. With the removal of such huge portion of the plateau and the immense increase in the size of the dump, there isn't much left for riding or anything else.

The sand was sold to people with bulldozers and dump trucks who carted it away to be used in building. Who sold it? It would appear that people who mined it paid people in the military, the Giza governorate, and the antiquities department for the right to take it away. Who owned it? Who knows. Who misses it? Everyone in the area who loves the desert.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little Boxes

I had to go to the Agricultural College at the University of Giza to get some feed analyses done. This was the first time I'd ventured into this part of the university, and in the process of finding the right office for the analyses I got to see rather a lot of the campus. This interesting field of rectangular tents was just outside the center for research into the diseases of onions and garlic. The flowers inside the tent look a lot like onions to me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Morning Work

We pass a donkey cart loaded with berseem, the clover that is used to feed the animals here all winter. The children have been out cutting it for the family this morning, a morning on which there is no school. Just beyond, women wait next to a water purification plant that one of the neighbouring farms installed. They run the plant for the benefit of their people and animals and also have installed taps on an outside wall so that the women of the area can come to get pure drinking water.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Break Time

I was out riding with some friends and this young girl resting on a pile of cut berseem in her bright orange tshirt really stood out. The berseem is a clover that we feed to the animals in the winter. It is cultivated by hand (like everything else here) and cut daily for the horses, cows, buffalo, camels and donkeys. By May it is getting too hot for it and the berseem goes into flower so that the farmers can collect the seed for the coming fall. The last face is dried and used for hay.

Friday, May 9, 2008

From Hands Far Away

The oasis of Siwa is not close to Giza or Cairo. In fact, it's a good (or bad..depending on the weather and luck) nine hour drive from the Big Mango. It's an oasis in the Qattara depression near Libya where the inhabitants are mostly Berber, speak their own language and have their particular crafts. They find a good market for the embroidery of the women in the craft shops of Cairo, however. Siwan embroidery is bold and unusual, using oranges, reds, and shell buttons in it. This shirt, from a shop in Maadi, is a good example.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Into Infinity

Boxes and tables made of inlaid mother of pearl are a traditional craft here. I remember my mother having one that had been brought back to the UK by an uncle stationed in Egypt before WWI. When I was preparing for the birth of my children, my birthing coach suggested having something to focus on while doing the breathing exercises, and I used an inlaid plate that we'd brought back from Egypt. If you look at the shining pattern long enough, you just sort of vanish.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

And This Is....?

This marvelous object/piece of sculpture/whatever was just sitting there on the lawn of a local horse farm. A gold star to whoever can tell everyone what it is.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lost: One Garden Fence

As I was sitting with a couple of friends this morning the wind began to blow from the west. Soon it was strong enough that we decided that the umbrella should come down, and I retreated to the house. An hour or so later, the sky outside the window turned a dark brown and the wind absolutely howled around the garden. One of our wonderful spring sandstorms hit us with a vengeance. The garden fence, which is barely visible in the photo was only about 15 metres away.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Desert Dog

Egypt's deserts were home to jackals, hyenas, wolves, and feral dogs until fairly recently. Now, there are only a very few Egyptian wolves...a couple of my riding friends have seen one or two in the desert...and the feral dogs. The dogs don't bother anyone and once in a while kids will kidnap some pups and bring them home. I have one right now. She's smart, tough, and slightly different from my other dogs in that she's much more vocal.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wheat Field Under Palms

You don't think of date palms and wheat fields in the same space but they exist here. Wheat is planted in the winter to be harvested at the end of April...about now. With so little land available for cultivation to have simply a grove of date palms would be wasteful. Once the wheat is harvested, another crop will be planted, possibly the corn of summer.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Where's the Party?

I was riding through a village under the palms near the pyramids of Sakkara when we suddenly saw this trio of very fancy dresses hanging outside a tiny village shop. Most of the village brides rent their wedding gowns, which, as you can see, can be rather elaborate and rather more revealing than what people might imagine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Twisted Tree

The lake at Dahshur is one of my favourite places to photograph all year round. Now, as summer approaches, the lake is drying up to a few ponds and the animals are grazing on the grass that grows from the moisture still present in the lakebed. We rode across the lakebed on horseback listening to the songs of larks, bulbul and the European rollers who were scooping through the air above us.

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