Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traveling At Ease

Traveling on the roads in summer here is hot business. If you have a car with airconditioning, it can be a welcome break from the heat, but pity the passenger in a less luxurious transport. As a mini-bus full of wilting passengers passes a donkey cart, it's hard not to reflect that maybe a donkey cart on a day like this has an advantage. There is a good breeze and the chance to stretch out for a nap.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Cowherd

I finally was able to ask one family where they came from and how they got the cows to our area. I'd been told that they came from as far away as Damietta on the Mediterranean coast. The man I spoke to told me that they truck their cows in from Bilbeis on the road to Ismailia to graze on the corn fields after the harvest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Chip Truck

After sitting in traffic in a jammed intersection for an hour in the summer sun, these potatoes in the truck in front of us began taking on a personality of their own. Potatoes are not a crop normally associated with Egypt, but we export plenty of them as well as consuming a considerable portion ourselves.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Fine Line

For Egyptians who don't shop in the big supermarkets, purchasing food is a much more immediate experience. Fruit and vegetables are bought at the stand and meat is bought at the butcher. The butcher does the entire job of selling meat, from beginning to end. This camel is likely destined for dinner tables and possibly only a few hours from now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time Machine On The Highway

The road between Cairo and Alexandria through the desert has changed a lot over the years. At one time it really was a desert road and you drove through miles of sand, but now irrigation has turned the desert to green. When the road was built a rest house was established at roughly the halfway point. You could get gas, have a bite to eat, a cup of tea and buy odds and ends. Later a more modern rest house appeared across the road on the side of travel to Alexandria, leaving the old rest house on the Alex to Cairo side of the road. Now most travelers will make a U-turn to go to the new shops, but there is a weary loveliness to the almost empty restaurant in the old place.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You've Got A Date

Anyone who has traveled in the Middle East in late summer or early fall will recognise the large plump crisp looking fruit on the plate as dates, though most people will only recognise the brown soft looking fruit as dates. The red dates are fresh from the palm in my backyard, a variety known locally as Zaghloul. They are sweet with a faint aftertaste reminiscent of a slightly unripe banana, that rather dry taste. They contain the treasure trove of vitamins and minerals that dried and fermented dates contain, but much less calories because the fiber in them has not fermented to sugars. The brown dates are only a day or so older than the red ones but in our summer heat they ferment quickly to the form with which most consumers are more aware.

Coming Attraction

As inauspicious as a pile of sand in Giza can seem, this pile is being hauled away by the truckload to make room for the new Grand Egyptian Museum. The replacement for the old Egyptian museum will be near the Giza plateau and will be large enough to house the thousands of artifacts that are stored in the old Egyptian Museum. Happily, there are plans to use the old structure as another sort of museum after the move, since the original building is the first purpose-built museum in the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Cattle Women

Every year at the end of summer a group of people bring their cattle into our area. They walk them from areas in the Delta where the cotton fields are being sprayed and they camp out in open tents with their herds, grazing them on the stubble of the corn fields throughout August. The women wear very distinctive clothing, nothing like that worn locally. I've been hoping to get a chance to talk to them and find out where they come from, but for now I'm really happy with a photo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Drivers here put the oddest stickers on their cars sometimes. This car wouldn't be that hard to catch at all with such a load on top.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As If Driving Isn't Entertaining Enough...

I don't go to Alexandria often but yesterday I had a meeting there and as I came up to the tollgates for the Alex/Cairo Desert Road I was rather astonished to see a huge television or advertising screen perched above the toll booths. Egyptians seem to have leapt in to major advertising compaigns wholeheartedly and the entire Desert Road is littered with billboards large and small. I guess that this is just warning of what lies ahead.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unfinished Business

From across a field it looks almost like a work of modern sculpture. Someone has been building a house here for a number of years, in a truly Egyptian fashion. There is no provision for taking out a loan to build a house and mortgages are only just beginning to be used here, so someone who wants to construct a home must gather the money, pay the builder and hope that there is enough. If you run out of money, you stop building and wait until there is money again. This seems to be the case here, since I've been watching this same building standing in the field for a number of years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bridge Season

When summer comes, Cairenes head for whatever cool air can be found in the evening, and the best place to be is near the water. The banks of the Nile are fairly built up, but their are walkways along the water in most areas. One of the favourite places for getting a breath of fresh air is the nearest bridge, however and summer nights see picnicking families, fishermen, and young lovers hanging over the railings watching the Nile flow by on the way to the Mediterranean. This photo was taken at 2 am. Enterprising businessmen rent chairs and tables, sell food and drinks all night long.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pharaoh's Birds

The hoopoe (hudhud in Arabic) looks like a ground dwelling woodpecker, a bit reminiscent of the roadrunner of the southwest United States. Their images are prominent in wall paintings in the old Egyptian tombs. It doesn't fly far and spends most of the time on the ground probing the soil for insects. Their plumage is a chestnut red, black and white, quite striking. This young one was found by a neighbour's dog, probably having fallen from a nest in a hole in a wall or tree. It's living in the aviary these days and being handfed on raw chicken breast. I sort of doubt that it will be able to be released because it's pretty well accustomed to getting food from humans but I have three large flight cages where chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, doves, pigeons and some parrots live in relative harmony. And it does seem to like the chicken breast....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What The Mummy Wore

This is a real mummy wrapping that I found in the desert. Unlike the cartoon and movie mummy wrapping, it is not a long strip of gauze that goes round and around the body, but it is a relatively short piece of linen, tough linen at that too. This piece was around a foot that was dumped in a pile of debris. Not needing any extra feet around the farm, I left it where it was and just took a sample of the fabric.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Imaginary Giza

When people imagine visiting Giza this is what they imagine...desert, pyramids, and maybe a nice Arabian horse. The horse is real, one of mine, and the view is real but you rarely approach the Giza pyramids from the south because there are no roads there and the army is less than friendly to cars in the desert in the area.

Instead, visitors approach the Giza plateau through city traffic, filled with buses, trucks, horse carriages and cars along streets lined with shops and apartment buildings. Not the stuff of imagination at all. But then, what really is any more?

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