Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cruisin' Through Traffic

Cairo is probably one of the few major cities in the world where horse traffic can be found in the downtown core. This was taken on the Corniche in Cairo near the Conrad Hotel, one of our many horse carts moving bags of something heavy among taxis, buses and cars. Most of these horses are Arab crosses, sometimes with a little draft or thoroughbred to increase the size. And horse people think that Arabs are spooky? Not here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Time To Dye

Driving into the Wissa Wassef center the other day I found lovely red wool hanging off the palm trees. It must be the season to be spinning and dyeing the wools for their tapestries. They do their own dyeing from herbs and plants grown on the property.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eat Your Heart Out, Yas!

This is my tea mug. It's big. It contains enough tea to jumpstart my brain in the morning. The even larger object sitting on my chair next to my tea mug is a 2 kg mango. I ate it for breakfast. It was delicious.

One of the varieties of mango grown in Egypt is known familiarly as beid el tor, or in English bull's balls, for fairly obvious reasons. These enormous mangoes ripen more slowly than many other types and are usually used to make mango juice. When someone brought me one the other day, however, it was popped into the fridge until the following morning, when it was devoured with much rejoicing. Poor Yas, living in frosty New York where there are no good mangoes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Colours of Tools

The other day while taking a scenic route out of downtown Cairo we passed through Septeya, a district that is basically the giant Home Depot of Cairo. This wonderful area specialises in tools and construction materials. As a life long hardware store addict, I'd rather go to Septeya than City Stars. The brilliant yellow of the storefront and the glitter of metal and colour hanging out to view caught my eye.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Empty Eyes

In a crowded city in a crowded country it is always a mystery why there are so many empty apartments staring down on busy streets. Some are built by parents for children who decide to live elsewhere, others, well who knows the story.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Canal Cleaner

We have large machines that move around the canals cleaning the water hyacinth and other interesting objects out of the canals, but sometimes they need a tidying between mechanised visits. As I was out riding the other day I noticed a man in a row boat steadying the boat near the shore of the canal while a boy scooped handfuls of hyacinth out of the water, tossing it onto the shoreline.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jazz Old And New

We just recently finished a jazz festival in Cairo, ten days of free jazz in some of the most interesting venues in the city. I saw the first night at Manial Palace, but getting up at 6 am on a farm isn't conducive to late nights listening to music however fun. This was a Spanish/Cuban group playing with some Nubian percussionists on the first night. The mix was wonderful and rich. But then that is the whole idea, to have music bring people together.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Instant Tooth Decay

For me, cotton candy was an unusual treat of sorts, something only available at a carnival. In less wealthy sections of Cairo or Giza boys can be seen carrying tall sticks with plastic bags of cotton candy stapled to them. Just what the dentist ordered.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Sign Of The Times

This simple shot is for people who know Cairo and more specifically Maadi. Lucille's is an American hangout, a transplanted diner where you can get great cheeseburgers, apple pie and cheesecake. It's a tiny place and the "smoking" vs "nonsmoking" designation was always a bit of a laugh, but now things are changing in Egypt and it will all be nonsmoking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Traffic Jam

I went riding with a friend to the pyramids of Giza the other day when on our way into the Nazlit Semman area we found ourselves in a narrow alleyway with a heavily laden donkey in front of us and facing the donkey a wide truck taking up most of the alley way in front of the donkey. An Egyptian standoff that the equids eventually won when the truck backed up to a wider spot.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Night Walk

The Manial Palace has an amazing garden, at least as seen by night. The walk to the area where the jazz concert was being held was surrounded by enourmous banyan trees with air roots that formed tunnels and weird shapes. Wonderful.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just A Cottage

I went to a jazz concert at Manial Palace the other night, the opening night of a European/Egyptian jazz festival. There was a reception before the concert in a palace that had belonged to Prince Mohamed Ali, a fascinating space covered in gold and marble with a bedroom containing a solid silver bed. Just a weekend place I guess.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learning From A Master

One of the biggest problems facing Egypt is the rather sad state of its educational system. Most children do start school and many get to a point of basic literacy, but much fewer actually survive the entire process. This fourteen year old boy attended school where he learned the basics of literacy and basic math but then he decided to leave and learn a trade. He's fortunate that his father is a master brick layer, an artist with bricks, who specialises in constructing unusual shapes. I can vouch for his skill and artistry, as I've used him on my farm. Here he is instructing his son in the method of constructing a dome out of bricks. At only fourteen, the boy's work is beautiful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yep, It Probably Is

Sometimes you see something and just have to look and wonder. I was at a neighbour's farm and some workmen arrived in a pickup truck which they parked in the driveway. As I was leaving I glanced at the windscreen and did a major double take. Dongrous? Probably.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Riverside Afternoon

A pair of young friends or lovers converse while a man sits waiting for something and an old man sells snacks near the stairs that go down to a felucca landing. A warm sunny autumn afternoon in Cairo.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cairo Tower At Night

There is a story about the Cairo Tower on Gezirah Island (another one of those repetitiously named places like the Sahara Desert since Gezirah means "island"). The story is that the Americans paid Gamal Abdel Nasser a chunk of money to influence him in some way and he used it to build the tower as an expression of independence from American influence. Like many stories in Egypt, it could just be a story. The outside of the tower is a concrete filigree and an elevator takes visitors to the top from which vantage point there is an extraordinary view of the city spread below. Recently the shaft of the tower was surrounded in scaffolding for some time and I was fairly curious why. I had to go into the city the other night and as we drove by the tower I saw that it had been "improved" with lights that gradually change colour around the shaft of the tower. It is fairly dramatic.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Simple Restaurant

Egypt doesn't really have zoning laws or functioning building inspectors. Sometimes this leads to problems, like when a building collapses, but thankfully that doesn't happen all that often. What we do find is some extremely interesting and creative decoration schemes...but probably no worse than a giant moose or something. This restaurant is found in Khan el Khalili. I've never tried the food but I like the brass, wood and tile.

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