Friday, May 29, 2009

Passing on The Right

Nazlit Semman, the area at the base of the pyramids of Giza, is a cacaphony of voices and a whirl of animals, most of whom shouldn't really be in the midst of automobiles. For first-time visitors, it's flashes of sound, colour and sometimes horror, when the eye catches some of the underfed horses being offered for rides. But when it is a neighbourhood that one occasionally visits for one reason or another, details begin to emerge and some of the whimsy surfaces. This man was taking his camel from the area near the pyramids into some of the residential areas...lunch break? home for the day? Who knows. But he had to make it across three lanes of traffic, cross a bridge and do the same on the other side of the road. Pretty calm camel, I must say.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Call Me A Yellow Cab

Until recently taxis in Egypt have been the province of the entrepreneur. A guy buys a car, paints it in the locally approved colours (black and white in Cairo), gets a license and has a cab. A year or so ago a couple of companies started up with airconditioned taxis that can be called to meet you on appointment. AND the meters actually work!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Roadside Business

A shoeshine boy squats outside the coffee shop in Shubramant cleaning the patrons' shoes while they have a tea or coffee and watch the passing scene. Shoeshining is a job that involves little expense and one finds people doing it all over the city. Clean shoes are important and many people prefer to patronise their favourite shoe man at a favourite coffee shop. It helps keep the money circulating.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Glitter Shoes

One of the things I've always loved about Cairo has been its outrageous taste in shoes. For a relatively reasonable price (compared to London, Paris or New York) you can buy some totally over the top pumps that you might only wear once with that special dress to that special event...and then not feel quite so guilty that you will never wear them again. If the ruby slippers took Dorothy home, I wonder where these would take you....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Out Of The Sun

Travel on a donkey cart isn't the fastest thing in the world. There is plenty of fresh air, time to view the scenery, and usually a lot of sun. When summer comes in Egypt the donkey cart men break out the shamseya's, or umbrellas to the rest of us. The name in Arabic indicates that they are much more commonly used to protect against sun than against rain.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Doing His Own Thing

Having spent a great deal of time traveling with kids in a past life, I find children's reactions to historical and educational sites quite entertaining. I recall being at the Toronto Zoo looking at the otter exhibit when a family with a four year old strolled up. The parents were laughing at the otters' antics but the four year old was utterly fascinated by the ants that had taken up residence in the corner of the enclosure and whose burrows could be seen through the glass. This little boy probably thought that the big pile of rocks that was the Great Pyramid was nice enough, but some sand under a chunk of stone was much more fun.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lawnmowers R Us

Some of my neighbours have a lovely huge green lawn behind their home in the country and decided to let their herd of miniature horses do the grass trimming for them. They have to be the cutest lawnmowers in the entire world.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The View From Here

Friends of mine stopped in Amsterdam on their way to Egypt and visited the wonderful hammock store near the flower market. They brought me a colourful Guatemalan hammock that has been strung under our Omani mulberry tree in the garden outside my bedroom. The tree is now large enough to give shade in the summer and the summer winds blow through that section of the garden to cool any hammock-enjoyer. I tried it out yesterday afternoon and took this shot of sunlight on the green leaves against the blue sky. There are still mulberries in the branches but it was too hard to get up and pick them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making Do With What Is Here

The riding trails in the valley are sprinkled with hand-built huts used by the farmers to shelter their water buffalo, cows, sheep and donkeys during the days while the men work in the fields. They also provide shelter for the farmers from the sun of summer and the chilly winds of winter. These shelters are built of whatever happens to be at hand and in this case it was some old discarded floor tiles and mud. It's all about recycling.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Traveling Department Store

Village women don't have the transport or the time to go into town to buy things so enterprising businessmen bring goods to the village wives. In this case, a tricycle motorcycle base has been fitted with a box on the back to carry cartons and some rails on the sides where quilts and blankets or dresses can be hung for viewing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cultures Colliding

I spent a morning a while back sitting on the Great Pyramid photographing people taking pictures of families and friends on or by the pyramid. About halfway through the morning I noticed a man in a galabeya, jacket and scarf who looked like a visitor from Jordan or Libya...not a local outfit. He sat quietly on a stone in front of the pyramid apparently waiting for someone for some time. Then a Russian family stopped to take a photo of the mother and son in front of the pyramid and this totally captured his attention. To be honest, mine as well since the woman had to be wearing some of the least appropriate clothing for visiting Egypt and more specifically the pyramids that I've ever seen. Short shorts, a backless tshirt and platform high heels....she could barely hobble around. With all the information out there on culture and sensitivity, I wonder if we really need tourists like this.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Aging Gracefully

Years ago a friend of mine was visiting and shook her head in wonder that the shopkeepers in Egypt were dusting the shoes in shop windows but the meat was hung out in the air with only a cloth covering. On the other hand, meat here is very fresh in that it is usually cut from an animal slaughtered within the last couple of hours at the most and is cooked the same day in a way such that it is very well-cooked. And when butchers advertise "aged meat" it means that the meat was left hanging somewhere for a period of time before selling. I was sitting at a corner in a village and noticed a motorcycle parked against a wall. On closer inspection, I realised that the owner of the motorcycle had a large piece of beef strapped to the carrier in back.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Sheltering Place

Egypt can be problematic for many animal lovers. We still have a working horse and donkey population who don't exactly have a great life in many cases. Most people don't realise that the children's classic Black Beauty was originally written as a plea for more humane treatment of horses in 19th century England and many of the situations fit here. We have a lot of stray dogs and cats who are important in our environment to help with keeping vermin down, and many people want to "rescue" these animals from short, difficult lives. The problem is that there often isn't a decent place for the animals to live and not much prospect of adoption. Near my home one cat rescue, Animal Haven, has a beautiful shelter for cats and a few dogs that they couldn't avoid. The cats have sunny courtyards, sleeping places, fresh food and the cleanliness that cats love. This is a fabulous place to adopt a cat from because they are socialised and enjoy company. I will be doing a blog post on this place on Living In Egypt. Good things should be encouraged.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mothers and Daughters

I love the interactions between mothers and their children. I miss my own who are now adults leading interesting lives abroad.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Life

I took my camera out when I went to play with the horses and check that they had their flymasks on. Flymasks make wonderful toys in the sand paddock. My big Thoroughbred/Arab mare Stella came up to me to nuzzle my neck and ear while I was trying to get a shot of the mules playing across the paddock and I took this silhouette of us. I wouldn't trade my life with anyone.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Home Delivery

Sometimes you can't afford or find a delivery truck for something. This man decided to take his refrigerator home on his bicycle.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Row Boat

Resting in the middle of the canal, it must be moored to something but what isn't apparent, nor is it clear how the owner might get out to it. It's made of rough wood and the "paddles" are usually just two pieces of timber. It might be used for fishing, crossing the canal, or for cleaning blockages of plants from the canals.

Friday, May 1, 2009

That Time Of Year Again

It's May and the wheat is being harvested and threshed in the fields by the tiny portable threshing machines, nothing at all like the huge combine harvesters of North America. If you have the misfortune to work on the harvest, or even to have to walk or ride through the cloud of dust downwind from the machine, it isn't wonderful. Your skin, hair, eyes, teeth, clothing...everything is full of dust and finely chopped wheat stalk. From a distance at the right angle, however, it is magical.

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