Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One Of The Many Uses Of The Palm

Date palms are useful in virtually any form. We eat the fruit in early autumn for the fresh crisp dates, but dried or fermented they are available all year round. The fiber of the frond can be used to make mats and baskets while the wooden rib can be split and formed to make furniture like this garden sofa. They don't last forever but they are comfortable and inexpensive. Just ask Geo.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rearview Mirror

The randomness of travel in the countryside...but it's always nice to know where you've been.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Traveling Hardware Store.

What can you say? Egyptians are simply some of the most ingenious drivers on this planet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Helping Hand

I went out with one of the Donkey Sanctuary crews to a session in Sakkara village the other day. As we were driving along, the driver suddenly stopped the truck by the side of the road and called out to a boy on a donkey. The donkey was limping. Everyone piled out of the truck and the farrier (a vet, a farrier, and a harnessmaker travel on every trip) took out his tools. He looked at the donkey's feet and began trimming the sole of one, revealing a developing abscess in the sole. An abscess is the result of a bruise from a stone that creates a pocket of pus and quite a bit of pain for the donkey. Once the farrier had trimmed down to the abscess, the farrier pulled out a pot of sugar and betadine that had been stirred into a sticky paste. He slopped a tablespoon of it onto a pad of cotton and then put a patch of duct tape over the cotton. The duct tape keeps the cotton dry while the betadine and sugar mixture draw the infection out and sterilise the wound. With the cotton pad, the donkey is comfortable enough to walk.

The Donkey Sanctuary in Egypt works under the umbrella of the Donkey Sanctuary UK and provides mobile services to working donkeys in Egypt for no cost to the owners. They also provide educational services to teach owners how to care for their animals. They are really a wonderful group.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Truthful Animals Cost More

I spend a quiet Christmas with friends usually, doing most of my Christmas shopping for my kids online since they live abroad. But some of the stores here do have Christmas displays and Carrefour can usually be relied on for something entertaining. In this case, while walking through the toy section I found a banner proclaiming that there was a sale on "lying farm animals". Since the animals pictured are a rhinocerus and a tiger among other things, one must assume that the truthful farm animals are still full price.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Father and Son

One of my neighbours hugging his six year old son at a picnic. Courtesy of the photography elf. Note the gorgeous hazel eyes that are a trademark in my neighbourhood.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Spot of Refreshment

Just passing along the Corniche in Giza near Garden City I noticed that someone had set up a drinks stand on the railing. The bright coloured glasses were enticing even if it was a cool day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Photography Elf

I left my camera in the car the other day while I went into a bookshop and Mohamed, my driver and righthand man, got bored. I ended up with some interesting street shots and he had a lot of fun. He's turned out to have a very good eye for a photo.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On The Way Home

Yesterday was a bit of a mad rush finishing things with a friend who has been staying here for a month. We hoped to be home early but the sun was setting as we crossed the Nile to Giza. The north wind had blown all the pollution away and the clouds glowed crisply in the sky outlined in silver, pink and gold. On an evening such as this it's hard to imagine that all this beauty is just there to enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Villager's View

Visiting the Wissa Wassef center the other day I saw a tapestry that I'd never seen before. It seems to be the image of an apartment building filled with people. An interesting thing about the people is that they all look quite grim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We have quite a few lions in Egypt. The Giza Zoo breeds them and they end up being sent to safari parks and the like. Today we were driving along a back road near Harania checking out a riding trail for a tour group that would be going through in a couple of weeks when we noticed some boys with a very odd looking dog. On closer inspection, it was a young lion cub walking in the sun after its bath. The cub was adorable, friendly, and obviously fond of its handler. It's currently living at one of the country restaurants but will have to find a new home when it grows a bit older.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Flipping It

Last week we held a barbecue for a friend and she specifically asked for us to bake bread in our outdoor oven. It is a bit more work to fire up the wood burning oven, but the bread is wonderful. My housekeeper was showing everyone how to prepare the bread for baking.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ceiling decor

While buying an earthenware cooking pot at a roadside pottery stand I walked out back and saw these pristine white circles hanging on the wall ready for someone who wants to buy a frame for a hanging lamp.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old Boots

I found these pairs of boots at a shop the other day. They had such character that they almost seemed to have a life of their own.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tea To Go

When shopping in the old style stores of Cairo (the majority of the stores since malls are in the minority) it is very common to be offered a cup of tea by the shop owner. All over the city tiny little tea shops supply tea to the store owners, work men and who ever may be in the neighbourhood.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flip? Maybe Flop? Unlikely

They have been using wooden sandals in the baths of Cairo for centuries. Shagarat el Dohr is said to have been murdered with a pair in Mameluke Egypt by a rival. These are very rough and look to me like something that could cause splinters. But some friends of mine saw them being worn by workers at a brick kiln.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brushing Things Aside

It isn't easy to keep things clean when you live in the middle of the world's biggest sandbox. We are surrounded by desert in Cairo and it blows in with every breeze. We have the normal plastic brooms, but also make some interesting local ones. These are garden brooms made from the stems of the dates that are harvested every fall.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Decorations in Maadi

Christmas is celebrated in Egypt not once, but twice, once on December 25 and again for the Copts and Eastern Orthodox on January 7, so we have an even longer Christmas season. While out shopping for presents for my annual Egyptian/Canadian/Finnish/Lebanese Christmas gathering with friends on December 24 we spotted a group watching one of the store clerks adjusting a present in a Christmas display.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bales of Cotton

Huge bags hold clean cotton to be used in stuffing mattresses and pillows. Households that have these types of upholstery will have men come to the house every so often to remove the cotton stuffing, fluff it up and restuff. These bales were photgraphed in Old Cairo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

When You Can't Find a Garden

I was walking along Road 9 in Maadi the other day and noticed this lovely grey cat curled up in a plant pot in the sunshine. Not having a patch of grass, he decided to take his nap in the pot for a Ficus benjamina tree. Smart kitty.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Argument For Slow Food

I LOVE our vegetables. They make cooking an almost spiritual experience. These are all fresh, less than a day or so from the fields, and there isn't a speck of wax on them. Yum.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Tools Of The Trade

These are a saddlemakers basic tools. The curved knives are for cutting hides and the more complicated object is for cutting strips of leather. The tools were made about 60 years ago, though the saddlemaker using them is much younger.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Moonrise at Abu Sir

The full moon has an orange tinge from the dust and pollution of the valley but it is still a lovely sight rising above the rather peculiar house next door. Somehow, it seemed much larger by eye.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Afternoon Coffee

There's something comforting about watching two old friends meet for coffee on a warm winter afternoon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rows in Wood

Mashrabaya screens are rightfully expensive. They are created by hand of thousands of pieces of individually shaped pieces of wood. This particular screen isn't finished and the wood is still bare, unstained and unvarnished.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are You Allowed To Park Here?

Baladi dogs are amazing creatures. Mine have the desire to climb onto the highest point to check out the horizon and in the city you often see them happily resting on the roof of a car. This one very carefully examined the car from front and back before hopping onto the roof. The owner of the car probably wasn't too pleased, but I found it entertaining.

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