Sunday, November 28, 2010

Still The Old Days

I was out riding with some really delightful Brit visitors and we saw a man plowing his tiny field with a pair of cows hitched to a wooden plow. Taking photos from an antsy horse isn't so easy so this isn't brilliantly focused but when I downloaded from my phone and tinted it sepia, this looked like a postcard from the 1890's.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Old Friends on A Norag

These two gentlemen were enjoying the autumn sunshine on a norag, an old wooden bench used for threshing with oxen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Bone of Contention

I'd seen this building coming up next to the highway and admired its lines, but I had no idea what it was. Then the riot police took up residence on the edge of the highway and the pieces fell into place. This church was ordered to stop building because of an incorrect permit, (Since when do people actually pay attention to building permits in Egypt?) and the congregation were seriously ticked off. Since it is a common practice in the countryside to build a small mosque and then attach a house to it to get past the rule against residential buildings, there's some room for discussion here, to say the least. Yesterday afternoon, the guys on the highway looked more bored than anything else, but there was some serious rumbling in other areas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Of The World's Great Balconies

We went to collect a friend of mine who was visiting from the US so that she could come have a late lunch. While she picked up her stuff, we went to admire the view and were totally blown away. I've gotten used to seeing the Giza pyramids as I drive in and out of town, but just sitting there being gorgeous on the horizon...well!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Feluccas

Although it's mid to late November, it's still warm enough to enjoy sunset on the Nile. So people rent these wooden sailing boats for an hour or two.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Perfect Place to Buy Antiques

The same dry air that is responsible for the preservation of mummies, also helps to preserve other objects in Egypt. The fact that the turn of the 20th century saw a huge building boom in the country also leads to there being some amazing antiques here. The wheels and the norag (the benchlike object) that was used for threshing grain are often bought to decorate gardens.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tis Almost The Season

That's right, it's mid-November and time for all good residents of Cairo and Giza to prepare for the Christmas Bazaar Barrage. We have at least half a dozen Christmas bazaars (or is it bizarres?) here to help everyone out with their Christmas shopping. And we need them! Egypt celebrates Christmas twice, on Dec 25 and on Jan 7, to accommodate all flavours of Christianity and because no Egyptian can pass up a good party. Artisans, small businesses, and charities sell items at these bazaars and a portion of the sales go to various charities. And for all of you in snowy climates, sorry about the sunglasses and tans, but what can we say?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Only Fifty Pounds

First he walks up and greets you politely as you are about to take your son's picture. Pulling a faux Arab headscarf from his pocket, he wraps it on your son's head and tells you how much better the picture will be with it. You smile, bewildered a bit but also a little touched by his interest. Then he takes his scarf from around his neck, wraps your head with it, and offers to take a picture of the two of you. You smile and nod. Picture taken, he then asks for 50 pounds for the scarves and photography services. Hmm. How exactly did that happen?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beginning a Batik

A staff member at Wissa Wassef explains how the batiks that they make there are prepared. This one is floral and starting in a startling orange.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ali Baba Wuz Here

The Egyptians invented potshards. They used to bake their bread in pots and break them to get the bread out, then leaving the bits of pots around. We have tons of mud so the making of pots is still a major activity.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Living Colour

There are no building codes in Egypt, at least not that I'm aware of, and people are free to use their whims and imaginations when it comes to decoration. The villagers seem to have pretty colourful imaginations.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hey! Look What's In Here!

The boy was leading his sheep along a trail towards us. They were on their way home and the donkeys were leading the way as they usually do if the trip (like home to dinner) is important. He stopped to greet us as they were passing a gate to a fenced plot of land and the lead donkey took advantage of the distraction to check out the grass on the other side of the door.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Palm is actually a grass and is probably the first plant domesticated by man. The hard ribs of the fronds are used to make boxes, the leafy part of the frond is used for mats, baskets and the like. The brown fiber that covers the base of the frond makes some of the strongest rope I've ever used, though pretty scratchy, and is formed into brooms and other cleaning implements. The wood is quite soft and porous but in our dry climate can be used for some building purposes. Unprepared, the logs are often used for informal bridges across canals or for walls. The prepared logs are often used in house construction.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bessy's Other Job

This farmer has two cows yoked to a wooden plow and seems to be on his way to work in his fields. I found him walking down a road. The plow is actually turned backwards with the wooden blade between the two cows.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ancient Engineering

While riding through Sakkara village I noticed something that I'd ridden past over twenty times previously without noticing. Look between the palm trees and you will see a tall pole with a stone ring around the end of it near the ground. The stone provided the counterweight to ease the job of hauling the water bucket attached to the other end out of the well. The chopped off palm trunk provided the fulcrum for this simple lever. The machine was known as a shadduf and it was one of the earliest machines.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who Was That Masked Man?

I was escorting some visitors on a ride through the village of Sakkara yesterday and when we came around a corner we found this tiny little boy with only a tshirt on standing in the middle of the path. I called everyone's attention to our small obstacle and we very carefully passed by him. His mother was just up the way sitting on a step so he wasn't without supervision, but kids in the villages are assumed to be the responsibility of everyone so she wasn't too worried. We are always careful on the horses around any buildings.

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