Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quiet Shops

I was taking some friends to Coptic Cairo the other day and we noticed a new shopping area near the entrance to the area. It was cool, quiet, well laid out and maintained.....and empty. Most of the shops carried the handicrafts that various NGO's and charitable groups produce. This young woman had fabrics and embroideries from Upper Egypt.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Local Tourists

It was heartening to see Egyptians visiting Giza in the absence of foreign tourists. There were school trips and simply friends wandering around enjoying a chance to see the pyramids without the crowds. Many of them took the chance to ride camels and horses as well, which helps the economy here. I loved the flag cape.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Golden Island

Every time I cross the Nile on the Moneeb bridge I see Dahab Island under the bridge and I think how wonderful it would be to explore it on foot or horseback. It is truly exquisitely beautiful.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Neverending Problem

When the Ring Road around Cairo was first built, action by UNESCO and other groups stopped the construction of the portion that was to go around the back of the Giza plateau. The dirt road base of the proposed route that can be glimpsed running over the hill in front of the jeep has since become a well-used thoroughfare despite the fact that it was never paved, and trucks and cars use it to make a short cut to the Fayoum road. The other use of the paved portion of the road has lately been as a place to dump garbage. A newspaper article a while back shamed the authorities into cleaning up the sides of the road, but within a week or so, the trucks were back at it. These photos were shot today when I was on my way back home from town. What a bloody shame!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Putting His Shoes Back On

I have a young photographer staying with me and I've invited her to join me on this blog. This photo is one of Catherine Feeney's. A visiting Canadian friend of ours was with her at the Citadel today. He's putting his sneakers back on after visiting the main mosque...whose lights shine in the darkness behind him.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Business Is Slow

A young woman gazes at her tourist trinkets at the Great Pyramid. We were visiting and didn't see much more than half a dozen tourists. It's tough but to be very honest I didn't see anyone at death's door despite one little boy who was selling postcards telling me how tough things were. "No money, no Pepsi" "Just as well no Pepsi. That stuff will kill you, kid".

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Want My Wall Here

I never tire of the eccentricities of Egyptian construction. Someone nearby wanted a wall around his garden but didn't want to lose a tree, so the builders incorporated the tree into the garden wall. As I recall, trees tend to grow so eventually the wall will fall, but for now it's sort of surreal and fun.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Small Business

Commerce needn't be multinational. Sometimes it's having a carton with some bars of soap displayed on it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fruit and Vegetables

It's a little thing but close to my heart. We used to come here in winter from Canada to visit my in-laws before we moved here and there were these amazing strawberries. There are no fresh strawberries in Toronto in the winter unless you want to pay a small fortune for them. But the strawberries in Egypt.... I was caught by the colour of the strawberries and brussels sprouts.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Homemade Playground

Some children in a village play in an abandoned truck that was parked across the alley from an animal shelter near us. Of course this would be considered terrible in the "civilised" world, but I would have loved it as a kid.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Onion Field

A group of farmers are working together to weed an onion field. It's backbreaking work and all done by hand. These will be beautiful red onions in a week or so.

The masklike object on the left is a donkey bridle. Many horses and donkeys work without bits here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Help The Horses? Go Riding!

I just know that this post is going to get me into trouble. I was passing through Nazlit Semman today on my way back from doing an errand in Mohendessin. We stopped at the corner of the Mansureya Road and Aboul Hol Road (the road into the Sphinx) so that Catherine could take a photo, and we noticed a huge crowd of horses and camels crowding around a feed shop where bags of corn were being distributed and hauled off on horse and camel back. Four Paws, from the Princess Alia Foundation, was distributing and a camera crew were there filming. There has been a huge deal made in the press about the starving work horses of Giza and many animal groups have come to help. I've met Princess Alia of Jordan once and she is a very fine woman...I was very impressed with her intelligence, concern, and down to earth manner.

Now for the part that will get me into trouble. I've lived here for many years and am a horse owner, so the businesses of Nazlit Semman have always interested me. I know stable owners there and I used to take people riding to Giza...but I stopped doing it a number of years ago when in the midst of a perfectly good tourist season I had to ride my horses past the bodies of at least 30 dead horses who had been left where they'd dropped dead in the desert and then at least another 20 carcasses at the rear entrance to the stable area there next to the desert. There are people at Giza who take care of some of their horses, others who take care of none of their horses, and people who board horses there and work like the devil to see that their horses are cared for. I've accompanied friends to the pyramids as tourists and watched how the businesses run. Most of the 15 thousand tourists a day who visit Giza are hauled in on buses and hauled out on buses to meet appallingly tight itineraries and they go nowhere near the stables. There are very few of the stables who are licensed to have horses inside the Giza plateau walls. These are the few horses who actually service the tourists. Most days when I've been down in the stable areas, at least 60% of the clients there have been locals, their guests and friends...not the busloads of tourists who visit. If the tourism has stopped for these stables, then much of the shortfall has to do with their local clientele not coming.

The story put out in the press is that the stable owners are starving and because of this the horses are starving. So why not provide food for the stable owners and their families so that they can buy food for the animals? That would make some sense and perhaps imbue a sense of responsibility in them. In fact, during the revolution, all of us were having a very hard time finding horse feed because the truckers weren't hauling it in from the provinces. Anyone working with animals was having a really tough time. One friend of mine who boards horses for foreigners living here was stuck with over a dozen horses when the owners evacuated with out bothering to leave money for board or horse feed. She was scrambling, borrowing from friends to try to scrape together funds to feed her charges...and then scrambling to try to find something available.

I don't deny that there are and were horses dying in Giza. My point is that there are always horses dying in Giza...with or without tourism. The issue isn't the tourism, it's the education of the stable owners who would rather let a horse die than care for it. I talked about this with the vet accompanying Four Paws. He's Egyptian and conceded that my points were valid but said...and I had to agree with him...that if you don't try, nothing will ever happen. This is what he said he'd learned from the people who went to Tahrir in protest. He had thought that there was no hope for change in Egypt and didn't even teach his children to speak Arabic. Now he's giving them lessons in their own language because he feels that there is some hope for the country. It's a good lesson.

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