Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The pyramid, the camel, the sky. What more?

Photo by Cally Stephenson while in Cairo playing tourist.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sentinels

Getting up to run an errand at 4:30 am is not high on my list of best ways to start the day, but sometimes it happens. So if you are out in the world at daybreak, you might as well admire it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cairo Sunset

And it includes, as most of us see them, endless rows of cars on the road ahead of us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walking In Circles

A blindfolded donkey walks alone around the track pulling the wooden bar that turns a sakia, a water wheel in a palm grove near Dahshur.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Who Knows Where The Clothes Go...

 This seems pretty weird to me, but a lot of clothes bought in North America and Europe are made here in Egypt. We have local shops that sell seconds at extremely reasonable prices and you can get name brands for peanuts. But once the clothes have been shipped out, they start their way back here, among other places. Many people tire of their clothing before it wears out and they sell or donate items in North America and Europe. Very often these second hand items are shipped back to Egypt where they end up in Wekala el Balah, an area of Cairo known for inexpnesive clothing and fabric. There they can be bought off racks, as seen above, or in bales sight unseen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Modern food consumers generally associate farmers with tractors. After all, fields must be plowed somehow. I don't know what proportion of Egyptian farms are big enough to justify owning a tractor, but around here, it isn't a lot. So usually one man in an area owns a tractor, often an ancient Russian machine like this that has probably been repaired with so many odd parts that it's more of a United Nations piece. He's hired by the hour or by the area of land to do the plowing. All the rest of the work is done by hand.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Elbow Grease

People come to Egypt and they marvel at the pyramids, at least 125 or so of them, scattered along the Nile Valley, and they wonder how they were built. Well, when they were built the Nile used to flood the whole valley necessitating many of the farmers living in the valley to move into the low desert around the temple and pyramid sites where they were basically stuck for about four months every year. With pretty much the entire population of Egypt looking for something to do for four months, the labor pool would have been pretty impressive. So they put their backs to it and moved rock.

We recently decided to drill a new 40 meter well on the farm. The actual drilling was done with the aid of a diesel motor that pulled up a weighted pipe into the air and then dropped in to pound it through sand, clay and layers of some of the hardest stone I've ever seen. And then when they were putting in the actual pipe, the well diggers and some of my staff took the handles to push the pipe in circles to disengage the digging pipe. Hard work, but they did it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

All Packed And Ready To Go

One of the aesthetically pleasing aspects of the date industry in Egypt is the way that the farmers mostly  utilise the products of the palm to harvest and ship the fruit. The boxes are made of the ribs of the palm fronds, the mats on which they are dried are made of the leafy portion of the fronds, the ropes that the pickers use are made of the fiber found at the base of the frond.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Edge

The images that come out of Egypt tend to be too selective for my taste. Dusty cities, camels by pyramids, people fighting against security forces downtown, stones in the desert.... they only catch small parts of our country. One of the most important things to know about Egypt is the dichotomy between the desert and the Nile Valley. Although geographically, Egypt is roughly the size of France, in terms of usable land space it is more  the size of the Netherlands. We have close to 100 million people with their cities and industries jammed into a tiny sliver of land running along the Nile. This photo shot from a hill just south of Sakkara's Step Pyramid highlights the knife-edge break between the desert and the lush valley.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Helping Farmers By Helping Animals

The Egyptian Society for Animal Friends is doing farm animal clinics at our farm every Thursday afternoon. Farmers can bring their donkeys, water buffalo, goats, whatever, to the doctors to have wounds checked, animals wormed and generally checked out. This is important for the farmers because many of them live too far away from a vet to be able to get their animals to one. We enjoy it as my grooms get to assist and learn more about animal care. And sometimes we get a visitor who has an ingenious solution to a problem. For some odd reason, the flies LOVE donkey blood and will bit the donkeys until they have raw wounds. This poor lady has wounds on her face and on her legs, so her owner cut a pair of pants and tied them on her legs so that the flies can't reach them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three-wheel Haulers

So what do you use if you need to haul things in a city that was built a thousand years ago for donkey carts? How about a motorcycle dump truck?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Last of The Harvest

On October 1 I rode to Dahshur with a visitor to Egypt and at our lunch stop they were drying the last dates of this year's harvest. Generally the harvest continues through at least part of October, but this year's heat accelerated the ripening and everything finished much faster. It also spoiled some of the date crop as well. I haven't heard how well the sales of dates have done this year but the mango sales were down, primarily due to people not having money to buy them.

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