Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Filming In The Countryside

A couple of young women are making a video on donkey care so they have been joining the vets of the Rural Wellness Initiative for filming. During a quiet moment the crew share stories

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

But Don't Sit Down

A banana seller has a mobile stand but the seat for the bicycle is long gone. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Cairo traffic is infamous. Crowded, slow, irritable..you name it. Motorcycles and scooters are commonplace as they can slide among the cars in a traffic jam, but his guy was carrying something extra, a stout walking stick to protect his legs or to rap an encroaching car on the hood maybe. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sand Sifters and Floor Coverers

It's a problem in the countryside. We live in an area where the most common surface for a road is sand or dirt. People wander in and out of homes all the time and the dust blows in from the desert. Stone or tile floors are cold and hard, and in village homes most people sit on the floor rather than on furniture. Rugs are nice but they collect sand and dust and really hard to clean, so these woven plastic mats are a great solution to the floor covering problem. They provide a bit of cushioning, a bit of warmth and the sand and dust just sift their way through the mat to the floor surface. The mats can be rolled up, the sand swept out, and you are good to go. When you want to wash them, all it takes is a hose and few minutes to let them dry in the sun. AND they are quite cheap.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Clip It And Don't Lose It.

It has been ages since I've posted to the blog and truly I feel bad about that. Life has a way of getting complicated and busy, especially here in Egypt where nothing is as easy as it should be, nor as easy as it was some years ago. Power failures, internet failures and no time to leave the farm due to work that we are doing here all make it hard to take photos and post.

But I had two women who wanted to go to see the Menawat Sunday market last week, and I have some lovely photos of a country market in Giza. One friend needed a donkey harness for the donkey at her farm that hauls the manure cart, while the other was a visitor who was up for anything interesting...and the Sunday market is interesting. Imagine all the goods in a large supermarket unwrapped, unpacked and then distributed along narrow dusty streets and you have roughly the idea of a village market. You will find EVERYTHING there if you have the time to look for it. One of the things that I noticed that brought a huge grin to my face was this enormous pile of wooden clothes pins. My housekeeper is a tiny woman and the washing line at the house is quite tall, so clothes pins go missing regularly. She often will just tug at a sheet and the pins separate flying in opposite directions. When I saw this, I knew that I needed a shot of this place where the missing clothes pins must go to breed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cairo Traffic

The joy of Cairo can be expressed in two words most days. "Cairo traffic" is stickier than duct tape, slower than molasses in January...but at least the guys in the flatbed have a nice breeze and a decent view. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Free Parking

On my way to an attorney whose office is in downtown Cairo we found ourselves behind a horse cart on a major street and I had no time to whip out my phone. I had to be dropped at the law office and the driver had to go all the way to Zamalek to find a parking place. When I came out and was waiting on the Corniche to be picked up, I found this horse standing patiently by the side of the busy road where no one else could park. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Open Sesame

I had shoulder surgery this summer and only had my left hand to use for a month or so. This is the first week I've had the approval from the doctor to ride out. 

This is a flowering field of sesame. I'll bet you had no idea this is what it looked like. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All Tied up

Just before Ramadan started, about a month ago, I had to have surgery on my right shoulder because encroaching arthritis had produced some sharp bone that had severed a tendon in the shoulder. The hassle of surgery aside, this has meant living with my right arm tied up next to my body and absolutely no way to use both hands. I'm now slipping free of the bindings and have two hands for my keyboard as long as I don't move my shoulder.

So this young donkey reminded me of my predicament with its traditional village binding of the legs just above the knees and hocks and the stitched together ear tips. The villagers believe that if they don't do this the legs will grow crooked and the ears will flop, which is, of course, utter rubbish. When our George was born my staff at the time wanted to do this and I laughed at them pointing out that we never do this to foals. George has lovely straight ears and legs despite being deprived of his bindings.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh Canada!

Each year the Canadian embassy celebrates our national day, which is July 1, with a gathering at the ambassador's residence. This lovely Art Deco apartment overlooks the garden.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Things Tourists Do!

I took a rider out a year ago on a trek around the desert. She was on a long trek herself and had been given a small stuffed animal to take pictures of in various places. In honor of her ride, she put the duck (I believe) into Wadi's bridle. I love photos of people doing random things.

Apologies for not posting for a while but I was being a tourist myself and visiting family in the US.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Egyptian Jacks

If all these photos look a bit random, that's because they are, at least as far as my understanding of them. We were working on one of our vet clinics near a mosque in a village by Abu Sir and there was a very intent knot of young girls sitting together all facing inward on the terrace of the mosque. I noticed them but it wasn't until we had finished with most of our patients (donkeys, buffalo, cows, goats, and so on) that I got a chance to see what they were doing. One of the girls had three flat round stones and three flat angular stones. She would toss them on the tiles and then toss one stone up into the air and collect the stones on the tiles in various combinations. It reminded me of a game we played when I was a child in California with a ball and a set of spikey metal objects called Jacks.  In Egypt it is called "Al".

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sheep Branding

The village Bedouin in this area graze their flocks of sheep on the fields after harvest, which adds some organic fertilizer to the soil and reduces the stubble. With perhaps a dozen families wandering around the tracks, it's not a bad idea to identify the sheep in some way. These have been marked with a dot of henna on the face or back.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Killing Farm Land

The news has stories of thousands of acres being sold to Arabs, but out here near Abu Sir, they are building warehouses by the hundred on good cultivation land. This would look to be a factory. How can our government be so stupid and shortsighted? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eating My Garden

Today was Sham el Nessim, one of my favorite holidays because it is utterly unrelated to any religion or military victory.  On this day Egyptian families head out to some green spot for a picnic, which for some families today was my farm. I spent the day supervising children and puppies, winnowing our quinoa crop, and chatting with old and new friends. By the time everyone left, I was starving and really wanted some greens. After my post about khobeyza, I decided to try out its cousin hollyhock leaves. I cut some off my many hollyhock plants, washed and chopped them and then a autéed them in olive oil with onions, garlic, fresh coriander and dill, and a chopped peeled tomato. I layered a bit of rice, some chopped roast chicken and then the hollyhock greens. Delicious. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bounty In The Trees

In April we are surrounded by red/black and white mulberry trees full of ripe fruit. In the old days, the cities were also filled with mulberry trees along the streets, but as the ripe fruit does gather flies, people are cutting down the trees. It's heaven to go for a leisurely ride on horseback and stop to pick a few every few meters.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Study In Pink

Wrought iron bars are often placed on the ground floor windows of homes for security. Obviously this young lady felt that they were there for another purpose. It's a great look out for a small one.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Egyptian Superfood For Free

This plant (weed actually) is known in Egypt as Khobeyza or in English as Mallow. It's a relation to Molokheya, another mallow plant, and hollyhocks which are yet another one. Egyptians eat it as a soup either with meat or without. The recipe from My Egyptian Grandmother's Kitchen calls for 1 kg mallow, 2 large bunches swiss chard, 1 onion, 2 Tbsp ghee, 2 cups of tomato juice (or tomato pureed in a blender...fresh is always better), 1/2 kg cubed meat (we usually skip the meat but it's good), 1 bunch each fresh dill and fresh coriander, 1/2 cup of rice, 4 cloves of garlic minced.

Boil the picked, washed chard and mallow leaves in a small amount of salted water and then run it through a blender or processor. Chop the onion and saute in 1 Tbsp ghee until golden and then add meat. Add the tomato juice and half the chopped dill and coriander and all of the mallow/chard to the pot with salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer until the meat is almost done. Add the rice to the pot and finish cooking. This should take about 30 minutes. Saute the garlic and remaining dill and coriander in 1 Tbsp ghee and toss into the pot of mallow. Serve.

I personally like a lot of garlic so the amount of garlic is definitely expandable and this is a recipe that will put anyone with anemia right in no time. Mallow can be found growing all sorts of places as a weed. This particular patch was photographed at Blue Star Equiculture, a draft horse rescue in Palmer, Massachusetts. Free nutrition is always good.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Farming Friends

I love the contrast of the facial hair adornments on these two men. They are two of the farmers who brought their animals to the Rural Wellness Initiative clinic last week.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Downtown Wash

Anywhere other than Cairo you don't expect to see a horse getting a shower on a busy road median.... But then, Cairo is Cairo. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Facing the Summer

When a friend of mine moved from an old apartment she gave me this palm log carving of a face. She said that it have her the creeps but I find it charming. I have no idea who the artist was or if it represents anything special but it is great with nasturtiums. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moving The Calf

When you don't have a livestock truck, and most farmers here don't, you make do with what you have. In this case it's a pickup truck and A LOT if rope.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Cotton Candy Man

During protests, the activists used to tweet that it wasn't real until the cotton candy man showed up. That's how ubiquitous these men carrying a big plastic bouquets of bright pink sweetness are. You may see them in any neighbourhood, walking down the center of a busy street or winding through coffee shops. This man was walking the dusty roads near Abu Sir. I have never seen a cotton candy machine to make the sticky sweet inside the bags, but there must be one.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Step Down

This odd image is even odder with an explanation. This was taken in a shop on Kasr el Aini Street in downtown Cairo. Egyptian buildings are not built with basements, so how is it that you have to come down five stairs to enter the shop? Many of the streets and buildings are so old that over time the street level has risen above the original by this much. Some of the old buildings in Old Cairo are even further below street level.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


White chalk handprints on a red wall are meant to convey good fortune and ward off the evil eye. Sometimes blue handprints are specially used for this, but any colour or medium works.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Mercedes Horse

In the first world, horses are essentially very high class pets. They are used for sports, fun, companionship, but very little for work. In Egypt, there are enormous numbers of families who depend on horses for their livelihood. There are plenty of animal rescue sites that post pictures of poor, thin working horses here but there are also wonderfully fit, cared for horses that we call Mercedes horses. Their owners do everything they can to take care of them. This horse was standing in one of the poorest areas of Cairo, but the care is very evident.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Waiting Room

Families gather on the sidewalk along the Nile just opposite the government cancer hospital in Kasr el Aini. Their loved ones are inside perhaps getting chemotherapy, but they are waiting outside on the sidewalk where vendors sell tea and snacks. I want to tell them that they should be so thankful that they are living in a country where the weather allows this informal system...but on the other hand, they should live in a country where the hospitals are funded properly.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ruffled Ears

A mule has long ears, so what better to decorate when the clipping men come around. Many of the carters will do a body clip of their horses or mules since they are going to be working quite hard and usually sleeping indoors. This mule had this lovely ruffled design clipped into his ears.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Old Friends Care For Each Other

An older farmer's concern for his water buffalo's sore foot is clear in his face as he waits for the vet to come examine her at one of the Rural Wellness Initiative vet clinics. He was first in line for seeing us there. The buffalo had a crack in the sole of her foot and the treatment was quite simple really, frequent washing with betadine to keep it clean. Photo by Tulip Afifi.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

White Donkeys

The original donkeys were grey with black stripes on their legs, a black bar over their shoulders and a black stripe down their back. Somewhere along the line in Egypt the predominant colour for donkeys has become white and I have no idea why. But this had to have been one of the whitest donkeys I've ever seen

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Consummate Carriers

Egyptian women carry the universe on their shoulders. Not only are they working hard to care for their families, but many of them live the way I remember my mother living when I was young, without a car, having only the basic mechanical aids to help clean (we were turned loose with old socks on to polish the floors), and being pretty much solely responsible for their homes and children. So most of them walk a lot and often are carrying offspring. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Locked In

Some of the heavy old doors on mosques and palaces in Cairo have some beautiful locks installed. Of course the keys are skeleton keys and security wasn't all that great, but the locks are gorgeous.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Camping Life

Every summer a group of Bedouin move around our area with some fairly large herds of cows that they graze in the fields that have been harvested. They usually find a field where the owner is willing to let them put their tents for a month or so before moving on. Out here in the countryside where we still have unblocked breezes for air conditioning, these tents make a lot of sense.

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