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The 2004 Dahshur Dawdle - Endurance in Egypt

Egypt - A likely place to stage an endurance clinic with a local riding club? Why not?? Take two experienced riders/mangers, mix in an excellent ride secretary, sprinkle a bit of eclectic local hospitality (with the worlds best hostess) - and document it all with stories and photos.

On the first of December, Destry went to spend 3 months in Cairo with Marryanne Gabbini who we met through ridecamp. On short notice, after crewing for Leonard Leisens from Belgium, who we met through ridecamp, in Abu Dabi at the 2004 President's Cup, Steph showed up on Marryanne's doorstep. 2 Days later, on 4 days consideration, Jackie Bumgardner, Tracy Bullard, and Merri Melde (who we made aquaintance with through the Death Valley Encountry and staying with Jackie through Jan/Feb, showed up on Maryanne's doorstep too.

In the meantime, Marryanne's doorstep moved from Downtown Cairo to the Abu Sir Oasis not far away. But the house was not finished. Everyone showed up at the same time as the cots and minimal kitchen. Workers built the house around the chaose of putting on the 2004 Dahshur Dawdle. Trail marking, paperwork, organization. The ride happened two days later.

Steph's images and comments along with Merri's journal's and images streams of the event (and the following 8 day journey through Egypt) follow below.


Egypt: Merri's Journals

I slept like the dead in their tombs.

Tracy & I slept head to foot on a small mattress but neither of us noticed the other. In the wee hours somewhere way back in my subconscious was a man's voice singing, very beautiful voice in the middle of nowhere (it was the muezzin 5 AM call to prayer). And then about 8 it was full morning (what day is this anyway?), and I was jumped on by some terriers.

I got up and walked outside onto the porch for what I was waiting for (it's been a long time) - one of my favorite things: breathing in the morning of a foreign country. It was just what I expected. There were already people working in their fields, water buffalo out front, palm trees in the morning haze, the hint of a smell of cooking fires, a man & his little daughter riding by on a donkey, little rat dogs everywhere, people carrying huge bundles of leaves/fodder. [More ...]


Adapting to Local Conditions

In front of this mud-walled 1-room hut was, under a roof of palm branches was a little fire going plus his sheesha water pipe. He had us sit on a little carpet - but keep your feet off, and sit on the cushions he hands us, cuz that's where he sleeps - and he put on some tea for us & handed us his pipe. I didn't inhale, and I witnessed but didn't document evidence of Steph huffin' and puffin'.

He then brought us out a little wrapped pack of 3 baladi bread (like Indian nan) with halawi - YUM! It's not gooey like baklava but along those lines. I've had it somewhere before and it's delicious. Would it be so good at home? Steph ate half of one and I had of course had no self control & scarfed a whole one (love this bread too) when S said, "Hmm, I bet we are eating his lunch" seeing as we showed up right at noon when he was at his hut ready to eat his own lunch, drink his tea & smoke his pipe. [More ...]


The Ride

Osama Bin Laden's brother is coming to do the ride!

When we were all following Pol & Morad thru the desert, scoping out the trail, the brief directions were, "ride out to & around the pyramid (which one??),turn right at the sarcophagus."

Who needs trail markers out here in the Egyptian desert?

The ride was to start at 8 AM. We went to Ali's about 7,where all the SUVs were parked in a paddock, and tables and chairs were set up on his nice lawn.

2 small animal vets, Mohammed & Anoor showed up, and around 7:30 the vet check started. It went well enough, though the vets weren't overly familiar with horses nor were they real sure or comfortable in doing what our vets do.

A goodly # of the horses didn't know how to trot out - all were handled by the grooms, not the riders, and near half were drug by their reins or drug their grooms by the reins at a canter.

MA had said there'd be 80% stallions there, and there were about 80% shiny, vocal, verile stallions present. No accidents,though :) [More ...]


Egypt: Becoming Tourists

I slept well again, no dogs, just a few bites on our newly clean sheets. I have to be careful while I'm sleeping that I don't kick tracy in the head thinking it's a dog jumping on my feet.

We intended to leave ~8 AM for the Pyramids, and we did get off about 8:30. Driving along the canal to Giza (which we call MA's canal, though I'm sure we couldn't tell it from another), MA answered all the questions we had while zooming past kids and donkeys and trucks with inches to spare and talking on her cell phone. She's so knowledgeable about everything here and we are so lucky to be staying with her.

Occasionally these filthy canals are dredged, and the gunk is piled alongside. What do they do with the gunk? The dirt is taken and used in the fields. Plastic trash is recycled (I bet some of it is keeping us awake at nite!). I'm not sure what this has to do with dredged canals, but the plastic slip-on shoes are called "ship ship" because of the noise they make when people don't pick their feet up when they walk - Riche are you reading this. The shoes are worn by peasants.

I asked why all the different religions are so tolerated here as opposed to other middle eastern countries - who knows? People here just don't care what religion you are. You are also not allowed to proselytize (in Islam or christianity or ??). [More ... ]


Egypt: Just another Day in the City

Maybe today I will wear my shirt right side out, unlike yesterday. It was probably cleaner that way anyway, and in fact that is one of the Clothing Laws of backpack travelling. If you wear a previously worn Tshirt inside out, it is now clean. Also if you stuff a previously worn Tshirt into your backpack, a few days later, it has become a clean Tshirt, almost as if you'd laundered it.

I joined Tracy on the roof for a cup o' green tea - which was mighty wimpy compared to that cup of engine-cleaning-fluid referred to as coffee that I had yesterday at the ahwa. Tracy woke up at 5 AM again and she discovered the pleasure of watching the countryside come awake, enhanced by 4000+ yr old temple and pyramid ruins in the hazy close-distance.

Morad came over for his running date with Tracy. Tracy is not an experienced rider but she is an experienced runner, and her entire focus since the ride has been to get Morad out to run in the sand to experience just a minute fraction of what he put his horse through in the ride. [More ...]


Egypt: I found a Horus!!!

I must go back to the Sun Temple! - that's the one almost in MA's front yard.

It's actually called the site of Abu Ghorab, and has 2 royal sun temples dedicated to the worship of Ra, the sun-god (where's the 2nd temple?)

In the Abu Sir Papyri - archives of Old Kingdom documents written in hieratic (shorthand form of hieroglyphs), found in Abu Sir's Pyramid of Neferirkare - it says there are 6 temples here, though only 2 have been discovered (where's the 2nd??).

It was a valley temple with a causeway and large stone enclosure. Inside was a large limestone obelisk (now missing) 122' high on a 66' high base. In front of the obelisk, the huge alabaster altar is still there - we stood on top of it. Hieroglyphs on the alter say, "The sun god Ra is satisfied." And, I like this even better, MA said Abu Ghorab means "Father of Crows."

She says crows are a nuisance to the farmers here, as they are to many people in the states. (People are all wrong about crows and ravens!) [More ...]


Egypt: The Parrots Move

tracy dreamt last night she went shopping in a busy market (she didn't go with us yesterday) and a big bee flew at her so she threw her hands up, which woke her up and she found she had pulled out her earplugs and threw them at me.

I slept through it all.

I've been sleeping so hard I don't dream at all. I did hear the imam's 5 AM prayer thru my earplugs, and I did wake up to throw a dog or 2 off my face during the night. When I got up, I just couldn't stand it any more - I pulled out my hairbrush and scratched the flea bites on my fingers till they were almost raw. Ahhh! I knew I brought that hairbrush along for a reason.

[More ...]


Egypt: Under the Suez Canal and Into Asia

After Steph left, Tracy & I descended upon her room like a pack of rat terriers looking for MA. T took the bed & I moved the extra mattress to the floor. I had it to myself but I noticed I still slept carefully so I wouldn't kick T in the head. And we closed the door - no canine bed companions! But I still got more flea bites - it's just my lot in life.

We were getting up at 5 so MA could take us in to Maadi where we'd meet our drivers at 6 - we felt awful about her getting up so early to do this,not to mention her arranging this whole trip for us - but that's MA.

I didn't bring an alarm, so I set my inner alarm for the muezzin's 5 AM call to prayer. He started chanting at 4:50 AM. When I took out my earplugs there were several of them, and they weren't all finished till ~5:20. Does this happen every AM? It was so cool hearing the layers of chanting in the dark.

[More ...]


Sunrise over the Red Sea :)

Our drivers were coming at 6:45 AM; Hortense said "I called our donkey and he is on the way." As we left at 7 AM we decided to drive up the east coast of Sinai to get to St Katherine's - a little shorter, and wow - what spectacular scenery.

Think Death Valley times a hundred - a hundred times more rugged and 100 times more mountains crammed in. We followed a rather narrow flat sand valley with the bare rugged mountains rising straight up from it. Sometimes a lone acacia -like tree would be sticking up, bright green in the layers of sand and brown/tan/gray/red mountains.

[More ...]


Ali's Ranch - A Stop on the Multi Day Ride??

...So now we are in the car, but Ali wants to take us driving out to see his place in the desert. He's arguing in Arabic with Nabeel - N wants to leave now (it's ~4 PM) because it's a 6 hr drive back to Cairo. Ali's saying if you stopped like I told you, we wouldn't be in this situation. I am taking them with me!

We climbed into Ali's truck, with him still arguing with Nabeel, and in parting, Ali said under his breath, "Why do you have to be so difficult!"

I just went with the flow - if we get back at 10, 11, 12, what does it matter. Another chance to see the desert - and this the Real Desert with someone who lives in it? Hell yea.

[More ...]


Changing Donkeys in Mid-Stream

...After all, my dream of galloping in the desert happens tomorrow AM. Although, the thought of Shoki driving 120 km/h in the dark (I bet you a pyramid he drives with his lights off) for 6 hours was, even for me, a little daunting. Oh well - just don't think about it - insha'allah. God willing, we'll get there. ...

One thing that gets the adrenaline firing through me - a driver whose eyes are closing. Hortense said, "I've been watching him. His head nods and his eyes close." Well, this is bad. Insha'allah's not going to get us home in this situation.

[More ...]


The Road to Cairo

When I first decided to go on this trip, or should I say, Invite myself along on this trip, I mention my decision to go was made literally in about 10 seconds. MA didn't find out till after it was done, and I kind of felt like it would be cheating.

The first few days I was here I felt like I WAS cheating. Whenever I've travelled, it's always been out of my backpack, on my own, arriving in a foreign country by myself, having to figure out how to get into a city one you land at the airport, fend off the swarming taxi drivers who try to take you to the wrong guesthouse and try to rip you off. Try to find another guesthouse late at night when the one you pick out of the Lonely Planet is not there; figuring how to find the right bus to take you somewhere when everything is written in their language and nobody speaks English. You get your ass grabbed on busses that are so crowded you almost have a panic attack. Riding in a 3rd class train compartment and being so grateful you and a friend have actual 'seats' on a luggage rack, etc.

[More ...]


Dreams Fulfilled

Denise was riding with us and Julie (and her black stallion) and Hortense and Morad and Christina. A groom leads out into the sunshine my mount: a huge magnificent flaming red stallion with a flowing mane and white-rimmed eye. My eyeballs popped out, and when I climbed aboard my jaw dropped.

He turned into a fire breathing dragon - he tried to savage the groom holding him and tried to bite my leg several times, and he lifted me out of my saddle (English saddle, not used to this!), and lunged, mouth wide open into the palm branch we walked under as if he could devour the whole piddly little date palm itself.

When he walked he bowed his beautiful neck to his chest and his mane rippled over both sides of his neck and his forelock covered his face. His steps were light but he was so terrifically powerful I was like a mosquito on his back. [More ...]