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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.

I had a bad cup of instant Nescafe, which always tastes wonderful when I'm travelling, & I went up on the roof with Steph, where you can see several pyramids only ~1 mile away. MA and her 12 rat dogs joined us on the roof. The dogs are like a little swarm of cockroaches whenever MA appears - they come out of the woodwork from all directions, their toenails skittering on the tile, then shoot off again, following her in a swirling frantic whirlwind.

MA drove off to her stable while SJT & I walked a couple of blocks, past a little local 'store,' a donkey fruit cart, mansion, palm thatched shacks with donkeys & water buffalo hobbled outside, to Paul's stable/mansion. His wife's the Ethiopian diplomat, & he just plays with lots of horses (lots of stallions around). The living area & fabulous outdoor patio is above the cool stone stables. We had tea with an Egyptian history lesson & instructions on the uses of the miraculous date palm tree.

MA took us in her SUV to the desert to scout trail for Friday's ride (as she calls it) or race (as Paul calls it). We drove along the canal road, thru the village - kids out of school swarming the roads, on donkeys, bright material/clothing hanging out to dry beside the dusty road and mud brick & concrete dwellings, camels laden with 10 ft long palm branches which look, from behind, like floating sashaying huge palm fans, women toting loads on their head (no hands), braying donkeys pulling fruit carts, women washing dishes in the filthy canal, loaded minivans driven by 14 yos jamming the narrow canal road.

MA drives fast with narrow margins (she says, "You just don't hit anybody") - I employed the very useful tactic learned in Sri Lanka of looking out the side window - no worries that way! She stopped at her other piece of land, around an acre grove of palm trees on the canal with a view of the Bent & Melted pyramids. Then on to the 'drive' in the desert... which was really rocketing over the sand dunes, whipping thru the wadis, skidding about like a boat on water, catching air, ripping around the pyramids (there are many) & ruins & excavations, tearing thru the army's dump.

A couple of times MA said "oops" or "that sounded bad" & as a solution hit the accelerator. Steph was having Abu Dhabi dune driving rushes. I couldn't stop laughing. We stopped at Ali's nice place (lots of stallions) at the edge of the desert for an informal meeting to organize this ride. The hot shoes discussed 2 start times - for the fast riders and slow riders. Hmm, doesn't that defeat the purpose of a demo slow ride?

Casual vet checks, drivers to follow the kids, what to do if the predicted sandstorm develops. Morad took Paul in his jeep & we followed the testosteroned dune boys back along the desert 'trail.' There isn't really a trail, just tracks EVERYwhere, and not a thing grows in this desert. We whipped and bounced along down to the lake & back, following Morad doing donuts and riding at 45* angles on dunes, and MA said "I think there are alot of eccentrics in Egypt." Ya think?

Back at MA's the 15 dogs swarmed out to greet us. Destry stayed home all day doing school correspondence work - what a fantastic education opposed to staying in the states for your senior year. Morad & his wife came over with dinner, we devoured it & talked about the that FEI is as a governing body here, and a few horror stories of bad horse treatment.

There was a ride in Jordan last year where an SUV was following a tired horse on the course, bumping it along to keep it going, & it knocked the horse over and killed the rider. Anybody hear of that one? Getting endurance 'riding' going here as opposed to endurance 'racing' seems so far beyond hopeless that it's a non-option. From my viewpoint anyway. Not when FEI sets the rules and breaks them at will for whoever it's convenient or whoever needs to win the race. (And it's not just endurance riding this happens in).

These guys would do better to just do trail rides, though they couldn't even be called "competitive" trail rides without FEI getting involved. A rat dog jumped on my lap and dropped some more fleas on me (I am getting bitten, as usual). The guys and Morad's wife smoked like bonfires inside, so much I had to escape outside with the mosquitoes for a while.


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