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Egypt: Adapting to Local Conditions

Did I sleep at all last nite? The plastic recycling plant next building over started up around 7 PM and went on all nite. I guess they work when they have a load. Or when they want to.

Some dogs barked outside, all nite. The dogs inside piped up a few times, and our front room here is quite the spectacular cathedral echo chamber. I got about 20 more bites and I got dreadfully hot.Dogs kept jumping on the bed and I kept ejecting them.

I must not have needed any sleep. Coffee on the roof again, watching the Egyptians ride their donkeys, lead their cattle, cut fodder, pick veggies (huge cabbages growing in adjacent field), walking by the big rich mansions.

MA had to wait for someone to show up to work on the house, & T wasn't feeling 100%, so S J & I walked across the road and canal thru the mango grove (if it were August, mango season, I"d go insane), where the desert abruptly begins and the Sun Temple ruins are right up the first sand hill. It looks, from MA's roof and as we climbed up to it, just a crumbled pile of rock.

Surrounding it on our side in pieces halfway up was pieces of a wall, rocks maybe 3' x2'by 8", made,not natural (?).When you crested the hill, instead of just a pile of crumbled rock it was an entire complex,maybe 5 acres,maybe only partially excavated - partially buried walls exposed, blocks of granite and alabastre (obviously shipped here by barge), some the size of half a VW.

A guide showed up, and I thought, Oh hell, because I'm used to being beseiged by Indian touts, but this man quietly followed us around, pointed ways to go, inscriptions to see. At the top of the rock pile the sahib took Steph's picture, and he helped J down the hill.

It's, what's the word, bizarre? that many several-thousand-years-old temples/ruins are literally in people's back yards. If this temple is as old as the pyramids it went up ~2000 BC, give or take 500 years. At least for the pyramids there's evidence that the builders were not slaves but a highly organized work force of Egyptian farmers redeployed while the annual Nile flood inundated their fields.

As we started to leave,none of us had an Egyptian piastre on us,& we think he was asking for $. Normally this annoys me, but if you figure that this is probably his job (MA said maybe he's put there by the gvt, or maybe it's just something that's been handed down from his father) and he sits there in the hot sun all day and likely doesn't see many people, this being way off the beaten track,and he probably has a little plot of land that his kids work during the day,and what we give him is probably more than a week's salary...we tried to tell him we'd be back with $. I don't think he understood.

We walked back to the house via Ali's place, and Steph and I got 20 pounds (on MA's advice) & walked right back out to the Sun Temple. Sahib was not there - I yelled "Hello!" on top,and then in the distance from a hut on the edge of the desert we saw him walking towards us.

I handed him the $ with a "shukran" and he said something along with "shai." Did we want to join him for tea? Yes!

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.

It's likely the norm here for him to invite us to tea, but when, or what, is it proper and expected to say "no thank you" without offending? We drank 2 small incredibly sweet glasses of tea with him and he started to make more before S caught that and said No, we go. (It was the right thing to say). He did offer to let us nap on his bed (probably praying to Allah we wouldn't), but we said no, shukran, bye.

All of our time with him his only word in English was "madame" - he did ask where Jackie was, "madame ___?" and I motioned she was sleeping - and our Arabic words were "salaam" and "shukran." Everybody ought to get to do this one day.

We walked back home - very muggy today. Does this mean the predicted sandstorm will come tomorrow? We had a quick lunch before we got into the SUV to go to MA's horses. We being we 5 humans and about 12 of the 17 dogs. The dogs leaped into the back seat, with our intention of having them hop in the back of the back seat. MA yelled "Get in the back!" to the dogs as J got in; half the dogs hopped in the very back as Tracy climbed in the back seat and half the dogs jumped back to the back seat with her. "Get in the BACK!" Dogs are way excited, popping in & out of the back seat while Tracy can't quite get all the way in or back out, "BACK! GET IN THE BACK!" Squirming wiggly hopping jumping happy dogs in chaos. Tracy tossed one in the back back while 2 popped over onto the back seat; I ejected one into the back back & Tracy scooted over and sat on the dalmation who yipped his discomfort.

We all somehow crowded in, with dogs continuing to try to pop over our shoulders and crawl on our heads as we drove the few blocks to MA's. Unloading the car was a riot: J & I slipped out quick, but Tracy, stuck in the middle, was inundated under a waterfall of terriers pouring over and around her. I felt like a queen on my throne (i.e. quite uncomfortable) as the grooms saddled our horses for us. We rode 4 of MA's horses & 1 of Morad's. Mine was Isaac. We did a city ride - thru fields and alleys and on dirt roads by the filthy canals, on busy paved roads. We rode past a graveyard (where a couple of naughty boys scared our horses), past yelling kids "hello! Hello!", past blowing plastic bags, past Egyptian canal frogs (which sound really scary, like mini cougars), past honking horns and fast moving cars ()the drivers, just like MA, don't slow down & pass with narrow margins & the horses don't flinch), along and around a busy corner with big scary dump trucks - and the horses never flinched.

Oh God, can you imagine riding Zayante here?? He wouldn't've made it out of the front gate past the colorful donkey cart without the donkey attached. We stopped at a couple of stables, all of which had 20+ horses, and plenty of stallions. Aside from the common Egyptian crow, which has a gray front & back, we saw a couple of kingfishers in the canals. Tracy had a few nervous moments (one near the graveyard) but she was a good sport & did very well.

MA's car was dead so TSJ & I walked back home... and on the road, there was our Sun Temple guide on a bike who said hi. At home we ate & downloaded pix onto S's computer. I feel like I'm cheating with my new digital - I snap pix totally at random,with no care at all about what I'm composing or if it's in focus. As a photographer, is this really legal!?

In the evening Morad & a group of ex pats came over, maybe not all necessarily for the 'ride meeting.' Tracy & Morad worked on the ride entry list & phone #s (about 25 are entered), and vet cards. MA brought out her collection of liquor, which I can't touch, and which Morad wouldn't touch because he had a wee bit too much the nite before and a helluva a hangover the next day not to mention he was rather concerned when we told him he'd spent hours dancing on the tables.

I opened my mouth about a cold beer would taste good, and Morad left and returned in 10 minutes with a bag of Meister beer, which, poured on the ice cubes that father Doug & Jo brought, tasted might-y good. I have the feeling, if you need anything here in Egypt, you ask Morad, he will find it or know somebody else who will.

I get the feeling this ride is going to be rather disorganized,with the 'rules' being largely ignored. It sounds like it will be a race for some with questionably fit horses for 40 km on sand, and others may turn around at the halfway point.

We'll have a mid-way 'vet check' for those who wish to participate. Well, as long as all (riders, 'management') understand it's a demo for what we do in the states, and everybody just has fun, it should at least serve as a learning prop for everyone.

T said "Ya know, if this doesn't' work, we have to comeback next year." S "Yea, for a 2-day." Me "A 3-day, in the Sinai!" I've always wanted to go to the Sinai,and MA's been talking of a several-day ride down the Sinai coast, ending at their place in Sharm el-Sheikh...

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