<% pageTitle="2004 Dahshur Dawdle - Abu Sir Egypt" homeDirectory="/2004dahshurdawdle/" eventSponsor="belesemo" leftBanner="kerrit" rightBanner="ridecamp" %>

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 :)

26 riders entered, and around the time all vetted in, everybody climbed on their horses.

Ali said there'd be a rider meeting in the next paddock, as few people knew the exact directions, or that there would be a vet check with a 20 min hold on MA's acreage by the lake, what their vet cards were for,etc,.

I was all ready to climb out in the sand dunes with my cameras for the start, and yeehaw, there they went!

I hopped in Karen's SUV and we, along with half a dozen other SUVs, spilling people and grooms out the windows, gave chase. It cracks me up that the norm here is to race after riders across the desert every step of the way in their vehicles.

There's the story of a Shiek from UAE who came here to do a 40 km ride and, the lazy sod rode, about 10 km then climbed into his air conditioned crew hummer and ponied his horse out the window. Bet ya he won the race, too.

Morad told us that Middle Eastern riders are conditioned from birth to stay in the saddle. Get off and walk on foot? Oh no. It is more honorable to finish ON a 3-legged horse in the saddle than it is go get off and walk with your horse in the sand.

Karen was keeping an eye on her husband Sharif, who was sponsoring a junior, a German girl, Desiree. They were already at the rear, and after less than a mile I could see D's horse was tying up. Drenched in sweat, tail down, D kicking her to keep trotting (yes it was a mare) .... choppy trot.

What's my responsibility here? What's the proper cultural procedure to suggest her turn around? Fortunately the horse's distress was obvious to Karen too... but she still had her Egyptian, riding-ingrained, never-quit-till-you-die husband to convince.

She spoke German to Desiree, English and Arabic to Sharif and said something about me being an experienced American endurance rider (there are many, many tales told in Egypt, and who knows if they are true? But as MA says, "Who cares because they are so entertaining!").

Between us,and Desiree feeling her horse was behaving unusually, we convinced Sharif it would get worse if she continued (she'd've never made it 12 miles in that sand), and it was OK (and smart, and good for the horse) for Desiree to turn around.

So Sharif continued on (now with no riders in sight, with an unmarked trail in the desert) while Karen & I turned around and followed D back to Ali's at a walk. Karen is so cool - she's been in Egypt 24 years,"I am a grandmother here," is from Brazil and puts me to great shame, speaking Portuguese, English, Arabic, German, French & Spanish. Right. I grew up in S Texas and can barely say a few words in Spanish.

Even after 24 years here, K has never taken it for granted or lost her appreciation for it. She kept saying, "Isn't this just beautiful! I just love it out here!" She drove in the sand like a maniac, i.e. a native.

After we got close to Ali's stable, their groom (in our car) took D's horse back while D climbed in the car with us. Then we tore out after Sharif, searching for a tiny speck of a man on a horse in the vast bare Egyptian desert.

When we found him, he was talking on his cell phone (that seems to happen alot here), and he told us to go on & figure out where the trail went. We followed some fresh jeep tracks, which ended up being the wrong ones. By the time we turned around & ripped back toward Sharif, he was long gone,and WE couldn't find the right way to go.

We had Morad's crude map, but exactly WHICH side of the gas plant did we go? I finally recognized the track to the hole in the fence, and we sped on, past the Dashur or Red Pyramid, heading for the Melted Pyramid, when we spotted Sharif again. Closer to the Melted Pyramid, Pol and Jeannie were waiting for Sharif - and calling him on his cell phone - disproving my stereotypical prediction that Pol would be racing up front.

They cantered on toward the lake and we went ahead to scout trail... and followed tracks till we got to a creek crossing - what!? A WATER crossing in the Egyptian desert for these highly bred royal Egyptian Arabians!?

Karen didn't think we were on the right trail (I knew we weren't, cuz we hadn't driven that way on Wed, but I sure didn't know which sand dune we were supposed to take), and she didn't think the SUV'd make the water dip crossing. Pol insisted this was the right way, until he got to the water (water!!) crossing, and the men insisted the SUV would make it....

The SUV did get stuck and the horses would not cross. One of the men had to come save the day and get the jeep unstuck - once we women found the palm leaves for traction (and note: the women would not have gotten stuck in the first place, instead would've found the route around) - and then Pol pulled out his bandana and blindfolded each horse and led them across the creek.

We followed them in the ~half mile around the lake - which is more a swamp,full of grazing sheep, goats,cattle,water buffalo, kids (no school on Friday) and Bedouins - down the road a short way to MA's acreage and the vet stop. It looked to me as if it was going well,though the actual check was on the canal road, which got a bit chaotic when local trucks and donkeys and carts had to get by.

A couple of people opted to pull here, including MA, and ride along the roads thru the village back home. I hopped in the car with Tracy and the vets Mohammed and Anoor, and they gave us a little Islamic tutoring on the colorful drive back to Ali's. We saw several Muslim women almost completely covered in black - the further from the city you go,the more likely you'll find more traditional clothing.

At Ali's lunch was just about to be set up, riding friends and relatives were having tea on the lawn. Right around 11:30 the first 2 finishers came racing in - Morad just beating a French gal he had a rivalry with by 2 minutes.

Her horse looked like he'd cantered 5 miles and he pulsed down in 5 minutes. His mare looked like she'd galloped 110 km - i.e. like s***. They had 30 minutes to pulse down, and with 3-4 people working on her, she pulsed down in 29 minutes. Skilled horsemanship or... what?

Maybe it's OK to push your horse and race a little over her head. Maybe it's OK to chill when it's a fun demo ride called the Dashur Dawdle. Maybe it will be hard to get people who are used to FEI racing and winning at all costs to adapt to the idea of riding just for fun with the welfare of your horse being a priority.

That's why I told Desiree several times she did an awesome job, making the decision to quit cuz her horse wasn't right. And maybe it just doesn't matter in the whole big scheme of life and death and taxes. You just have to decide, what's your priority?

18 of the 26 riders finished, including Osama Bin Laden's niece (I guess it wasn't his brother, but doesn't he have 50 or so brothers? Maybe it was a brother and a niece. Remember, we are in Egypt.)

I drove to pick up Destry at MA's because we all forgot about him. Everyone had brunch, socialized,and drifted home. The riders all seemed to have a decent time, but I think the American ride management was a bit hard on themselves for things being disorganized.

It had turned into a humid sweltering (for me) day, no big scary sandstorm. We hung out at the house with the 19 dogs (and 2 cats!), recovering & rehydrating, and trying to figure out our plans since our days here are limited. Morad and his French wife Hortense,very cute and friendly gal, looks like she's about 20,came over and we all 8 piled into MA's jeep, terribly disappointed we could not also fit in the dogs, for a dinner outdoors at Christo restaurant, where you had a nite view of the main Giza pyramids when lights shined on them. MA ordered us all kinds of appetizers and sea bass and shrimp and calamari and beer.

I was played upon by the restroom attendant, a young girl who handed me toilet paper and wanted a tip. I put a 1 pound note in her little tray and she looked very pointedly at the 5 pound note she had sitting there. "No, 5 pounds." I shrugged. "No more." She pointed at my pockets. "Nothing." She pointed at her lip and face - eye makeup or lipstick. Do I look like I'm wearing any? I shrugged. She saw my watch and pointed at it. "No, not my watch." She tried again for pockets. "No, no more." This would have gone on all nite, so I said, "No, shukran, salaam," and she gave me the cutest smile. Darn, didn't get any more off her!

Steph went in later and gave her 1 pound and the girl just said Shukran. I guess you just don't mess with Steph!

All that was under $20 apiece, and that of course included the entertaining drive into and out of Cairo. Here the cars/trucks/donkeys/camels/anything with motors drive wherever they want, though somewhat generally on the right side of the road. And at nite they like to drive without their headlites on. Why? MA said "Every Egyptian knows it saves your car battery!"

We passed a huge outdoor wedding celebration and were really thankful it was very far from home,as the speakers blaring out the music and singing would have easily put the next door recycling plant to shame. Nobody but me slept well last nite (earplugs, no dogs jumped on the bed because 10 slept in MA's room and the other 12 all slept with Destry!) so tonite sleeping pills were popped and earplugs jammed. Tracy and I changed our sheets and we fiercely guarded the bed from the dogs jumping on, as did Jackie. And Steph.

Destry LEFT to go stay at Morad's - nooooooooooo! Who will sleep with all the dogs??!! MA took more in her room, and who knows where all the other little buggers are!