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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.

He said "We'll go out to the wadi (big sand valley) where there's hard packed sand - I'm not running in the soft stuff." Me "But that's the point! That's what you made your horse do!" They were gone for hour - running? Or Morad collapsed in the sand? Morad's very bright, not to mention very enterprising, as most Egyptian men are because they have to be, and he's apparently good with horses and he says he loves them (how many men say that?)

Tracy is determined to get him to understand his own body's reaction to the same physical stress he puts his horses through. We all just can't believe the attitudes here of never getting off your horse to walk. Everyone's also been tossing around ideas for Morad coming to visit the states as an apprentice - stay with & learn from some trainers, farriers, etc. He would soak up everything like a sponge.

However a visa would be a problem because all Americans know he is Egyptian therefore Arab and therefore a terrorist. We got to talking about the Middle East, a place I've always been fascinated with, as has Steph. MA talked about Beirut, Jordan, Syria - all places I want to go - and they're all RIGHT HERE and I've already come this far. I don't really have to go back anyway, as I lost my summer job thanks to whatsisface...

Then MA has to go open her big mouth and say that Greece is only a 1 1/2 hr flight away - AHHH! And she knows a woman who has horses and trail rides in Greece - AHHH! What would happen if I didn't go home to do my taxes - is that a problem? Can somebody just write me an excuse??

Yesterday MA picked up a Middle East Times newspaper, a paper with an Arab perspective. Not an inflammatory rah rah pro-Arab anti-American paper, just one that tells what's happening here. Steph said, "Why is it that Americans are the only ones who can't see and don't get it??"

I really want to watch Al-Jezira while here (MA has no TV), because it just can't be any worse than Fox News (and MA and Steph say it isn't, because they have seen it) with their patriotic tickers and waving flags on the bottom of the screen and their mind-directing and fear-conditioning stories that stir scared American people up.

We made several plans which kept changing. Finally around 11 MA was worried that Tracy & Morad hadn't returned (no answer on his cell phone), so Jackie and I climbed in the jeep with MA, and we took off for the Tara Bezedat - the wadi of tables - to look for a speck of a jeep and 2 human figures in the sand. We fishtailed by the pyramids of Abu Sir and Saqqara finding some fresh jeep tracks but nothing else. After ~1/2 hour MA got a call on her cell (among several other calls) from Morad - they were at the country club having a coke.

MA scolded, "You get 100 lbs deducted from your salary every time you go out in the desert without a cell phone! I'm going to rip your limbs from your body and beat you with each of them!" She's such a mother to people - and the mother of the Egyptian family is highly revered and respected, especially by males of the family. She talks about using the "Mother Look" especially around kids to show that she is serious - and it works.

We passed close to Saqqara again - it's a huge complex and it looks like at least 1/2 mile away they are still excavating parts of the site. I want to ride there!! Hortense joined us back at the house, then Julie the Brit (been here 8 years) came by. MA's house is always open; there are always people coming and going.

MA had things to do, and we decided we'd go to Saqqara, after we all went to a stable so Morad could look at a horse that Julie wanted to buy. Julie said "I've been depressed. So I'm shopping - for

a horse. Some people eat chocolate; I buy a horse." Morad transported Tracy and I in MA's jeep, and we think maybe he was showing off just a wee little bit. You know, guys and cars, with women inside, then add the Egyptian male machismo... you get the picture.

We were flying down that canal road at over 60 mph. It's a 2-way 1-lane road, with donkeys and kids and carts and sheep and trucks, the canal on one side and dwellings on the other. Oh shit, this time I was in front, and though I had on my seat belt, I didn't think it would've done me too much good at Mach 3 in a crash. I just quit looking!

We eventually ended up in one of the myriad stables crowding the road at the foot of the Giza pyramids. On the way, I swear Morad knew everybody, stopping and rolling down his window, talking, shaking hands, hugging, cheek kissing. The horses at these stables didn't look so terrible; this stallion (stallions, stallions, everywhere - which works here cuz there are few paddocks where any can be turned out) Julie wanted didn't look bad, and she bought him. When Jackie asked her if she'd geld him - you know, to have a nice little gelding to ride - she looked totally confused. Morad actually flinched at the thought.

A poor little donkey kept carrying huge loads of sand to bed down stalls - I know those loads and I KNOW that was too much. It pained Tracy too - the plight of the Egyptian donkey depresses her. One day we passed 1 kid beating his poor donkey with a stick on his neck for no reason, and 2 big kids riding 1 donkey, and she yelled out the window, "Get OFF him!"

Leaving the stable, we passed other stables, some with nice looking horses, and some horribly skeletal ones. Humans note: Be good in this life so you don't come back in your next life as a horse or donkey in a 3rd world country. Morad took some obscure turns into some back alleys to a store (looked like a 'wholesale' little place) that Morad just happened to own a percentage of.

Steph had mentioned she wanted 2 big stone Sphinx's for her house in Idaho (with of course no hope for shipping something like that). Well, watch what you say, because when you rub the magic Morad Genie Lamp, you get your wish. The guy brought out 3 little boxes with 3 Egyptian pharaonic type statues, one of which is a sphinx, which she plans to put on the dash of her truck.

Then, with me in the backseat this time, and Steph and Jackie also along, we raced to Saqqara, this time on the main paved road that parallels MA's canal road. We went even faster, and this was, at times, a 2-lane road. Or not. You will pass anything like cars trucks donkeys horses camels carts bikes, at any time, from any direction, travelling any direction.

People honk here out of necessity. A honk means, to a car or human, "I'm passing, watch out," or "I'm in your oncoming lane on this blind curve." Or "Move over." It's not road rage, it's communication. I noticed none of us wore seat belts - sometimes you just don't worry about it.

We were probably going 70 at some places, still with inches to spare from cars and pedestrians. Jackie still squeals and oooh!s and slams on her imaginary brake pedal - we giggle but sure don't watch thru the windshield. Saqqara was closed, as I thought it might be. It was 4 PM. So then we sped all the way past MA's into Giza, not sure why, maybe cuz Morad liked driving MA's SUV, or maybe cuz I opened my big mouth and said I needed an ATM, then once we got into Giza discovered I wasn't carrying the ATM card to put in the ATM.

Morad stopped at a little store for cigarettes, and this time he didn't know the people. He bought us a bag of hot peanuts and hot squash/pumpkin seeds. Very salty - I've noticed the Egyptians tend to go heavy on the salt.

Back at the house, MA's furniture from her old house and her new curtains had arrived, plus Haj Shaban, the local omda, or 'capo de capo' or headman of the neighborhood who gets things done, (MA told us one day, if we had any problem if we are out walking around, say "Haj Shaban, Haj Abdul Rashid" - the man and his brother - and everybody will know who we mean and will find them for us) along with several men who had hung cabinets in her kitchen and who then spent the evening, and night, varnishing them with some awfully toxic varnish.

I swear between this and all the cigarette smoke my lungs are going to turn black. I might as well smoke the sheesha here myself! Tracy and I talked on the roof for an hour till it got dark (I just realized this evening that you can see the tips of the 2 large pyramids of Giza from her roof, when the sky is not smoggy) and the bright half moon was over us and the imams chanted the evening prayers.

We picked at leftovers soaked in varnish fumes, then Pol the Norweigian came over for a visit and a few smokes. Tracy and I sat on the plastic covered couch on the porch for some 'fresh' air (though they were painting cabinets on the porch too) and the company of 22 rat terriers. Later, as the workmen left at 10:30 (and MA went to Pol's to try to email) 7 or 8 little dogs were interwoven in layers on the plastic covered couch waiting for MA to get home.

Oh - Destry left today - he's staying in Maadi tonite cuz he's leaving on a plane for the states early tomorrow AM, after spending 3 months in Cairo. What a way better education in his senior year than attending a high school daily in the US. When he left, Morad said "I love that kid. He is SO COOL!"


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