Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Taking the Horses to the Club
Tracy and I decided to ride to the Sakkara Palm Club to check it out as a destination for lunch on some of our rides with clients. There is a trail that loops out south from my land to the road that leads into the Sakkara Pyramid complex. When we checked out the trail on the gps at the end of the day, we found that the loop measured 23 km from start to finish, a good morning's ride. Tracy rode her buddy Nazeer who is feeling incredibly good after a slow summer of rest while many of my usual clients were traveling. I rode his mother, Dory, who has also been feeling rather energetic after the usual summer rest.
Summer isn't the most comfortable time to be riding in Egypt. The temperature that particular day was about 37 degrees C or 99 degrees F, but there was a good breeze rolling down the Nile Valley and the trees in the countryside give shade along the way. We moved out on a couple of energizer bunnies trotting along the trails as long as there were no children, donkeys, or water buffalo in the path. The horses would slow down automatically as we approached traffic of this sort as they'd been trained to do. Sometimes this can be a bit disconcerting as horses have better vision than we do and see the reason to stop before we do.
Tracy got her first gallop on the way south to the Palm Club as we passed the village of Abu Sir. For some odd reason (I suspect the relative crowding and lack of parental supervision) the children of Abu Sir tend to be more annoying than those of the villages near me. In this case a young boy was asking us for money, pens for school and so on as we were riding by and no matter how I explained that we weren't planning on buying something or writing any letters while on horseback, he wasn't willing to give it up. We broke into a canter to break off the conversation and Dorika was very pleased for a chance to stretch her legs with the result being a brisk hand gallop down the trail until we reached the next donkey. Tracy found the experience both exciting and a bit frightening, but most importantly she stayed in the saddle.
The Palm Club loop runs along a canal in the middle of a wide spead of farmland that extends between the Mansoureya and the Mariouteya Roads. There are no roads in this area, just dirt tracks and some mud brick houses and day shelters for animals and the farmers, who live for the most part in the villages. Every morning and evening they walk from their homes to their fields with their donkeys, cows and water buffalo. The animals spend their day tethered in the shelters in the shade with freshly cut fodder while their owners work the land and then in the evening make their way back home. The bird life is quite extraordinary in this area with little human incursion. It's a bit early for the migratory birds but bee-eaters, squacco herons, egrets and kingfishers are all common along the canal.
When we reached the end of the loop we came out on the asphalt road that runs along the Mansoureya Canal and found a concrete bridge across to the desert side of the road so that we could ride a bit further south without riding along the road. The traffic out here is light but riding alongside an asphalt road is never the best option. The palm groves south of our area are thicker with fewer open fields of corn and okra. It's almost the time of the date harvest, so the groves of date palms remind me of cathedrals with columns to the heavens and hanging candles.
The Sakkara Palm Club is just west of the intersection of the road into the pyramid complex and the Mansoureya Road. We rode up to the main door to the club and decided that this entrance was definitely not meant for equestrian traffic. The standard metal detector gate stood in a fairly narrow doorway...really not a reasonable width for a horse. We rode a bit further on and found a service entrance where we explained that we were checking out the club as a possible ride destination and wanted to check out their facilities for caring for the horses and providing lunch.
Dory and Nazeer found themselves in the unmowed football field, which they proceeded to mow while tethered together. The sports manager of the club brought them some water and then showed us to the pool where we could get a sandwich. We finished a leisurely but simple lunch while watching a number of Egyptian families playing in the pool and enjoying cold drinks. Suddenly we looked up at an odd sound.
Looking down a cement path, we saw two chestnut horses in saddles standing looking about curiously. Somehow they had followed our scent through the football field and down a couple of paths to the pool area. We paid our bill quickly and collected the wanderers, leading them back to the football field on our way out. The way home led through open fields and along shady canals lined with mulberry, eucalyptus, and willow trees. Again the horses slowed for the inevitable donkeys, cows and water buffalo tethered along the path. Oddly enough the loop back seemed to be shorter although the gps measured it as longer in actuality. Maybe it was the wind in our faces and the longing for a good shower.
copyright 2004 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani