Friday, August 10, 2007
Summers in Egypt are hot. By 11 am it's often over 35 Celsius or 95 Fahrenheit and still on its way up. We have a farm rule that horses don't work in temperatures over 35 C because with the humidity, it adds up to a heat index that spells cooling difficulties for the horses. Yesterday I was up at 7 am to take one of my mares out for some exercise before it got too hot. We have some standard trails that include good areas to stretch with a canter as well as narrower sections that have to be ridden more slowly. Stella and I headed out in the cool morning air but very soon discovered that we were not the only ones taking advantage of the early hour. The paths were crowded with farm families walking out to the fields with their water buffalo and with farmers who had been harvesting fodder for the animals since dawn.
If we weren't going to be able to move quickly for fear of frightening animals, we could at least amble along and enjoy the early morning so I dug out my trusty Nokia 6630 and decided to take some photos along the way. Mobile phones are used everywhere by the farmers since there are so few land lines out here, so taking a photo with a phone attracts much less attention than a camera might and I was able to shoot some scenes of early morning life in the countryside.
Many places have watchmen who guard at night. Sometimes they have a little room by a front gate, but a restaurant on our track has its watchman sitting across the road at night. He spreads a blanket inside a shelter in the winter, but summer nights are wonderful outdoors and I could see this blanket still in its place.
As we turned down another track, we came upon a canal where a flock of little egrets were hunting frogs, minnows and crayfish. Horses don't usually bother the birds nearly as much as a person on foot would, but we must have made some noise to startle them because they all took flight in a flurry of snowy feathers. They only were airborne for seconds before they resumed their hunt for food in the canal. I guess we weren't so scary at second glance. Crows gazed down calmly on us from mulberry trees while bee eaters rested from their labours on the electric lines and kingfishers flashed turquoise along the canals.
The last stretch on our way home led us through one of the small villages on the main road. On the other side of the canal, the sand trucks were lumbering along the asphalt road, but our path took us along a dirt road lined with colourful fellaheen homes where families were sitting on mastabas in the morning sun having breakfasts of beans and bread or eggs with cheese and bread. Woman had been up early taking care of washing and other household chores, while the men had gone to the fields or to work and would have their breakfast brought out to them by one of the women or children.
Breakfast provides the village women and children with a chance to make a bit of money as well. Ta'ameya or felafel is a traditional Egyptian breakfast that takes rather a lot of time to prepare. Fava beans must be soaked for a day or two and then ground to a paste with onions, garlic, and herbs. This dough is then mixed with an egg and some baking soda, and then fried in oil. Most villages have one or two women who are willing to do all of this, allowing the others to buy. It often seems that the job rotates among the households in an area, giving various families the chance to earn cash while relieving others of the labour. The wonderful smell of the frying patties was enough to hurry our steps home for our own breakfast.
copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani