Friday, March 28, 2003

Not Watching The War
I think that I'm becoming allergic to televison. After two days of peace while my cable TV box decided not to work, my housekeeper (bless her ingenious soul) managed to get it to work. I can't blame Nagat, since after all her 9 year old son Ahmed comes to my house after school until she finishes work. He gets to watch the tube as a reward for doing his homework while she is here. With a 9 year old, I'd want the TV working too. But it was nice to be able to say honestly that I hadn't been able to watch the news because the set was out of order. It meant that I was going to a bit of extra effort checking my newspapers and wire services online, but that is preferable to having the damn war force-fed to me from CNN or something.

"Watching the war" is becoming an international pastime and this really bothers me. At what point does this become some kind of twisted entertainment like Joe Millionaire or Survivor or something? The news itself is depressing enough. I can neither cheer on British and American troops who I really don't feel have any place in Iraq, despite all the protestations of their leaders. There are all sorts of countries with weapons of mass destruction (Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea to name a few...or France, Russia to name some others) but Iraq has obviously got some special charm, black and oily I suspect. As I said before, I have no love for the Baathist regime in Iraq and I can't think of anyone who does, but I question the propriety of moving vast quantities of men and materiel halfway round the globe to invade a country that as far as I can see (and I DO read a lot of news coverage from all over) has no real, substantive links to anything that has happened in the US or Britain. The whole scenario absolutely stinks of self interest, and raises the hackles of a veteran of the Viet Nam disaster. As the troops move into Iraq, I watch with dismay the increasing number of civilians and soldiers killed in what is likely to be a messy quagmire.

Today I opted to escape from the modern world and take my favourite mare out into the countryside near Abu Sir to explore some new trails. The farmland in Egypt is cut up into millions of tiny farms, especially in the areas of the Delta that have been cultivated for a long time. Many of the farmers live in villages some way away from their plots, and each morning they walk to the fields with their donkeys, goats, sheep, water buffalo, cows and camels in various numbers and combinations. There are usually mud brick shelters for the animals at the edges of the fields where the farmers and their families take a break for tea and some bread and cheese. Dirt roads and trails cut through these fields along the irrigation canals, and it's possible to ride for hours through some of the lushest fields imaginable.

At a reasonable distance from the more densely populated villages, the chance to observe the wildlife is excellent. Egypt has always been a haven for migratory birds who travel down the Nile to other areas in Africa, and there are a lot of birds that make their homes here year round. Along the canals, we have black and white kingfishers that hover over the water at about a height of a 6 or more metres like little black apostrophes until they plunge into the canal to snatch a minnow or a frog. Even more spectacular are the European Kingfishers that are turquoise and bronze and zip about in pairs playing in the trees over the canals.

An afternoon in the 1800's is a good cure for today.