Friday, February 13, 2004

February Ride

When my alarm clock went off at 8:30 this morning it dragged me out of such a solid sleep that I had thrown myself into my riding clothes, loaded dogs into the car, and headed for the horses before I was really aware of being awake. Friday is the first day of the weekend in Egypt and there are a group of people in Abu Sir who meet Friday mornings to ride in the desert. I wasn't meeting the main group today because I had opted to go out later with a couple of women who ended up not coming out for various reasons. Instead I loaned my younger gelding to a French woman for a desert ride with her husband and another riding friend.

The ride was gorgeous. The air was clear, crisp, and all of the pyramids from Giza to Dahshur could be seen almost to the individual blocks of stone. This is the kind of morning that causes an addiction to Egypt. The horses were energetic to say the least and we enjoyed a number of good gallops across the desert on our way out. As we turned home the wind shifted to come out of the west and the palms turned inside out like forgotten umbrellas over the fields and horse farms.

Palms are amazing trees. Arab tradition is that the palm was the tree in the Garden of Eden, and this would make a lot of sense to me. There is no part of the palm tree that is not usable by man and/or beast. Ask any Arab horse. They love the fresh dates that fall in September, the dried dates that we give as treats for the rest of the year, the fresh fronds that hang down over the paddock, and even the bark of the tree. It's all good to eat as far as they are concerned. I love the grey sea green colour of the branches and the red, gold and brown of the dates.

By the time we finished our ride and I was headed for home, the wind had shifted a bit again, and was definitely not from the usual north west. My clear beautiful day had turned cloudy, dusty and ultimately rainy. Welcome to Amsheer. That is the month of the year if you ask one of the farmers, while if you ask a taxi driver he is likely to tell you the name of the month in the Islamic calendar, and if you ask a businessman or a visitor, you'll hear that it is Friday the 13th. We have an abundance of calendars, just as we have an abundance of almost everything in Cairo.

When I lived in Alexandria, most people kept track of what they called the Alexandrian fisherman's calendar, which is the same calendar that the farmers use because this calendar did the best job of predicting our weather. I looked for information on the web about this calendar so that I could give a better explanation, but unfortunately didn't have much luck. I'm going to have to do better research on my own, I guess. The fishermen/farmer's calendar is similar to the Coptic calendar which is similar to the ancient Egyptian calendar, but there are some differences.

To go back to Amsheeer, it is the month of changeable weather, when it may be sunny in the morning and stormy in the afternoon. Monday might be foggy, Tuesday blazing hot, Wednesday cold and windy, Thursday clear and cool. Amsheer is our transition into summer and for the fishermen on the North Coast it is a month to be reckoned with, as the storms at sea can be violent. For myself, the main question is how many layers will I wear tomorrow morning when I go out to ride and the definite hope that the sandstorm will have ended by morning.