Saturday, September 11, 2004

Sanity On Four Legs

YasandKids, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
I admit it. I'm a horse-freak and have always been one. I love the smell of them, I like to watch them, I love to ride them. But the world really looks different from the back of a horse. I can travel around the villages slowly enough to admire the care with which a mother braids her young daughter's hair. I have the time to admire the care that the women give to scrubbing their pans and the mats that cover their floors. I have the quiet to notice the baby ducks in the canal and the egrets hunting minnows along the banks.

In a car, if you are driving, you haven't the time to see anything, especially here in Egypt where you have to be watching for the next lunatic to swing around a corner on the wrong side of the street. (Remember Schrodinger's Cat?) Driving is not for the faint of heart in Egypt. Riding as a passenger in a car isn't much better really because the passing scene is so rich that you spot something interesting and it's gone already. The hiss of tires on the road, the blare of the radio, the hum of airconditioning, all of these things drown out the call of birds, the songs of housewives hanging out their laundry, the squeals of children playing.

I've spent a large portion of my life zooming from place to place meeting this appointment or that, making sure that children were at school on time, arriving at dinner parties on time. Now I want to see the world at my pace.

Yesterday and today I took time to go out with my horses in the neighbourhood. A little boy of maybe four years ran out of his front door just down the road from my paddocks waving his little hand in the air to give me high five as I walked by with my 7 yr old gelding Nazeer. Nazeer paused politely as I reached down to be able to reach the grubby paw offered to me. One of the men from the neighbourhood warned the boy to stay away from the horse, but I told him not to worry, it was our special game. I play it with all the village children here.

We wandered out into the desert looking for some neighbours who were also riding this morning. Only found them on the way home...after all it is the Sahara and there is rather a lot of room there for some little horses. But in the meantime we stopped by the Japanese Hill, an outcropping of stone coming up out of the desert not far from the Step Pyramid. The Japanese have been excavating there for some years, hence the name. Recently they've discovered some rock cut tombs carved into the face of the outcropping and today as we trotted past I could see an entire wall of ancient stones against the hill had been uncovered.

Further on there is another excavation site bustling with workers carrying baskets of sand and rock. There archaeologists from the Czech Republic are working on more walls that are emerging from the desert. One of the archaeologists mistook me for one of the friends that I was looking for, so I stopped to chat and explain that I wasn't Janine. Apart from the jeans and work shirts of the archaeologists, the scene could have been one from the past centuries with the village men in their gallabeyas and scarves carrying the rubble from the building that was being explored.

Having taken our time checking out the activities of the Egyptologists in the neighbourhood, Nazeer and I headed home. On the way I finally discovered my friends who had taken a different direction in their ride, and we chatted about new activities for our equestrian group. I'm advocating a weekend sand polo game where we take something like a ping pong paddle on a long handle and use it to move a brightly coloured tennis ball around the desert in teams. That would be fun and the paddles wouldn't be that hard to make.

Now I face a day of gardening, running an errand into town for a friend who is stuck in Sharm, catching dinner with one of the art teachers from the American school and two friends who are travelling to London in the morning. Plenty to do here...too much in fact. But an hour in the saddle on a horse who is happy to stop long enough to chat or just gaze at our surroundings helps a lot.

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