Saturday, January 29, 2005


FelfelaDecor.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Someone turned on the heat today. A hot dry wind is blowing from the southwest, a counterpoint to our usual wind that brings cooler air from the northwest. Fine dust covers everything, but as long as this wind is blowing, there isn't much point in cleaning. In two seconds the dust will be back. My old baladi dog Stella has a heart that isn't doing so well at her advanced age of about fifteen and the heat is not welcomed by her. She's panting and seeking the cool indoors.

I was riding this morning with a couple of clients, trying out a desert trail that will be used next Friday for a 40 kilometre endurance ride. There is a group of local riders who put on monthly rides during the fall-to-spring season for fun. The idea of endurance riding is that one is out there with a horse making sure to cover the course but taking good care of the horse as well. We have young vets who get equine practice checking the horses before the ride, at the halfway point, and at the end of the ride to be sure that the horses are fit to be ridden. Any that fail the checks are withdrawn. There isn't much glory in winning a ride like this, although there is usually a cup or something for the first three places. I'm going to be riding with Pauline, the young girl in the dramatic photo of the pyramid against the stormy sky. We'll likely come in last.

After two hours in the desert with this wind blowing, I came home and drank a couple of litres of water, had a bite of salad and lay down for a nap on the couch. One of the things this wind does is to make you so sleepy that a nap isn't just nice but is necessary. So I arranged the pillows on my large couch, stretched out and was immediately covered in dogs. I recalled an old song from my teenage years "Leader of the Pack" and rather inanely wondered if being leader of a pack of rat terriers was really worthwhile. A minute later, all had settled to what they felt was an appropriate snoozing spot and we were out for an hour. I rarely nap, and every time I do I remember why I rarely nap.

The sunset tonight will likely be fairly spectacular due to the dust, but I'm afraid that I will be less appreciative of the half acre of Sahara sand that is occupying my floor. Housework appears inevitable. Despite the warmer temperatures, I don't think anyone will be outdoors appreciating them. Sandstorms like this aren't so great for the lungs, and most of us try to stay indoors for the worst part. My grooms tell me that we are now in the beginning of Amsheer, the month of winds and changing weather by the old pharaonic calendar. In Alexandria we used this calendar to predict the weather and it was known as the fishermen's calender but it dates back to the time of the pharoahs and the months are tied to the rhythmn of planting and harvest.

While I was laying there, pushing dogs off my face and encouraging all to go to sleep so that I could, I realised that I've been in this house almost a year now. The sparrows are quarreling in the eaves again, trying to nest in every possible hole. The wheat has been planted and still looks like plots of lush grass rather than a grain. It's been a good year over all.

By the way, the absurd column in the photograph is from the Pyramids branch of Felfela, an Egyptian restaurant that is a favourite when we are looking for good inexpensive country food. They sell takeaway from a counter on the street just below the pyramids of Giza and you can get very full on foul and ta'ameya sandwiches (beans and felafel) for a couple of Egyptian pounds. If you are interested in something more formal, they have a garden and an indoor dining room, the source of the column, where you can have a variety of salads, stuffed pigeon, grilled quail, and other local specialities and sip on a chilled
Stella beer. Every restaurant in the chain is slightly different and this one must have employed an Egyptian relative of Gaudi to decorate the columns in seashells and stones.


ringgit said...

May I know how many types of local beer are there? I believe I have only seen Stella and Sakara beers.

undiscussablerealms said...

wow! i've always been interested in egyptian culture and what a treat and a thrill to find a blog that talks about it in depth. i'll make your blog my daily read. thanks for writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Leila from Dove's Eye View here, on Felfela. As a lonely exchange student first arrived in Cairo in 1983, I found my way to the Felfela #1 downtown. Did they really serve foul 1,000 ways? 20 years old, female, unaccompanied, tall and very "khawagga" looking despite my Arab father, I felt safe and cared for at Felfela. Later, after making friends both Egyptian and foreign, I returned for raucous dinners. My Egyptian friends and I went to much humbler foul places for 50 piastre bowls with trimmings, but FElfela was for when you needed Foul Omdurman with beer, or other fancier dishes.
Thanks for your accounts of Cairo- so lovely.