Saturday, February 12, 2005

Stumbling over sarcophagi

SleepingDogs.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Just back from a frigid three hour ride in the desert with my Belgian friends. The horses love this weather, and with their furry coats I would too, but I was bundled in a sweatshirt over a tshirt under a fleece jacket, wearing gloves and a helmet with sunglasses that were more for the cold wind than the sun. When I think of how I used to ski in -5 degrees Celsius for hours on end and now I'm shivering in +12 C, it's embarassing. Living here has turned me into a cold weather weenie.

We were making a tour of various antiquities surroundings today. You don't have to actually approach pyramids to be in the midst of ruins here. There is mile after mile of rubble piles, some of which are left overs from other excavations, while others may hide things yet to be excavated. Today we were counting sarcophaguses/sarcophagi?. There are at least 6 or 7 of them lying rather randomly out in the desert. It's hard to imagine how or why they ended up there. After all this time, it could be that they were taken from other resting places or it could be that they never made it there. At the sarcophagus by the railroad track, fourteen year old Pauline remarked that the area was rather spooky with the overturned sarcophagus and the surrounding hills covered by large almost liquid looking boulders. A surrealistic sculpture garden of sorts. Another sarcophagus that we encountered at the top of another hill had the expected body and head shape cut out of the stone. A perfect Hollywood mummy movie artifact.

On the way back we took a shortcut through an area where the antiquities department has been dumping rubble in the desert, mostly the remains of the old guesthouse that was torn down when they discovered that leaky pipes were releasing water into the ground near the Serapeum. The Serapeum was first excavated in the 1800's by the French archaeologist Mariette, who found an underground complex of rooms filled with enormous (think dumptruck-sized) sarcophagi ( Earthquakes in recent years and problems with rising groundwater have forced the closure of the Serapeum recently, but I was fortunate to see it a number of times before it was closed. There is even still one enormous sarcophagus still resting in a passage on its way to its final resting place. These basalt sarcophagi were for the sacred Apis bulls. As we were picking our way through the piles of rock and sand, I noticed a round white object that proved to be a human skull. I have no idea how old it was but it didn't seem to be that old. When I returned to the paddocks and dropped by one of my neighbours to whom I mentioned the skull, he said that it was possibly some unfortunate who found a hasty burial out there.

Amazing what you find in the desert.

The dogs are actually a puzzle. Figure out how many you see. On a cold rainy day, this is the only way to do it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cloudy Days

TracyDonkey.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
The photo accompanying this post was put there expressly to remind me that not everyday is like today..and yesterday...and the day before. The last few days would definitely not qualify for the high point in my life. The weather has turned cold again and the ambient temperature in my house and my refrigerator are pretty much the same. I must admit to being rather tired of wearing an old Eddie Bauer fleece jacket indoors to fend off the chill. Cold is one thing when you can go into a warm room and relax a bit, but when it is unrelenting, your whole body becomes tired with the effort of warming. At night I lay a heavy nightgown of cotton fleece on the oil radiator that pitifully works on the glaciers in the living room so that at least that is warm when I go to bed. A small battalion of rat terriers helps to warm up the snowfield that passes for my bed, but we aren't really comfy until nearly morning, when it's time to brave the chill again to get going for the new day. I keep tellling myself that I will look back longingly sometime in June, but that doesn't do much for feet that go numb on my tile floors.

An assortment of my mechanical friends have decided that this is the time to remind me that they have minds/mechanisms of their own. My laptop and iPod both seem to have some memory problems and may have to take a trip to Dubai for rehab. This is not happy news even though they both are under warranty. I'm supposed to go into the Apple doctors this morning to refine the diagnosis, but unfortunately my Jeep is at the mechanic. I noticed that it wasn't running smoothly and thought that there might be a problem with the fuel filter. We changed that (along with the pump since Jeep in its infinite wisdom decided that the two should be one, thereby increasing the sales value of the spare parts), but that wasn't the problem. Now they are changing the oil and filter in the transmission and hopefully that will fix it. If it doesn't, I'm looking at rather more hefty repairs. But that Jeep is my lifeline and I can't afford for it to fall apart. Right now I'm having to rely on the kindness of friends to get things done.

As if the electronics and the car weren't enough, I also had to go into the centre of town yesterday with Mona to buy myself a new stove. My previous cooker was an antique that had been in our villa when we bought the place and it finally announced its retirement the other night while I was baking bread for my parrots. I heard a loud pop and went into the kitch to find the floor covered in small chunks of the mirrored glass that had once been the outside of the oven door. So right now I'm sitting in my fleece jacket typing on my unhappy laptop and staring at a large carton in the middle of my living room floor. The carton contains my new stove and I'm waiting for the workmen who have to dismantle one of my kitchen cupboards to get the old one out and the new one in. Unfortunately, I had the fridge and stove in place before the cupboards were installed in the world's smallest kitchen. The workmen had best show up soon since I still have to go to the Apple guys downtown, be back in time for riding with clients, and bake more bird bread tonight. With this weather, the parrots are consuming food like elephants.

I know that I am one of those people whose mental outlook is strongly affected by light. A winter in San Francisco during the rainiest year in California's history was as close to hell as I ever wish to come. In four months we had about four sunny days and I thought that I was never going to have any energy again. Egypt's almost perpetual sunshine is just what my solar batteries need and I feel the drop sharply when the sun just isn't there. We had more rain in Alexandria but the storms would blow through dumping gallons on us interspersed with sunshine. It's the uniform grey that gets to me. But the weather icons on the bottom of my Firefox browser tell me that the temperature is supposed to go up 10 degrees tomorrow and the sun should come back, so life will look up again. Now if I can just get the machines working the way that they should....