Friday, February 18, 2005

Warmth of Spring

frontgarden.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
I had a meeting in Zamalek yesterday. Zamalek is an island between downtown Cairo and Giza, in the middle of the Nile. About 80 years ago it was farms and a couple of palaces, but now the mansions that were built there about 50 years ago are giving way to highrises. It is crowded, busy, cosmopolitan, often the residence of choice for upscale couples without children. Parking is horrific. I arrived half an hour early for my meeting so that I would have time to hunt for a parking place and I had to circle the area twice before I found one two blocks away.

As I walked to the office, I found myself in one of those ageless calms that can be encountered in this ancient city. The bombax trees along the street have just finished blooming and the odd deep crimson waxy flower lay on the sidewalk. After a month or two of freezing (well, for Egypt) temperatures, the clouds suddenly cleared and the sun on my face was warm and sweet. Every time I moved into shadow, the air reminded me that it wasn't summer yet with a chill akin to the first encounter with a ball of ice cream in a cup of expresso. Suddenly beneath the racket of traffic I could feel the stillness of the river flowing past the embassies that line the street. I waited for my meeting on the street bathing my rather weary soul in the river's peace.

This morning I passed up the early neighbourhood ride to have a leisurely time feeding the dogs and parrots and watering the grass in my garden. The days were so short and cold that I didn't do much watering for the winter months and my lawn (as you can see) has gone rather brown. Just a year ago the garden was an expanse of sand about 10 cm deep with nothing in it. This spring the poinciana that I planted by the parrots should give good shade, and the hollyhocks that have sprung up are forming a wall along the brick patio. I scattered sunflower, hollyhock and other seeds in the beds along the fenceline, and they are coming up in wonderful clumps that will ensure flowers all summer. I'm constantly astonished at how plants grow here.

About 1 pm I went over to the paddocks and collected my favourite mare for an amble around the neighbourhood. Dory and I have been partners for almost 16 years now and there is no one in the world that I'd prefer to spend time with on a sunny day. I didn't bother with a saddle but gave her the fuzzy purple bareback pad, and off we toddled. Many of the adults were indoors for a noon meal, leaving the children playing along the canals. They shouted hello's endlessly like a flock of earthbound parrots as we passed. The chickens, ducks and geese barely moved for us, and I wished that I'd brought my camera as I watched a couple of hens arguing with a farm cat over something scattered on the ground. Whatever it was, it held an equal appeal for avians and felines.

The watering continues this afternoon while I have the first time to post for three days. The main canal along the Mansoureya road is being repaired and in typical fashion the phone line was cut in the process. Took them three days to find the break and repair. Part of the leisure this morning was the pleasure of reading emails for the first time since Monday.

And tomorrow we could have cold again, so I'd best enjoy the heat while it's here.