Friday, April 08, 2005

It Isn't Just Us!

Oddly Enough News Article |

And I thought that it was just us in Egypt! I love this article. I'm sure that the numbers would be higher than that here. We were awarded the highest number of fatalities per kilometer of road in the world, but then we don't have so many kilometers of real road here.

We Didn't Need This...No One Does

ABC News: Egypt Blast at Bazaar Kills 2, Injures 19

I'd been spending a non-riding day yesterday, as I did the day before, having come off of one of my geldings while riding on Tuesday afternoon. He stopped and spooked at something, I rolled over his shoulder and landed with an audible thunk on the hard-packed clay of the trail, and I managed to pull a couple of muscles in my back. They are getting better, but the hour and a half that I had to spend in the saddle (on another horse) right afterwards were no picnic. That's the price of running your own business when you are the main asset. Note to self: get another asset.

Anyway, not being able to ride despite the absolutely beautiful weather was annoying so I decided to chase down some rabies vaccines for my dogs and horses. Merri and I dove into the misery that is Pyramids Street to make our way through the buses, crowds and pollution that is Giza to the Pfizer store where I bought 50 doses of 3 year rabies vaccines for my horses and dogs and the dogs and horses of a couple of neighbours. On our way back I stopped at a pharmacy to buy one hundred 3 ml syringes (the pharmacist did ask what I needed so many for) to make sure that I had plenty for administration. Once back at the house, all the house dogs and the cat got shot, and then we all headed over for the paddocks to do the horses, dogs and donkeys. Gameela the Gamoosa was exempt. Rabies is a real problem in the countryside, and about 4 months ago we had something like 10 dogs die from it among the farm dogs, who are never vaccinated for anything. For this reason, I vaccinated my horses and donkeys, since they are out and about in an area where they could possibly be exposed.

All the animals shot, we headed back to the house to prepare some Chinese food for a potluck neighbourhood dinner with my Norwegian friend Pal, but the preparations were interrupted by another neighbour whose husband had just called to say that he'd heard there'd been a bombing in the Muski area of Cairo. We turned on BBC World, the main television news source in this household, to hear nothing. Big sigh of relief, maybe it was just one of those stupid rumours. But then I checked Google News online, which has to be one of the best sources of news on any subject anywhere in the world, and found to my sorrow that there had been a bombing. Damn.

This morning, the Google sources say that two people were killed and about 20 injured from a blast from a small bomb filled with nails. The area where the blast went off is a street that extends towards the Nile and downtown from the Mosque of Hussein in the area of the main bazaar. While Khan el Khalili is a tourism area, it is far more one of the main shopping areas of Cairo, a sprawling site that contains smaller sections for gold, brasswork, herbalists, clothing stores, fabrics, tools....whatever you might be hunting for in Cairo, you will find it in this part of town, and at a cheaper price than other places, so it is filled, packed, inundated with lower middle class and lower class Egyptians all the time. Tourists like to come because it is an extremely interesting place, and the bargains are real, but the main clientele is local. At least half of the people injured were Egyptians, and there are conflicting stories about the killed. One news story says that the daughter of an Egyptian shopkeeper was among the casualties, while other foreign reporters are only talking about a foreign man and woman. Friday is usually a very busy day in the Muski area, but I'm betting that the shopkeepers are not doing much today.

Naturally, most of the conjecture is around the topic of who would have done such a thing. Some people say that they saw a man on a motorcycle throw the bomb into a knot of people including tourists, while others say someone placed it on a motorcycle. An unidentified woman who was seriously mangled (and killed) in the bombing may have been a suicide bomber according to others. It's going to be a while before we have any idea. Does this herald a period of attacks against foreigners? I doubt it. Most of the problems that Egypt had in the past were part of a struggle between people who were in opposition to the government, specifically the security forces, and the police. Ironically, the government's response in the 90's was to insist on police escorts for tourists, which simply made the tourists targets even more than before. I just hope that we don't see an exodus of tourists from Egypt, as the hotels and resorts are currently packed with visitors. In the meantime, my two American visitors are feeling very safe here in the countryside, and I feel no danger to myself at all.

Now we will all wait to see how the foreign press covers the event, how the government investigates, how the tourism industry reacts. As far as I can see, this was one of those tragic random events that could happen anywhere. Even the "safe" United States has had pipe bombing episodes in the past. No one made it out to be part of a sinister plot against Westerners or Easterners when it happened there. On the contrary, it was quite realistically described as a random act of violence by a deranged individual, just as most of them are. Suicide bombing is most surely an act of a deranged individual, one for whom despair is the overriding current in his/her life. Frankly, throwing a pipe bomb from a motorcycle does not seem to me to be the most balanced way of dealing with a problem either.

Egypt is utterly dependent on tourism. 99.9999% of Egyptians do not want to see anything happen to foreign tourists because a drop in tourism affects every sector of Egyptian life. The farmers get less for their crops if there is less demand. The manufacturing sector depends on purchases made by tourists or the demand of the hotel industry. The poor horse and camel men at the pyramids, as well as the souvenir sellers everywhere, are most directly hit. I would imagine that if the shopkeepers of Muski could get hold of who ever created that bomb, there would only be tiny shreds of whatever left in a matter of moments. No, we didn't need this at all.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Meeting New Faces

Hedgehog 3.25.JPG
Hedgehog 3.25.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Molly, the little blonde dog in the photo, was a rescue from a mountain in Greece where she'd been abandoned by owners who were not happy with her for whatever reason. My daughter and I were on holiday there, driving rather randomly around the southern mountains when we spotted her sitting forlornly by the side of the road near the office of a cave that we wanted to visit the next day. We asked the people in the office about the dog and were told that she'd been sitting there for a couple of days. Not really needing another dog since we had two already in Cairo, we decided to open the car door and if she jumped in, she would go with us. No fool Molly, she hopped right in and has been a family member for the past 10 or so years. Her abused past left her with psychological scars that will never heal and she's blind in one eye with limited vision in the other, so she and my daughter's cat share a back garden where they live in peace and quiet. Molly comes in to join a selection of the terrier pack at night, however.

A week ago a friend of mine brought by a hedgehog that her daughter had rescued from a pet shop. Hedgehogs are native here and occasionally caught and sold to people as pets. Despite the fact that hedgehogs are terrific insect predators, it was felt that having one wandering the house wasn't a good idea so Phredd lived in a cage where he really wasn't so happy, so he ended up in Molly's garden for a brief stay. He was invited for a longer one, but made his getaway after only a day. He was adorable with a long pointed snout, soft facial fur, button eyes and nose and big soft ears, but I'm sure that he's much happier catching the grubs in my neighbour's fields.

The Nile Valley is a rich environment for animals with the crops year round and we have a lot of visitors among the migratory birds that pass from Europe and Asia to southern Africa in the spring and fall. Like all parts of our damaged world, the valley was home to many species that no longer survive here. Many have been hunted to extinction, others have been sold as pets like Phredd the Hedgehog and the many Egyptian tortoises who are on the brink of extinction and almost never found in the wild. There is very little education of the public, however, on the need to protect our fellow inhabitants.

One of the ideas that I've been playing with for my land is to have a center where children from schools in the city can come to visit and to be introduced to the farm animals of the countryside. A few ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, a couple of goats and sheep, a water buffalo, a cow, and some donkeys (some of whom are already in residence) will be the visual aids and I'm sure that I will collect a variety of individuals like Phredd to help teach the children about the diversity of life in our environment. Many people don't realise that foxes and weasels are common inhabitants of Cairo along with less desirable creatures like rats and mice and the ubiquitous feral dogs and cats. They all have a place in the ecosystem, however, and this place should be understood. Geckos, small delicate lizards with sticky feet that can walk about on ceilings and walls, are common in Egypt but they are often hunted by people who mistakenly think that they poison food with their saliva. I treasure the two or three that live in my house feasting on flies and mosquitos.

My sister in law in California runs the Ojai Raptor Center where she helps to mend injured hawks, eagles, and owls to be returned to the wild. She also has some that for whatever reason cannot be returned to wild living who accompany her on visits to parks and schools for educational talks about the raptors of the area. A similar sort of center would be a useful addition here, I think. And with all the animals I have already, who would notice a few more?