Sunday, February 05, 2006

Abu Erdan, An Early Terrorist? Not Exactly

I'll bet you never knew that Audubon Society and some of the other conservation groups started with women's hats. Not the connection that most of us make, but that is true. At the turn of the century it was the fashion to decorate women's hats with feathers, parts of birds and even whole birds, the more exotic the better. The fashion reached a point that birdwatchers could rack up a better spot list sitting on a fashionable corner in New York or London than they could in the field. One of the birds that was most in demand was the egret for the graceful sweep of the snowy feathers and feather collectors went to work on the little egret and cattle egret population of Egypt as they did in North and South America, with the effect that there was general concern that the birds being hunted might become extinct.

The methods used by feather hunters were brutal to say the least. The plumes desired were most attractive during the breeding and nesting period, so this was when the hunters went to work. The result of their efforts was not only dead adults lying about under the trees, but starving young who were still nestlings dependent upon parents for their feeding. Concerned birdwatchers began a media blitz and formed such groups as the Audubon Society to try to turn the tide. Women members lobbied to have feathered hats outlawed and some of the British in Egypt began an unusual public service campaign to inform the people of Egypt of the dangers of killing egrets. Matchbooks, train cars, and posters on buildings proclaimed in Arabic "Abu Erdan saddiq el fellah", meaning "The Egret is the friend of the farmer". Abu Erdan means "father of beaks" in reference to the long beak sported by the egret, and they do assist the farmers of Egypt by eating the grubs, worms and even young mice that might be turned up in the tilling and cultivating of the soil.

The saviour of the egrets was not so much the written word as it was the hairdresser's scissors. Bobbed hair suddenly became fashionable and the extravagant feathered hats that had previously adorned the longer hair were no longer in demand. Gradually the egret populations regained strength. These days cattle egrets are no longer in the least bit endangered. Just before dusk they can be seen gathering in the trees along the road that borders the Cairo Zoo, tall shady eucalyptus and casuarinas where they will be nesting during mating season. In the countryside they can be seen in flocks following a tractor or examining freshly turned soil for bugs and other avian-oriented goodies. Sometimes they will be resting quietly in the sun along a trail as I'm out riding only to take off in a huge white cloud when the horse disturbs them. The cattle egrets still outnumber the little egrets, but sometimes I catch sight of some of the more unusual water birds such as night herons or grey herons. Sometimes life should be for the birds.


Engy said...

hi Maryanne,

I'm really proud of you coz i've never been proud of being an egyptian as I am now after reading your posts!!.

I loved Egypt in your posts, although i didn't read'em all but I really like it so much may be becoz i have never experinced the things and life you have but I really wish to do and I will do.

Tkanks for your posts (I don't thank you couse am an egyptian as you are too but couse am an reader who liked your way in writting).

I will go on reading your inspiring posts and will write to you again soon.

epgraves said...

I have been reading your blog for a while and love it. Your descriptions mean a lot to an American who wishes he could visit egypt badly.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to have found your site. I live in the U.S. dating a wonderful Egyptian man who has been living in the States for the past 8 years. I would some day want to visit and possibly live in Egypt myself. who knows, but when I do I will try to get in touch with you. I dont know too much about living there, only what he tells me. I love the culture I love the music and the food. I will write to you again soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maryanne,

Im back and happy to say that I've been enjoying programs on tv related to beautiful Egypt and the wonderful Pyramids and other related documentaries on mummies and so forth. I'm getting closer to visiting Egypt and come check out your site often to see new posts. My boyfriend is originally from Demiatt has two brothers and his father still living there and I'm hoping to one day get to meet them as well. Please keep on posting new pics and articles on your site. I do enjoy and can see that others do too as well.
Take care. talk to you soon. I am the anonymous writer on your posts.