Wednesday, March 08, 2006
A Change In The Weather
I love winter in Egypt. When my friends in Europe and North America are complaining about weeks of rain and snow, I get to smugly joke about Egypt being the place with no weather. There is a family joke about a weatherman being hired here about every four years or so, coming in to work to announce that it will be sunny and warm, and then leaving until the next one is hired. But yesterday was Egypt's chance to remind us that we can have weather that isn't perfect once in a while. It was hot at 9 am when I was feeding the birds. Hot and still. Odd after days of cool, sunny weather. A friend called me and as we were chatting I noticed that the wind had risen and was blowing off the desert, rather than from the valley. Rats. I warned my caller to close her windows because it looked to be getting dusty.
An hour later visibility was down to about 100 metres and the wind was howling off the desert. My neighbour Morad called me to ask if I could give him a ride towards Giza because his aging Jeep Wrangler wasn't in the mood to work again, and I was happy to oblige since I needed to go into Nazlit Semman to buy some chicken feed and vegetables to bake into the parrot bread that I have to prepare every week. We headed out in my Jeep with the airconditioning set to recirculate inside the car to keep the dust to a minimum. Driving down the road along the canal was hair-raising. The huge eucalyptus trees that line it giving us blesed shade in the summer were creaking and groaning in the wind. One nice branch falling on the Jeep could be more than a massive headache.
I was relieved to be past the eucalyptus when we got to Nazlit Semman, but that didn't stop the trees from being a hazard. As we came out on a road from my chicken feed man, we found a group of men chopping up a huge casuarina that had come down on the edge of the canal. They'd hauled the branches that stretched into the road back onto the sidewalk but traffic was still in a snarl. We had a list of items to pick up at shops for some of our neighbours so we wandered around Nazlit Semman stopping here and there to collect part of our treasure hunt.
Some cheese and yogurt were on the list and Morad recommended a small grocery near the Sphinx. I was amazed to see tourist buses leaving the area. I'd assumed that they would have called it a day long ago and headed back to less dusty areas like hotels. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the Sphinx while waiting for Morad to finish buying things in the store. You could barely make out the huge figure that rests at the base of the Giza Plateau. Figures would sort of stagger out of the brown fog that enveloped the area and make their ways to the few remaining tour buses that were still parked along the road.
The camel and horse men had packed it in long ago. Streets that would usually be filled with tourists on horses and camels were empty. A few of the men sat around empty coffee shops, while most people tried to escape the streets as quickly as possible.As the designated driver I was lucky in that most of the time I was sitting in the car waiting while the errands got run.
The skies gradually grew darker as the day wore on but the wind didn't drop until much later. When I arrived back at the house, Awatif told me that the power had been out most of the day, one of the other trials of these wind storms. Probably a tree down with a power line. This morning the house looked as though Awatif hadn't been in for a week...all her work the day before was for nothing. When the weather here changes, it's rarely for the good.