Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How I Spent My Christmas Holiday

The holiday season in Egypt was really a HOLIDAY season. Christmas on December 25th was just the start of festivities. A week later we celebrated New Year's Eve with a barbecue and bonfire, and another week later on the 7th of January we had Coptic Christmas as well. AND to top it all off, Eid el Adha, the primary feast of the Muslim calendar started on the 9th of January. Many of the schools gave holidays from just before Christmas to after January 15th this year. Not bad if you want to take it easy, but pretty terrible if you are trying to do something like finish a house. The final present for us, though, was the premature birth of our baby gamoosa, named Hawanum bint Gameela....a name longer than she is.

For myself, the holiday season was a mix of work and fun. My daughter arrived Christmas day from New York to spend three weeks here getting her Egypt fix. I met her at the airport and we drove to my son's where an impromtu exchange of gifts took place. All of us being on short rations financially, things were kept very simple, but I did get a lovely small set of speakers to use with my laptop and iTunes. From there it was on to a friend's home nearby for an English Christmas dinner with her children and their Egyptian friends. Many of these young people have been spread all over the globe studying or working and hadn't been gathered together for a number of years. It was a wonderful evening of laughter and joy....followed by 24 miserable hours for my daughter as a combination of exhaustion and evil airline food caught up with her and laid her very, very low.

From the 27th of December, I went into high gear with a week of visitors from abroad coming to me to add riding to their holidays. Every day for a week I scrambled out of bed in the early morning to feed parrots, pack saddlebags and pick up riders who wanted to experience the farmlands and deserts of Egypt on horseback. I must say that I've been unbelievably lucky with my clients in that they were all very enjoyable people to spend my days with. Most horse nuts like myself count themselves very lucky with every hour that they spend in the saddle. When you spend a solid week in the saddle, four to six hours a day, there does come a time when even looking at a horse can border on pain. I was wonderfully proud of my herd who behaved brilliantly carrying everyone safely through village and sand dune all week, and when everyone left we all took a break to relax.

We start up again with work in a few days with a 20 km ride for some of my regular clients and plans for a day ride to Dahshur for others. The new year looks to be busy and hopefully more prosperous.