Friday, November 23, 2007
Coming Back Into Focus
Being short a camera has been a terrible strain. I'm used to a lovely little Panasonic Lumix that fits into a pocket and is so easy to shoot. Then last week an angel called Angela dropped into Egypt and dropped a camera into my life. She had a week off work and had always wanted to come to Egypt, so she and a photographer friend of hers came and spent a week at my guesthouse. She liked my photos and hearing about my dip in the canal, brought along an extra camera that she'd replaced with a newer model. It's larger and more complicated than the Lumix, but I figure that I can learn to use it. I'm back in business, and who knows? Maybe they will even be able to fix the Lumix.
Well, this last week has been busy with showing Scott and Angela around my part of Egypt. Naturally, they wanted to see the pyramids at Giza, so we rented some camels and went out just before sunset to catch the last light on them. We'd already spent most of the day in the desert chasing sun and shadows around Dahshur, Sakkara, and Abu Sir under a gradually darkening sky. We met our camel man in Nazlit Semman and headed out onto the Giza Plateau along with all the other visitors who have someone to pay off the tourist police who are supposed to be keeping us all out, but who are actually making a living wage on the bribes to let us all in. This is a fine old Egyptian tradition. As we reached the top of the hill, that evil winter Giza wind tore into us leaving Angela and I with our teeth chattering while Scott shot the photos that he wanted to get.
It's amazing what a passion will persuade people to do. I'd been asked to cover the endurance race being held at Sakkara Country Club under the auspices of the Pan Arab games. Teams from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were to race 120 km in the desert in a series of five loops with vet checks at the club. Unfortunately, the start of the race was scheduled for 5:45 am, necessitating a 5 am wake up. Happily, there was excellent catering at the race and once the teams of riders got underway, we were able to find a good breakfast while waiting for them to finish the first loop. Endurance racing really is not a spectator sport. There isn't much to see of the racing part because the riders are very quickly usually stretched out over miles of trail, each essentially riding alone. Once they get back to the vet check area, the horse is checked to see that its pulse and respiration have dropped to normal, and then there is a half hour hold for the horse and rider to eat and drink something before setting out again. Exciting, right? I overheard one nicely dressed woman remarking to a friend that this was the first endurance race she'd ever seen and probably the last too. She'd never spent so much time in her life "watching horses get bathed." A major part of the preparation for the vet check is to cool the horse from its exertions in the desert to the point where its heart rate is low enough to pass muster.
At the end of the day, the UAE took team gold and the individual gold, silver and bronze medals...as expected. Qatar took the team silver and Syria and Egypt shared the bronze. Bed felt great after chasing from one end of the race area back to the press tent about a dozen times to update the progress of the race to a website for endurance riding. I was really proud of our Egyptian team for their performance and careful riding of their horses. They were riding home-bred and home-trained horses rather than the best that money can buy.
Yesterday was American Thanksgiving as well as the last day of Angela and Scott's visit. We played with the horses and Scott got some lovely photos of Shams playing with her herd...the dogs. She is now downing over a litre and a half of milk at a feeding and is eating crushed horse pellets and fresh berseem. She wanders around after the grooms, plays on the lawn with my driver, and curls up in the shade with her buddies the dogs. She doesn't seem to realise that she's a horse at all. After taking them for a quiet ride in the neighbourhood during which Scott only took 670 photos, we wandered over to some friends of mine who live nearby for turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie and all the rest of the traditional stuffing appropriate to Thanksgiving. Early this morning we got to the airport to get my visitors back to the US and Scott left me with about three thousand photos of the race and the parts of Cairo that they saw. It's going to take me ages to see them all!
copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani