Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keeping Busy in May

A number of things have conspired to keep me from the blog lately. The biggest obstacle has been the appalling connection that I have with my Vodafone card. To be fair to Vodafone, they have been trying but it is simply awful. I am working on getting DSL and expect to be connected in a week or so, and this will make life so much better. Another obstacle to my writing has been a much happier one. My daughter came home about two weeks ago for a holiday before she heads off to help excavate a site in southeastern Turkey and then heads straight into her first year of the PhD program in anthropology at New York University. It's wonderful having her home. She gets a real kick out of the animals here at the farm and has been religiously going out to the rabbits to cuddle the baby bunnies into cooperation. Before arriving, she sent me a list of foods that she'd been missing in New York, so we have been arranging all her favourites, such as koshari, a mix of lentils, pasta, rice, chickpeas, tomato sauce, fried onions, and a vinegar/garlic sauce.

The first week that she was here we had utterly abominable weather with highs in the mid 40's. One day we took off and headed to Carrefour, supposedly to shop for things that Yas might need, but actually just to waste time in an airconditioned space until dusk. Not too surprisingly, we ended up at one point in the toy section where we checked out what was new in dolls. Barbie dolls were introduced when I was a little girl, and I was as likely to use them as pistols (aiming from the feet) as I was to play dolls with them, but my daughter actually liked them. Now some of the dolls available here are some interesting variations on the Barbie theme. Fulah looks a lot like Barbie, but her proportions are a bit more realistic and she comes with a head scarf. On the other hand, some of her outfits are pretty racy for what people might think that a veiled woman would wear. Another doll was simply frightening. She's supposed to be a belly dancer and the carton explains that her hands, head and hips can move rhythmically...the mind simply boggles. I didn't actually see many little girls demanding her immediately, although the store was full of families with children. Carrefour is sort of a French Walmart, and they have a number of major outlets here. They carry everything from food to major appliances, with clothing, books, and strange signs to tell you what everything isn't. We wandered the aisle with a friend and her eight year old son, watching families of some of the visiting Gulf Arabs stocking up on household needs for their summer holidays. Even with our heat, Cairo beats the Gulf cold.

We've spent some time catching up with some of Yas' friends between dental appointments and doctor appointments. A lunch with one of her high school buddies at a fish restaurant overlooking the Nile was the occasion for an hour or so of gossip to review who was going to school where, working where, and who was either engaged or married. Oddly enough, marriage is still pretty far from the minds of most of the Egyptian from her graduating class in Cairo, while quite a few of the American kids have made the plunge. While crossing the bridge over the Nile we encountered a truck of camels on their way somewhere and I was able to get a photo that I'd always wanted of a truck full of camels. The camels seemed quite unconcerned about their travels and persisted in engaging in mock battles as the truck made its way through traffic.
One of the nice things about a child who studies something that I'm interested is the fact that we have plenty to do together that interests both of us, no matter how odd it may seem to other people. While driving in the desert the other day looking for interesting stones for my rock garden, we found an area where the Antiquities department has been dumping debris from excavations. Most of the debris consists of ancient mud bricks, chunks of old pottery, sand, gravel and such. But surprisingly, we also noticed some very old cloth sticking out of the sand in one pile. When we examined the cloth we realised that it was, in fact, an object wrapped in ancient linen. Carefully unwrapped, the item was revealed to be the crushed mummy of an infant. Not much was left that could be identified other than a tiny mandible and leg bone. We left the wrappings and bone shards in the desert with the other discarded objects.

Today was a lovely day so we decided to visit Memphis, once the capital of pharoanic Egypt, but now an area that is part of one of the neighbouring villages. The last time we'd visited the museum at Memphis was when the kids were still in primary school. We checked out the tacky tourist trash that was being sold, chatted with the sellers who got a kick out of some locals visiting the site, and most importantly got some seeds from a wonderful tree that was shading the garden there, an acacia whose delicate flowers give a sweet scent. We brought a number of pods home to be planted on the farm. Much better than a rather cheesy set of stone pyramids.

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani