Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Season For Horses

As I have been reminded by friends, Christmas is coming, and a trip into Maadi reminded me as well. I drove past a very expensive florist to see real Christmas trees for sale. These trees probably sell for about a thousand pounds....but they do smell right. The usual Christmas tree in Egypt is a cypress or juniper and they don't have the same scent at all. With both kids in the US for grad school this year, it's going to be quiet in some respects around here at Christmas. But not in all respects. I have guests arriving beginning day after tomorrow and staying on until after New Years. The people coming are riders so there's going to be quite a lot of work done over the next couple of weeks.

Winters in Egypt are the stuff of legend, both in the sense that a winter in Egypt was the ultimate in luxury many years ago, and in the sense that unfortunately they are no longer what they once were. Even five years ago we would have weeks of air so clear that the stones on the pyramids of Giza could be seen from Abu Sir. This is no longer the case, unfortunately, because the inversion layer over the Nile Valley is keeping a thick black pall over the city. When there is a strong north wind, the smog is dispersed to the south and we have the lovely clarity that was once so common. When there is no wind, I have to ride out into the desert to find clean air. The wind also sculpts some extraordinary cloud formations that the sunset paints with vivid colours each evening.

We now have another new face on the farm with the birth of Lily's son Rayyan. I was wakened at 5 am on the 12th. I wrapped myself in a shawl and went out to find the most enormous fuzzball on stilts I've ever seen. Lily was a cart horse when friends of mine found her working on the streets. She's probably got some draft horse in her because she is a big, fairly heavy, black mare. She spent some time as a riding horse and was recently retired to my place because of her gentle nature. A sneaky little bay colt got to her and to Shabboura the mother of Shams, giving us two totally different babies to enjoy. Shams still thinks that she's a dog and I have to put a chair in my front doorway to be sure that I won't find her exploring the living room with disastrous effects. At three days, Rayyan is almost the same size as Shams at about 6 weeks. Extraordinary. Her legs have half the bone his do and she must weigh less than he does despite the fact that she stands around eating berseem and drinking roughly 15 litres of milk a day. We still have to wait until April to see what the combination of Wadi and and Anglo-Arab will produce. This next crop, aside from being siblings, is going to be interesting.

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani