Tuesday, April 20, 2010


About five years ago my farm was a flat pepper field...enough cayenne to launch a rocket but little else. I began building with the paddocks for the horses, since they were the most important inhabitants here, and the fence to keep the dogs in away from the neighbour's chickens. As I built I tried to visualise how I could see the farm developing, and I must say that life is much more inventive than imagination.

I'd started taking clients out riding in the desert and countryside before I built, but now we have companies in Europe and North America sending us people. We even have a tourism schedule of a week on/week off but happily the companies aren't filling the time. I'd really rather they don't. Mohamed has branched out from being the driver and assistant manager here into cooking and photography, both things that he's found to his surprise he's very good at...so good at the cooking part that our clients are now begging us to write a cookbook so that they can make some of his amazing recipes at home. That sounds like a summer project.

We've provided a base for workshops for trainers, Zsuzsu Illes came to do work with riders at the farm and to teach us how to make the most of the saddles that we have with the right pads last fall and this spring Steve Edwards came to show us how to use his mule saddle on Amira and to film a training video with her. And Maggie and Nelson Mieske made their first (of hopefully many) trips from Qatar to work with our farriers here. Nelson was delighted to find them so eager for lessons and feedback, and already quite proficient despite the fact that there are no schools for farriers in the Middle East as far as we know. We'd love to remedy that, but everything must be done in increments.

One of the things that I had in mind for my farm was for it to be a place where people of any age could just come to enjoy animals and nature. We made sure that the plant life is nontoxic, that the animals are friendly and well-cared for, and over the years more and more people are coming just to enjoy that.

This spring was our second Cairo Girl Scout camp out. About 30 girls from a number of different schools in Cairo came to spend the night in tents on the garden lawn, to learn about camping skills in workshops, to play with goats and donkeys, to try riding horses, and to ride in the donkey cart. A hike through a neighbouring landscape nursery gave them a chance to appreciate the plants that we grow out here and they all had a great time around the campfire in the evening.

My plan in building my farm is for me to have a home for myself and my animals and to have a place that welcomes visitors, so that (very selfishly) I don't have to schlep myself into town all the time to see my friends. It's a lovely thing to see a project grow with its own energy in the way that you want.

copyright 2010 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani