Friday, February 22, 2008

Paddi in Egypt

Paddi Sprecher
Canadian Trail House

Sit down and get a cup of coffee. I will start my tale of Egypt:-)
My neighbor Linda went with me so when I say we I mean her and me.
Packing for this trip was interesting. Between the 2 of us we had 200 pounds of luggage plus carry on. AND I took very few clothes. I had no room for clothes.
I had a saddle, bridles. You see my friend Maryanne Gabbani lives there and runs a guest ranch.
She can not buy tack locally.
We got to the airport and luck was on our side. They just tossed them on the belt and gave us our boarding pass. It helped that we were in line behind Builders without Boarders and all their boxes. They were going to Africa to build dorms and houses.
They asked me what was in the boxes and I told them it was horse equipment for a stable in Egypt. Maryanne does children's lessons.
They just tossed the boxes on the belt and away they went.
The plane was over an hour late leaving which was bad. We only had one hour between flights in Montreal our first stop. With the 40 folks from BWB on board also heading for Paris they held the flight.
A 4 hour wait in Paris before we could board air France for Cairo.
Everyone laughs at me because I take my pillow every where. Well I pulled it out of my carry on found a bench and got a good 3 hour nap. Linda was not so lucky. I can sleep any where.
We arrived in Cairo:-) about 7 pm.
Now here is where it gets interesting. Maryanne said she would have someone meet us to go through customs with all the stuff (my mom was worried I would go to jail)
Scanning the guys holding up signs we did not see our names. When arriving you must buy a $30 USD Visa. We figured this out gathered up the boxes and suitcases headed for customs. My arabic is non existent at that time. The customs guys do not speak very good english.
I pull in and they want to know what is in the boxes. I tell them with some charades horse stuff. They want to see. I have visions of being there all night as I scan the crowd looking for Maryanne. She speaks arabic and it is her stuff.
Well all turns out okay, they really only wanted to see.
Now it gets more interesting. No Maryanne. A very nice man asks if we need a cab. I say no thank you I have a friend coming. 5 minutes, 10 minutes 30 minutes no sign of my friend. (Steph sound familiarJ)The people in Egypt are so nice.
They really are. This same cab driver offers to call my friend. Well what the heck did I need her number for. She was going to meet me. OOPS not good.I have no number, address and I am not even sure of the area she lives in…. always an adventure
You need to know that there is no phone book for Egypt and everyone uses cell phones. I explain I need an internet connection. He offers to take me to one. I leave Linda with the luggage and head off to find a connection. so here I am in a strange country doing exactly what my hubby told me not to do . I left the airport with a guy I do not know in a country I am visiting for the first time. He was great. Took me to a hotel across from the airport and right beside "Radio Shack" was an internet /phone place.
I called Maryanne and said "Its Paddi and I am at the airport" She said no you are not. You arrive tomorrow.
You cross the date line and she figured we were arriving on the 19th since I told her to pick me up on the 18th. Most people get confused but I left on the 17th.
The cab driver paid for my internet and phone call. I had no money....
(I paid him back when I found Linda, she had some Egyptian pounds with her)
Now here is a few hints in case you ever go to Egypt.
All t paper goes into waste baskets not flushed. Carry 1 pound notes to tip the washroom attendant. They clean the toilet seat, give you hand towels. In fact you tip everyone in Egypt.
Maryanne shows up looking flustered and apologizing. This just never happens, well except when Steph came. I think it just endurance riders she forgets:-) and we are a pretty independent non panicking personality group so that is okay.
It is about an hour drive to her house, Maryanne gives us a running commentary of the areas we are driving through. She also teaches us our first lesson in arabic.
how to say hello. Everyone in Egypt says hello.
It took me the next 21 days to get it right. I am not good with languages.
We settle in for her guest house and fall into bed about midnight.
Remember: I said I can sleep any where!
I woke up the next morning rested about 10 am. Linda on the other hand said did you here the call for prayer at 4 .30 am ? Did you hear the dogs barking? Did you hear the pounding? (the grooms were chopping wood)I stretched and said NO! I slept like a dream. Next night same thing.
Maryanne taught lessons until lunch and we enjoyed the sun. Later the grooms saddled the horses and we headed out to the desert for a ride. To cool here, we are on Arabian horses that are well trained and fit riding to the pyramids. There are many pyramids not just the ones you see in pictures. Those are the GIZA pyramids.
A great supper followed and the next day we went riding then grocery shopping. Picture west Edmonton mall on boxing day times 10 for crowd.
Amazing , this store is kind of the Egyptian wally mart. They sell everything literally. I only went there once. I hate malls. Food is cheap and you can get all the name brands you see at home. We bought really yummy juice. Milk comes in tetra packs (yuk). I forget what we all bought but it came to about 40 dollars and filled 4 bags. Try that at Safeway.
Maryanne and I spent the evening catching up on stuff. We have been friends on the internet for years. I finally took her up on her offer to visit.
Kids are every where. They are cute happy and well fed. It is a farming area and they may not have much money but they are rich with love. Egyptians love children.
The kids ask for money but we only give them smiles. Maryanne has a very strict rule that no one gives the kids anything but smiles. They have learnt that and if the rule was broken no one would get any peace when riding or walking.
I just laughed and said yes I want money , you can give me money. They would laugh at the idea that I would ask them for money.
*the kids here go to a government school. The girls quit at about grade 3. The schools are not very good. These kids want to learn but the school system is a failure.

(this is where I put in a note that I am raising money to build a literacy center, more on that later. Selling the most beautiful scarves from Egypt to raise funds) and yes I will have some at the AERC convention $25 each and they sell in Paris for double that in the stores

The Cairo Museum is quite fascinating. It is an old museum and lots of the items are not labeled. I saw the King Tut display. WOW!!! The mummie room is really interesting in a creepy sort of way. The entire place is amazing. Hard to believe they did all this without any modern stuff. I put it down to no TV or computers…lol

We rode the horses to Giza. The sphinx is not nearly as big as I thought it was. I rode a camel named Mickey Mouse. That is right like Disney the young boy told me.
Mickey and I got along petty good. I will take horses any day. Camels are rough to ride.
They shave the most amazing designs into their coat.

The only badly abused and starved animals I saw in Egypt were the pyramid horses and some of the camels. Not all. The horses are all babies under 2 years old. They live in horse hell. They are dead. No life in their eyes. Hey have little training, sores on their bodies from poor fitting tack.
The horses are then chased and whipped to make them run
If you go to Giza , Mexico or any where else they have trail rides and you get on these poor abused animals you are as guilty of abuse as the person who owns them
Nuff said!

When we ride up from the back side of Giza there was the body of a dead horse in the desert. The feral dogs will eat the body.
There are worse things then being dead. Being a pyramid horse is just that. I will be posting pictures on my blog (which I need to get done)

Shopping at the market was heaven. You could spend days there and not see it all. All the vendors were friendly. You can barter The market is still located where the caravans came with trade goods across the desert. The stone work is amazing.

Old Cairo was really fascinating. Not a normal tourist stop. The nice thing about going to stay at Maryanne's is that you are not cattle penned through shots by tourist companies.
I was in the back alley bartering for tack when a rat ran right by me and down the alley.
It was the only rat saw. There are a million cats in Cairo. They may even out number the people. There is about 22 million people in Cairo.

I must say I felt safer in Cairo then in Paris. The people in Egypt are the friendliest I have met in traveling.

We became friends with the grooms and were invited over for dinner.
The food was unbelievable. The women take great pride in their cooking. They really
go all out.
We sat on cushions around a small round table. The woman laid the table with lamb, chicken, salad, soup and fresh baked bread. Vegies in sauce. I was in heaven.
I can not believe they can balance these BIG aluminum trays on their heads covered in dishes. I could not balance it empty.
The homes are simple but spotless. We ate from communal plates. (no double dipping)
You use the bread or your fingers. Spoons were the only cutlery for the soup.
I love the food.
Finished off with tea , fruits and pastries.
The last day we were there I bought toys for the kids at a toy store in Maadi.
I noticed there is not many toys in the village. They do not go into Cairo often..
The average income is $60 to $140 per month so it does not leave much for extras.
We loaded up the donkey cart and Farag the groom drove us to the village.
Quite a stir was caused. 2 western woman in a donkey cart makes everyone smile and laugh. They stopped working in the fields to laugh and wave. They yelled greetings. Linda was Lady Di. She gracefully waved and greeted everyone with a hello.
The kids loved the toys. I bought bags of marbles so everyone could have a few.
I bought a baby doll, beads , play dough.
The kids were so excited. They showed me how they could count to ten and say hello welcome to Egypt. I taught them colors in English. These kids want to learn. They are smart.
When it was time to go I felt like the pied piper. I had so many children walking me to the donkey cart.

We were invited to lunch and for a tour of the Bin Laden stables. The horses were breath taking. What a beautiful place. They even had a set of twins which is very unusual in horses. They rarely live.
Lunch was great! The houses are really nice. Marble flooring is cheaper then lino or carpet.
I found a house I want to buy. It looks like something out of Disney land. I would turn it into a guest house and offer belly dancing lessons on the front lawn . Yoga in the back garden. I would love it. Just cannot convince hubby to move. Darn his love of snow.
It is right next door to my friends place. I would hire gardens since my thumbs are all brown.

That brings me to shopping again. Anyone want me to bring them home a belly dance

I did so much, saw so much I can not even think of it all.
Driving. You would never want to drive there. It goes by the bumper rule. Whoever gets the bumper in front gets to go. The 3 lane freeway has 7 lanes and in the mix is horse and donkey carts. Pedestrians dodge traffic. Traffic is a zoo.
Maryanne has a driver who will drive you where ever you want to go. It is included in the tour package.

I actually saw a pickup truck with 3 water buffalos and 2 donkeys in the back in downtown Cairo.
Housing is interesting. The parents build a house then they build a second floor for the oldest son. When he gets married they finish it. The next son goes up a level. Got 4 sons 4 levels. They build houses but they are not finished until they are ready to be moved into.

Stop by my booth at the AERC convention. I am bringing horse tack, scarves and pictures.
A little bit of Egypt for you all to enjoy.
Maryanne has a groom who is her right hand man with the horses. He is coming to Canada this summer to stay with Dave and I. Part of the money from the tack and scarves will go to help him pay for a ticket. It is more for his ticket then he makes in a year.
I have arranged for him to learn trimming and shoeing from farrier friend Susan.
Wayne Delbeke has offered to work with him and Teena teaches English as a second language. Got it all covered just need to get him a ticket.
There are few pictures on my home page as a link to flickr
I am not the storyteller Steph or Merry are but I hoped you enjoyed it.
Paddi Sprecher

A few years ago Steph, Merri, Jackie and Tracy were Maryanne's guests in Egypt. Here are some photos and stories from that trip, plus the first running of the Dawshur Dawdle Endurance Ride.
Dawshur Dawdle

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