Africa & the Middle East Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • Recent Spam Attacks
    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Death Note: Light Up the New World 2016 On'line HQ
  2. 2 Tipping...
  3. 3 Changing planes at Dubai
  4. 4 Morocco for 9 nights in February
  5. 5 upcoming Africa trip ... gift ideas needed?
  6. 6 Has Anyone Been to Sudan...?
  7. 7 Kenya Safari Tour Operator Recommendations
  8. 8 Trip Report Morocco Trip Report
  9. 9 Where to go for lunch and dinner in Fes, Marrakech, and Essaouira
  10. 10 Free walking tours Medina Marrakech ???
  11. 11 Trip Report Nine months to Egypt (but you should go now)
  12. 12 Israel Transportation
  13. 13 Trip Report Chaos in the old Medina-Marrakech
  14. 14 Trip Report Glorious Return to South Africa--Two Weeks in October
  15. 15 North African Tips for a First Timer
  16. 16 Morocco help
  17. 17 First trip to Africa
  18. 18 Morocco 6 days Itinerary..Need Help
  19. 19 Trip Report 3 day desert tour: Marrakech to Merzouga
  20. 20 Driving Distance from Kalahari Tented Camp to Western Etosha NP
  21. 21 IRAN
  22. 22 Money in Uganda
  23. 23 Uganda Visa
  24. 24 accomodation near Mata Mata Border post
  25. 25 Egypt- Dec Itinerary-help needed
View next 25 » Back to the top

Trip Report Egypt Quickie Trip

Jump to last reply

Inviting my friends and commenters to offer their thoughts on an upcoming September trip to do a classic tour of the typical sights of Egypt. This time around I'm joining a group, and won't be able to go off road to do any long riding or camel adventures. What I would very much appreciate would be the typical terrific advice on what you guys think about bringing back. Those of you who have visited often and know the ropes, I'd so value your thoughts on authentic souvenirs, items of beauty, things that speak to the history of the place and where to find them that might be a little off road.

I've got about 11 days, Nile river cruise, most of the big sights, more on this later. What I love to bring home are odd, unique, weird, atypical but remarkable statements of a culture.

This is a mid-September trip, and I am expecting major heat. Those of you who have experienced this time of year, any additional thoughts about what to bring will always be most welcomed. Thursdays and Julie, and all you entrepids who know this area, hoping to hear from you. I will be providing a trip report once underway.

Thanks kindly to all in advance for all advice and suggestions. I read and take all seriously, and as a result, there are some amazing goodies in my house due to the intelligence offered on this Forum. In addition, if any has a cubbyhole, special spot, gift shop or hidey hole to recommend on nights off, I'd love to hear, and will share if I can find.

  • Comment has been removed by Fodor's moderators

  • Report Abuse

    Thank you so very much. When I was in Angkor Wat I got a rubbing, got it properly framed, and that inexpensive piece is now a gorgeous piece over my mantle. That's exactly what I'm hoping to find.

  • Report Abuse

    yes, DH brought home a lovely papyrus of typical Egyptian figures [allla hieroglyphics] which we had framed and it still looks great over 10 years later.

    Easy and light to transport too.

  • Comment has been removed by Fodor's moderators

  • Report Abuse

    Okay here is the trip, now that I'm done with that and I've taken another in the meantime. I'll do my best to relay the trip to express the jist.

    First of all, I went with a group, which I rarely do. My first thought was to get the feel of the Middle East beginning with probably the safest and least conservative of all the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt is so very hungry for tourists, after the revolution the industry has taken a terrible, terrible dive, and the impact of it is everywhere. From vendors who are (quite understandably) very agressive to legions of starving horses and dogs, some cast aside in massive piles of garbage in Cairo's old town. You can't escape the reality of how the lack of tourism and the over dramatism of danger has kept people away.

    For my part I was not only warmly greeted by a number of people at the airport, but was guaranteed safety by several ex military generals (I am ex military myself) who provided me with personal numbers in case I had any kind of difficulty, felt danger or needed help. People went out of their way to ensure that I as a single woman of a certain age, felt safe. When I stayed at a venerable, ancient officer's club in lieu of a fancy new place I was treated to the experience of very old Cairo, the only real elevator left in town that really works, and a dedicated staff. The soccer game that was on meant that every bar in town had a television place out on the street.Men with pipes filled every seat, usually about fifty or more making driving impossible. Everyone watched the game like this and I hardly saw a single woman in any direction.

    My group gathered us all together at the Oasis, a rather questionable but well located hotel/ older resort close to the Pyramids. The newer rooms were acceptable. But as with so many Third World countries, the smoke in the checkin area made breathing impossible and this is the norm. We were assigned roommates, found food, and got our briefings. Walid was our assigned guide. Armed with a PhD in Egyptopology but a voice with the volume enough to explode eardrums, he called us "family" and would be our fearless leader for the next week or so.

  • Report Abuse

    I'll be at this slowly but surely as I am now prepping for a trip to Cuba in two weeks with speeches and trips in between. Bear with me!

    My stories about Walid are expressed with both affection and a sense of humor, as I have a lot of respect for his knowledge and especially his love for his country. However since I was usually seated up front at the table, or in the first seat in the bus, you have to understand that his considerable volume, delivered with gusto, and his penchant for lengthy storytelling (which comes from an endless enthusiasm for his subject) led to a certain penchant on my part for hiding under the chair, the bench, anything that might break the sound wave, with my fingers in my ears. That only slightly helped, as I could hear him just fine. Had I had plugs, they would have done little more than protect my ear drums from the onslaught. That said, Walid's effusiveness was a pleasure. You have to keep in perspective that our group was the first in three months, and his energy was to be expected, and if I were in his shoes, I most likely would have been just as eager to make us happy. That he was also armed with a microphone and we often wore ear buds only exacerbated the situation at times, which I add with some humor, so you can understand that I had to periodically remove said ear buds, wander off, or leave the group if for no other reason than to allow my eardrums to recover. There's actually a reason for this- as an adventure traveler, I have had some ten serious concussions resulting from Class V river rafting, horseback riding, and every kind of sport you can imagine over the last five years, and those concusssion have had side effects. Apparently this sensitivity seems to be one. I'm not without a sense of humor about it, it hasn't slowed me down a bit, but it does mean I have to be a bit more circumspect about volume.

  • Report Abuse

    The trip to see the Pyramids- what I thought would be a trek- was a quick drive to the edge of town the next day. Busy work traffic, and suddenly these icons are looming on the horizon. There was something jarring about seeing such ancient buildings that one's impressions would think would be placed in some isolated spot. But no, here they are, with neighborhoods right up to their edge. Our bus parked nearby and we gathered for Walid to pontificate about the stories. Again, volume. I was eyeing the camels- one of my favorite animals- off to the side as Walid plied us with stories, and warnings about who to avoid and why, whether to go down inside the pyramids (no, don't bother) and what was next. This went on a little long for my taste and besides, my crouching position on the floor beneath the first bench on the bus got uncomfortable after half an hour (Walid is profound). Finally he gave way and allowed us to disembark. We poured forth and I made beeline for the camels.

    I've spent a fair amount of time with them, and I carry a forty dollar goat hair brush for their faces- this brush is extremely soft, great for eyes. You have to get their permission to touch, and you do that through the owners, who are eager to get you to ride them. I only want to pet, don't care about photos. I've taken long safaris in Africa so my interest really is in the animals themselves, which are imperial, funny, sensitive and, IF they choose to like you, will ALLOW you to pet them. You get there through the handler.

    This took some doing, for natch the handler assumed that if I didn't ride he didn't get paid. We sorted ourselves out, and finally he gave me the skinny on his big boy. One step led to another. I am an animal masseuse, and almost every time if an animal is wearing a bridle or a halter, the skin underneath itches, and the animal loves it if you scratch where the leather or rope has been irritating. Worked for this boy. Soon as I got my nails going under his neck he laid out his head, closed his eyes, and a few of the men nearby started laughing. Once I did this and he could smell himself on my hands, relate the good feeling to my smell, he wasn't going to bite me. Works with most any animal I've ever massaged.

    He trusted me to scrub the inside of his ears, which is a miracle for most domesticated animals of this kind as it doesn't occur to most owners to do this. Next to heaven. That won me a buss to the face, which doesn't smell very good but is the highest compliment you can get from an animal this big who can kill you with a kick or, if he really does like you, can pick you up with his teeth and send you flying quite a few feet. This boy was on the ground, and he wasn't moving as long as I was willing to give him all this attention.

    Finally, knowing we had limited time, I paid the owner 15 LE and headed over to the pyramid.

    While I have heard some wags complain that the pyramids aren't as big as expected (a complaint also thrown at the Sphinx, which is smaller, but honestly?) when you are inspecting the size and solid nature of each of the blocks that make up the base of the pyramids, it boggles the mind. The logistics of moving the blocks to this location, the design of the buildings, the planning, the orchestration of the tombs, that kind of insult demonstrates the lack of appreciation of the time this was all accomplished. As with Mayan culture or any architectural achievement long ago, how easy it is to forget nobody had cranes back then.

    The heat rose swiftly, even though this was September and we were called back to the air conditioned bus. Our next destination was the third pyramid, where the option to ride a camel (of COURSE) for half an hour or walk to these smaller structures was made. A young man whose camel sported some very cool tatoos, and whose camel made some toothy swipes at me (they will at times) was my choice.

    Mounting a camel is a most simple process. If you watch the way a camel rises, you move in a way that supports the camel's movement. There is no need to hold on to the horn of the saddle, most of us who ride simply hold on with the legs. When the front of the animal rises, you lean forward. When the rear rises, you lean backwards. That supports where the animal is using its strength, and puts the least amount of burden on him as he is rising. The walk is like a long, lazy stroll. Like riding a horse, you sit straight and your hips move with him. While I have seen many a Bedouin ride hunched over like a turtle, this is wicked on the back long term. I rode a camel for seven days across Tanzania. Every country is different. I've ridden horses nine hours a day for three weeks straight. All I know is that good posture protects my spine. I look at the elders and the shape they are in, and if they are walking around looking like old turtles, then I am going to ride sitting up straight. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've found that allowing my upper body to be still and the hips to follow the animal tends to be a pretty good way to ride.

    Our group set out en masse to see the three pyramids from another and more scenic viewpoint. Each camel's owner had draped his animal with a uniquely gorgeous patterned blanket to attract tourists. My camel's neck had tattoos, likely just shaved into his neck and dyed. I doubt he would have been patient enough to endure the tattoo needle. As we made our ponderous way towards the pyramids we would stop for photo ops against the backdrop of these magnificent structures, the wind in our faces, and blowing the turbans of our guides.

    Periodically I reached forward and stroked my animal's neck and found a spot where the rope scratched him. His ears switched back, the only indication that he acknowledge my presence.

    When we got back, I took the last few minutes to convince my tatooed camel buddy to allow me to scrub his ears- now this he DID like- and I tipped my guide. We were off for lunch.

    Lunch was at a little stop and go. Now this would have been fine but for the fact that everyone in there smoked. Cigarette smoke tends to give me bad headaches so I'm not terribly fond of being trapped in small spaces, my clothing soaking up the reek, standing in line with my food, a long line at that, while a great many people puff and puff and fill the air. So I left. Egypt is like that. You CAN leave but you WILL go hungry.

    Walid took us to a perfume oils perveyor. NOw I have mixed impressions about such visits. Guides get kickbacks from these visits, its part of how they make money. However, we are all expected to buy something, and while I find it mildly and at times, genuinely interesting to learn about where perfume oils come from (and in this case it WAS an education) I don't buy stuff like this. I most certainly don't choose to carry a mass of delicate oils in my luggage, don't wear the stuff and have no one to give it to. While this doens't apply to us all, I wasn't alone in this after there were three such side trips to stone carvers and the like. When the visits end up eating some two to three hours out of the day and the implication is that we buy, and many people resent the implied pressure to purchase something when we'd have rather spent that time in the market or a museum, well you get my drift.

    Later we went to the National Museum. Here, we outfitted with ear buds. Oy. This was like Walid on steroids. As we entered this extraordinary and marvelous museum of Egyptian antiquities, Walid's voice was a bit like standing in front of ten foot tall speaker at a Poison concert.

    I pulled the ear buds out and wandered. And took photos and photos and photos and photos. I kept the group in my peripheral vision and could hear Walid just fine even in the cavernous halls, even with the murmurings of other groups.

    The massive status, the tombs, everything we have all seen in photos was laid out for us to see touch. To touch. What an extraordinary thing. Touch the hieroglyphs themselves. This perhaps was what drew me so much. As I moved silently among these ancient yet so familiar figures from my childhood, now touching, studying, some of them with crystalline eyes nearly focusing on my own, I was mesmerized. A walking monk so lifelike he terrified the diggers.

    We didn't have enough time to see it all. Up the stairs we went to see Tutenkhamen's exhibition, which is breathtaking. And here was one of the few times I got annoyed at Walid. He drew us all into a circle in a corner and began to tell stories. Yet beyond our small corner become this young king's ransom of beauties, treasures and priceless artifacts. We had very limited time. I did not wish to spend it listening to stories. I wanted to SEE. Photograph. Touch. Explore. I may never be here again, given my penchant to not return to countries, given my age and how many there are yet to see. So I walked away, and since I was on the periphery in the shadow,probably unnoticed.

    While I know this might be disrespectful, at some point I have to pose the question of what I'm investing in. Walid's stories or the things I paid to see- and that's the problem. Walid and I had already had some long conversations and he understood my interests. I came to learn- but it's also an issue of quality time. We only had limited time and how does one choose to spend it? So I wandered among the sarcophogi, the tombs, the gold, the scarabs. Places where later, when Walid disbanded the group, we didn't have time to go. And that's my point. I have photos of exquisite painting and vases and faces and artwork that I would have missed. It's a hard choice.

    We finally made our way to an inner sanctum to see the boy king's greatest treasures, the pure gold masks. This was what has often traveled the world, what I saw in New York years ago. The gold beds, the heartbreakingly beautiful artwork. Walid filled in the story of the politics surround his life, and we got to see the glory of his death.

  • Report Abuse

    I'll be at this slowly but surely as I am now prepping for a trip to Cuba in two weeks with speeches and trips in between. Bear with me!>>

    exciting. We went last January and loved it. You're probably all sorted by now but if you want to ask me any Qs, go ahead.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts about your trip, the good and the bed. And your tales about the camels are fascinating.

  • Report Abuse

    Our next stop was a perfumer. Now those of you who have been on these trips know that there are gratuitous side bars involving concessions, some of interest, some not so much. They often involve people the guide knows well, and he gets a commission from anything sold from the visit. That's how it works. We had about three of these. This first, I found interesting enough, albeit I don't use this kind of perfume oil, don't wish to carry a bunch of precious vials in my luggage and have no one to give them to. The story behind them is indeed engaging and for that, which was educational, I enjoyed it. The sales part, not so much. My group was patient, and I'll jump ahead here and note that by the trip's end had endured three such trips and gotten weary of two and three hour imposed "side trips" to merchants with the clear implication that we were all to buy something. I understand a tough economy but most of us would rather choose our own goods in the market place and as well, spend our time in the museums, which is after all why we are here. That enough of my fellows chose to speak up made it worthwhile to mention it here, it became an imposition. The groups are a closed, controlled community much of the time for good reason, and we are polite about that control, and we trust that we are being shown worthwhile sights. Occasionally that trust is taken a bit too far and that is why I mention it here. That's all.

  • Report Abuse

    That night, some flew to Aswan, for extra, others of us boarded an overnight train. That was pretty fun, although I most certainly would not recommend the food which was primarily bread, bread, bread and a great deal more bread. As one who does not eat bread at all, this was something of a surprise. I did order a different meal, and got someone else's vegetarian dinner, gave it back, and got bread. So I skipped dinner. That night the beds came down and we were treated (and I happen to like this) a rockety rail ride that took all night. I slept well. The toilets were down the hall, and we were admonished to PLEASE not use them at the station. Apparently whatever we did would sit on the rails at the station. Poor form. Advice taken.

    It is a fine thing to remember to pack almond butter packets to ensure that at least some nourishment can be had when none is available, also when little clean water is available, I use the NatGeo and very strongly recommended SteriPen. They come in various sizes. I've used them on some pretty ugly water. It does NOT improve taste or color. What it DOES do is save your guts. I never leave home without it, and as some of my pals who climbed Everest Base Camp with me a few years back can attest, it works just fine. Carry extra batteries, you only need one water bottle the entire trip.

    I also sleep in my day pants, because whether they are REI or North Face versions, having to get up in the middle of the night on a rocking train (or wherever) and attempting to do the one-legged Masai stork dance of getting on your pants to go pee is ridiculous and dangerous at best. Wear the damned things. You can change your undies in the morning when you are stopped.

  • Report Abuse

    Ah! It IS still working- apparently it's a Windows 10 problem, my apologies.

    Okay to continue.

    Aswan is a very substantial city, and part of our itinerary included heading out to the dam. While I can understand that this is architecturally and historically interesting, and it is, I'm not sure how long a visit is necessary, and I would also not recommend a lengthy stand in the sun while breathing in the noxious smelling waters below. They do stink. The dam is impressive, it is historic and interesting. Walid gathered the Family and held court in the >100 degree weather, and having learned my lesson by now I inched my way back towards the bus and found a spot of shade. Not much cooler. The group was wilting in the brutal sun, I climbed aboard and caught up on my writing. About twenty minutes later my sweaty compatriots came aboard and glared at me.

  • Report Abuse

    Abu Simbel was our next adventure, the extraordinary temples that Ramses II built to himself (there were many) in part to scare off anyone who dared to encroach on his territory, and I swear, because he really really really really liked his own image. It would be ludicrous for me to try to describe the enormity of these temples, the pictures one can research online suffice. They are easily researched. Inside the Ramses Temple the man simply had more images of himself - huge ones- built in columns, one after another. Off to the side, he did offer his gorgeous bride Nefertiti something of a slight honor, her won temple. You can do hers in a five minute tour, his takes about twenty. Men. The scale of these temples really is remarkable. What is probably more remarkable is the story of how these temples had to be moved away from the encroaching waters of the lake, in order to preserve them for posterity, which we are all of us very glad they did, for they are indeed breath taking.

    Perhaps - and this is something I find incredible- the ability to simply touch the walls, the hieroglyphics, ancient stones that were made into these images is extraordinary. I was a bit put off by the fact that so many tourists insist on taking photographs when the signs indicate that this is forbidden. Clearly the rules don't apply to YOU, I guess. The antiquities, the paint, the nature of the walls are all very delicate, and flashes have an impact. But the rules don't apply to YOU, I guess. As long as YOU get your photos, that's all that matters. Pardon my sarcasm but increasingly I get short tempered with the remarkable lack of regard for rules for other countries' precious treasures. To this I say, were I to come to Japan, and treat your country's treasures with the same deep disrespect and disregard, precisely how would that make you feel?

    Exactly.

    Move on, please.

    The temples are invariably surrounded by cheap bazaars, and the bazaars have food, and cheap trinkets and desperate people trying to make a living. The parking lot were we had put our buses were also met by a number of uber skinny dogs. I have a very bad habit of petting anything and everything that approaches me, and this was no exception. The two heart achingly skinny specimens that came up to me here were nursing mothers. Their bodies were emaciated. They were not only starving for food, but also for affection, and I found it interesting that they were far more interested in the latter. When I returned from temples, I found both mommies and sat on the ground, whereupon they both plopped either on my lap or next to me to luxuriate in desperately needed physical attention. Puppies marched over to nurse. Their owners tried to sell off the puppies for 100LE apiece, then pushed me to buy white bread for the animals. The owners were all extremely well fed themselves, which annoyed me further, since they didn't seem to care to share that largesse with these starving creatures. Not my country, not my culture. I spent about forty minutes with the dogs, with tourists coming by to play with the puppies, often bringing food and water over. At least for that day, for that hour, these monkeys got some kindness. I see this kind of heartbreak everywhere and you get immured to it.

  • Report Abuse

    jhubbel - as ever you write so vividly, and share the good and the bad for which I thank you.

    A warning about Cuba - their treatment of animals, particularly the horses, can be quite distressing. We saw horses kept out in the sun for hours with no access to water so far as we could see. No way to do anything about it so in the end we tried not to think about it.

    Personally I can't see why you would mistreat the beast that helps you make your living, but there is it.

  • Report Abuse

    While at the Dam we also had taken the time to visit the Philae Temple, which has lovely Grecian influences, and is dedicated to Isis. What probably fascinated me most was how similar this temple was in some ways to what I've see in Cambodia and elsewhere in this regard: the covering of every available surface with artwork. Every column, the ceilings, every inch was decorated, painted or carved or both. While I explored (while Walid talked) and took photos, and wandered beneath the enormous carvings that towered over my head, at some point you are simply defeated by the task of recording, and can only gawk. And in gawking, appreciate. There are some moments that one stumbles upon, almost by accident. An open window that affords a perfect view of the Nile along with rocky outcroppings, flying birds, rich green foliage, much like a painting. A cool breeze, most welcome in this heat. The perfect play of sunlight and shadow. We were there just before lunch, and at that particular time of day the rising sun lay slabs of buttery light which cut across the sand and rock, painting shadows in the columns, creating color patterns of ochre and yellow and orange. It was a photographer's delight. Again, I felt guilty about leaving my group to Walid, but I'd have missed out on several hundred prime shots which bring back memories of that perfectly lovely morning. Tracing my fingers on the curves of ancient figures, hieroglyphs, feeling the heat and cool of shadows, and exploring the stories told in the movements of gods, goddesses, and my favorite of all, Isis.

  • Report Abuse

    Annhig,

    I hear you. I saw it in Egypt too, haven't gotten that far yet. While I was in Costa Rica I saw that everywhere. At some level one has to crank down the self righteous anger that rises, and recognize that the values one might have are not shared. For example, and this was a great teacher, some time back I rode Dominique the camel for the second time in Tanzania for a seven day safari with the same Maasai/Meru team I'd gone with previously. Dominique and I had connected before, he'd kissed me and been quite affectionate. I had no expectations. Eighteen months and many beatings later he was bitter and angry and a biter. The men were instructed not to beat him while I was on the trip. While this was a kind concession to me, the damage had long been done. What I had to do was, rather than enjoy my relationship with Dominique, which was no longer available, instead develop a very different kind of trip by creating water fights, food fights and an early morning "elephant" attack on my safari team. It was hilarious and we laughed our butts off the entire time. I had to simply turn off the part of me that had strong feelings about Dominique, pet him when I could and as he allowed, bow my head to the inevitability of his existence there, and focus on what I had at hand. It was an extraordinary lesson in culture, in allowing what is, to be, and not trying to press my values on people who cannot comprehend why I care so much about a beast of burden. The trip was a joy. Dominique is lost to me. It is life. The Maasai team is still begging me to come back on Facebook. That I consider to be one of my better wins. This is why I travel. There is no right. There is just what is. You either learn to allow what is or you tilt and hurt and pay for it with your blood pressure. I still have feelings and judgements about what I see, that's inevitable, but I will never, ever, ever voice them. I may inquire to understand. When you come from a country where we spend more money on dog shampoo than many people make in a month, or even a year, for food, we are in no position to judge.

  • Report Abuse

    The Philae Temple trip also took us through a Nubian village, which meant that we were swarmed by folks eager to sell their goods. We were warned that this would happen, and asked politely to be respectful in saying no. Not only is this just good manners, but the increased aggressiveness had a lot to do with the steep dropoff of tourism caused by the revolution in 2011, and everyone is in trouble. So when we got off the bus, or got back off the boat, men with goods swarmed us. It is perfectly understandable.
    What was a little hard to take, however, being someone who has working in the Diversity and Inclusion field, was listening to Walid pontificate about the Nubians, then when one of the young men comes on board, he handles the guy like a piece of meat, shows us his features, hair, etc. It made my skin crawl. Walid had no clue, of course, no reason to know why this might make anyone uncomfortable. His comments were condescending to the extreme, insulting about this race of people, and probably a commonly held view. Again, not my country, not my culture. I might note here that I would imagine foreign visitors to the United States during the slavery era might have had precisely the same reactions for the same reasons, and I daresay still might.

  • Report Abuse

    The afternoon before our felucca cruise was free,so a friend from the tour group and I wandered the souq located just across the road from our hotel. I was searching for the elusive yogurt (warm but potable and safe) and fruit. I found both, but being hungry, slammed some many handfuls of grapes down as we perused the stalls for engaging goods.

    As the afternoon sun waned, our group gathered at the pier and boarded the two boats which would provide for our slow, easy cruise. We had a facilities boat, providing the toilets, and our boats were laid out with plenty of bedding and pillows as well as lots of food. We had a Nubian staff.

    We loaded up and pushed off gently.

    I realized something was a little off when the food bowls, full of fresh cucumbers, figs, dates, carrots, and a great many fresh foods were passed around and there was nothing that interested me. I laid back to sleep. My stomach was angry.

    The felucca drifted lazily, a beautiful white mosque rose across the river, sharply contrasted against the perfect blue sky. Our river driver guided us gently, and the conversation drifted.

    Two hours later I was writhing in agony on the top of the facilities boat the dark, as most of our group was dancing on the shore around a bright fire. Someone had been smoking and my first take was that the smoke had given me a headache. However, that didn't explain THIS.

    I had leapt ashore to clear my guts in the bushes the first chance I got. Smoke, I said. No worries, I said. I'll be fine, I said. Just let me sleep, I said.

    From the top of the facilities boat, which was solid wood, I made my way to the front of the boat. The dancing was loud, as there were drums. A woman was making her way down the shore, and she stopped to play with a tethered goat. I called out to her. Again, and again and again. I finally got her attention.

    Happily a few minutes later I got help. The only path was to walk (which was damned near impossible)across a wide open field full of grass, in the dark, with a belly that threatened- and did- demand relief at any moment. Walid, and this is one reason I really love this guy, was right there, ran to get me a supply of what there is NEVER a supply of in Egypt, stood nearby while I was in agony, protected me at every turn. I love this man. He can shout in my ear any time he wants.

    I was loaded into a private vehicle with three men- I had no clue who they were, only that Walid was sending me with them. I laid my head on someone's big thigh. That's all I remember. The next thing I know we are in a nasty dirty open sky alley. This is the hospital. No really. This is the hospital. There are green wooden benches outside. We park. They help me to a bench, I curl into a fetal position. The stars are pretty.

    The doctor blessedly sees me in moments. I will never ever forget this- the one thing I was able to do was muster enough energy to do the military woman thing and provide him with a list of symptoms, in medical terms, in crisp detail. I wish I'd had a video of his eyebrows shooting skyward, they nearly got stuck in the ceiling. He ordered a slew of tests. I explained that it clearly had to be food poisoning and by this time, I had figured it to be the grapes. He disagreed. He ordered a pile of tests. Okay fine.

    I was put into a wheelchair and rolled outside to another door, where a lab tech met me, and took a blood sample. He asked if I had given any other samples, and I said no, no one had given me any containers. He said nothing, closed the door in my face and I was rolled back around outside the doctor's office.

    I got back on the bench, curled into a fetal position and slept.

  • Report Abuse

    About twenty minutes later my body declared its need to do its thing, at which point the opportunity for that lab sample came up. So I struggled to the closed doctor's office, pushed it open, and told the doc that now would be a good time. He looked surprised, then angry, when I explained that I'd not been provided with the appropriate containers. (It's not a good idea to laugh when in this condition but the temptation was there).

    Got rolled around to Can't Be Bothered, got the goods, then was put in the toilet. Took care of business. Um. No toilet paper. No. Really. At the hospital. Doing lab samples. No. Toilet Paper. You can't make this stuff up. Despite now much I hurt I am sitting on the throne in hysterics. I yell out for one of my guys, who happily brings me the supply that Walid had supplied, which I now know to hoard. That's funny.

  • Report Abuse

    Okay so now it's clear that I am going to be sent upstairs. The doc finally validates that I am indeed very healthy and the only thing wrong is food poisoning. I am put into the elevator...which is next to a very very dirty open area, broken this, that and the other, filthy building, this is a hospital? Yes it is. Get over it. Up we go. My guys have disappeared with my bag and my toilet paper. Um. NO.

    I am upstairs and put in a room by myself. NO.

    I totter all the way downstairs - five flights- and wander the parking lot to find my guys. I think it was (pardon the spelling) Falifa, who came running back up with me. He sat with me until the doctor came in, set me up with saline, then refused to leave me while I slept. About an hour later, he was shooed out while I got an exceptionally painful shot in the tush. Falifa and his buddy loaded me back up, my head back on his ample thigh, and I was put back into our previous hotel while the group went on to Luxor.

  • Report Abuse

    The next morning, I missed the balloon flight. The next day. I missed the entire Valley of the Kings. All the temples. I got a private transport to the hotel in Luxor where I slept the rest of the day.

    I have no idea what's in Luxor. The hotel room was nice. I ate rice. No idea which hotel it was. Walid said it was a five star place. I remember mold in the bathroom, but at least this time my roommate and I got separate keys. I think that's what made it five star for me, not having to track Helen down, or wait around for her to show up with the key.

    I was taking a whole range of antibiotics including Cipro, which has its own set of fun side effects (dealing with it now) but at least I was able to finish out the trip.

  • Report Abuse

    Hurgadah was our next destination, and we arrived in our bus late at night. Our destination was a huge resort on the Red Sea, hard to make out late at night, but the big news I had a huge big fat resort room all to myself for two nights. Walid would be taking a day off, and we were on our own.

    My god. Free time.

    The good news about the Jaz Makadi resort was that it bent over backwards- from the chef to the janitors to the guys sweeping the sidewalk- to make you feel welcome. While I sincerely do not care for resorts, I did appreciate the smiles, the warmth, the extra effort I felt the resort staff made at every level to make us feel welcomed. I was up extremely early, didn't matter. Someone was out on the sidewalk and grinning at me.

    It was hard, however, to leave the luxury of three big rooms, the ability to stretch out, actual WORKING WIFI which allowed me to get some writing done, and venture out. But there were camels and horses afoot and I was not to be denied. The breezes were lovely, the morning was pretty, breakfast was being served before the sun was up and off I went.

  • Report Abuse

    At 8 am, I began the complex walk through the complex to find my way to the beach. It honestly was quite a feat. I wandered and wandered and wandered. There is a sea. I know there's a beach. It's around here somewhere. One resort after another.

    This is why I hate resorts. Where's the damn beach?

    I finally track down what looks like an ocean of latticed umbrellas, under which there are hundreds of empty lounge chairs. I hear a smattering of German. I inquire and am told that the camel guy comes by in an hour.

    Half an hour later he heads down the beach calling out "Taxi!! Taxi!!" leading my big boy. I flag him down, we make a deal for a half hour ride, and I hop on.

    The ride takes us along the two inch wide beach, which is heavily encroached upon by the lounge chairs but not the tourists. Even here things are rough.

    The ride is great and my camel is a sweet nature boy who very much appreciates any extra affection. In fact when I dismount he's a big fat mooch. He is happy to return the favor by giving me a cheek buss, complete with camel snot, which is no extra charge.

    The really good news, as I discover, is that this man's brother happens to run the Seahorse riding outfit. What I have learned about Egypt is that everyone seems to be related, which is often extremely handy. In an hour, a car has come to pick me up for a two hour ride in the sand dunes a nice drive away from the resorts. The really good news is that I have brought riding breeches, which are really handy, the really bad news is that I forgot half chaps, which you kinda really have to have, especially if you are using other people's gear, and like to come home without bruised legs. After four hours in the saddle.

  • Report Abuse

    Seahorse is just a short drive away from the resorts. I would characterize it as a ridiculously perfect place for anyone who loves animals. There was a big fat happy pit bull girl puppy who launched her nearly hundred pounds on my person and did her best to lick my face off. The goat herd. The turkey herd. The donkeys wandering the place, the ducks. I lost track of everything.

    Oh, and the horses.

    I am beyond laughter when I go to the trouble of telling an outfit that I am a highly experienced rider and when I walk up to my horse the guy says "don't be afraid." Come ON man. Give it a rest. Nearly every country I ride in, with rare exception, men assume women can't ride, and if they give you a break, they still assume you're incompetent.

    Akhmed is my guide. He rides like Quasimodo. The moment we are out on the dunes he takes off and has my camera in hand. I've got a whip, don't need it at all. She takes off like a shot. What I love about her is that her gallop is like warm milk. My butt doesn't leave the saddle, I sit straight up and we are a bat outta hell.

    Two hours of runs, walks, beach explorations and wanders around a perfectly gorgeous turquoise lagoon later, we head back at a nice gallop. Akhmed says," should put you on a more powerful horse."

    So about two minutes out on my

  • Report Abuse

    Don't know what happened there.

    For any of us who were kids in the sixties or seventies, or who ever loved horse stories, we all read Walter Farley. Many of us grew up with The Black Stallion. I still have my copy from fourth grade. Some saw the movie. Read every book in the series. All of us dreamed of riding, owning The Black.

    Well, Akhmed introduced me to Valentino, their pure black, half wild, purebred Arab stallion he wanted me to ride. He snorted, laid his ears back, kicked into my face and ran around the corral. This is $95,000 animal. Me? Ride this?

    Sure. Why not? It's not every day that a fourth grader's lifelong dream really truly does come true. I mean really?

    So he gets saddled up for the sundown ride. Meanwhile, I wrapped both my calves in blue Rocktape, protecting my pegs from what I knew was going to be an interesting ride.

    As soon as I swung up on this animal and settled into the saddle, he laid his ears flat back. Then he screamed a challenge that took up his entire body.

    Okay well then. You have a choice. You can get the hell off. Quite sure that's worked. You can try beating him for it I'm sure that's happened too. That doesn't work for me. I made fun of him. Not sure that's ever happened to him before. Hell, I'm either going to die fast, or it's going to be exciting, either way I'm going to have a helluva smile on my face.

    What ensued, since the guys wanted to see if I could control him, was about fifteen minutes of "Make Me," which is actually a pretty good Jack Reacher story, but for me it was keep my butt on his back while he bucked, and I insisted, gently but firmly, that he move forward, in circles, like it or not.

    We got there.

    I was told (and I love this- from men, natch) that I would have to keep a VERY tight rein on him all the time, and man handle him). Well, we did a nice run right out of the gate. AFter that I gave him plenty of rein and we were fine for about 90 minutes. What I have learned is that when you are calm on the horse, and your animal knows you are not going to do anything stupid, cruel, ugly, unpredictable, it will calm down. When you add to that a calm hand on the neck, praise, a pet for good behavior, fun runs and a free hand, it's funny how a horse learns to enjoy himself with you and returns the favor by wanting to please.

    We ran, trotted, walked the tides, the waves, cantered the sands. The sun began to sink. We took a break, took photos.

    It is a curious thing to stand close to an animal like this. Valentino tolerates you, you can pet him, you can stroke him. His great huge liquid eyes do not focus on you, you are not worthy of notice.They are on the horizon at all times. He studies the distance for two things: rivals and mares. You really don't exist in his world. That's why in many ways a part of you has to recognize you don't conquer an animal like this. You ride alongside. That's about it.

    The reddening sun dipped below the range and silhouetted us, spreading a sheen of pure gold on the damp sand beneath Valentino's feet.

    Then it was time to go home.

  • Report Abuse

    The sun had gone down, the dunes lay ahead of us, great undulating expanses of sand that Akhmed knew and I didn't. Beyond lay home, food, water and mares. Light was fading fast as we made our way down the draws between the dunes. Valentino was agitated as all horses are on the way home, and I repeatedly asked for the canter. He was badly undertrained, clearly people hadn't spent much time working with his commands and gaits.

    Finally we reached the perfect spot. I knew it and so did Valentino. I lifted my rear off the saddle, grabbed two handfuls of his mane and screamed at him as I let him have his head.

    Valentino leapt forward with so much power that had I not had the mane in my hand I'd have tumbled over his butt. In seconds he was running so fast that tears were running down my cheeks despite my sunglasses which I had to keep on because of the force of the wind. His mane whipped my face, I was completely blind. I figured that Akhmed was around somewhere. Didn't give a crap.

    There are times in a life when you simply lose yourself, and this was one of them. All I could feel was the pounding of this magnificent animal, his speed and and power and the pure furious love of running. All I wanted to do was be absorbed into it. He let me. We finally pulled up at the top of an embankment, I pulled him hard to the right, the only time I had to use a little force. I actually tore my teres minor in the process.

    Akhmed pulled up, barely visible in the light.

    I finally allowed myself to breathe, and leaned over to hug Valentino. He ignored me.

  • Report Abuse

    It took us a few minutes to dance our way home, where Valentino was paying no attention to anything but the ladies. We were all beneath his dignity. This allowed Akhmed and me to wander the stables and meet the rest of the boys, which included another high priced white ARab stallion and a few characters in their stalls.

    Now those of you familiar with horses probably are familiar with some of their grooming habits. One common habit is that horses use their teeth to rub each other's withers, which is that smooth lump on the back right where the long neck joins the back, or where the saddle tends to sit and the mane ends. This is a very pleasant experience for the horses as well as a bonding process.

    When horses are in stalls they don't get this grooming, so when I visit animals who live in closed spaces I try to sneak inside to do this for them. Often the animals- especially stallions- can be very nippy. Hell stallions are nippy anyway, most folks will tell you that boys bite and girls kick. Often true.

    Akhmed introduced me to a big nosy black boy who would not keep his mouth to himself. I snuck in the stall and immediately got my fake nails into his withers. What happened next was comical- and again, horse owners can see this coming.

    He stood shock still, lifted his head, eyes at half mast, then his head went long, sideways, his lips quivering, mouth opening and closing. Back and forth his head went like he simply didn't know what to do with his damn self.

    Akhmed, who was taping this, was in stitches. He'd never seen this before. I gave my boy a nice massage up and down the neck, down his back to the tail, and when done, gave him my hands.

    When we were done wreaking havoc with the stalled animals I went back to the pit bull, who was happy to get her turn back. Then it was time to leave, which was hard, because it was animal city, and for me, probably the happiest place I've been in a long time. All the animals were well fed, happy, well loved and clearly valued. What a nice change of pace.



    Which he licked, my usual payment.

  • Report Abuse

    We flew back to Cairo, and back to the original hotel. This time we were placed in what was called the 3000 building. Rather than the newer rooms, this building apparently had some challenges associated with its inner workings.

    Having done some serious riding, and having not been terribly well, I had on my mind a bath. My room had one of those lovely tubs that requires scuba gear. I was practically salivating. The one thing you can count on in Egypt is hot, right? No problem, right?

    Wrong.

    I turned on the water full hot.

    Tepid. Really?

    Gave it five minutes. Ten.

    Tepid.

    I know old buildings and pipes, but ten minutes?

    So I call the front desk. I will be kind here, but I will say that the level of dripping condescension that I received about did you do this (yes) did you do that( yes) and on and on and followed by the implied (you stupid woman) was beyond the pale. Finally he agreed to send the engineer.

    Twenty minutes later, I am still writing by the phone, nothing has happened. I call again. Dripping tells me that he has been there. ( and I know this how?)He launches into several minutes of how the pipes are on the outside of the building (and this affects me how? and I care about this why?) He called you. Well actually no he didn't. Yes he did. NO he didn't, since I haven't left the room and I am sitting here right by the phone. Test the water. Tepid. Run it five minutes. (pause.)He has hung up. Water is still tepid. He's now pissed off royally. The water is tepid. What I am explaining is that the water needs to be HOT, as in you can steep tea in it. He doesn't care, clearly.
    He send the engineer over, who this time actually bothers to come to the door. This guy is just as pissed and rude. He checks the water. It's hot. No, it's tepid. It's hot. No it's not. This is going down the drain. I kick him out.

  • Report Abuse

    Dinner wasn't any better. I walked inside to eat, but was the kicked out because I didn't want to eat the buffet. Really? The place was cavernous and nearly empty.

    So I go outside, where there was nearly no one at all. A soccer game was on at the bar, which is clearly where the staff was because they weren't serving.

    After about half an hour I got up to find someone. Another half an hour or so later my soup arrived (how hard is it to serve pre prepared soup?). It took me ten minutes to eat.

    Half an hour later I am still trying to flag someone down to order something else, and had to go find someone again. All I want is a yogurt salad. The table of four across the way is having the same issue.


    Forty five minutes later I got my yogurt salad, and have finished it. I had to gang tackle another waiter to request my bill and wait yet another twenty minutes to get it.

    Soup and yogurt salad should have taken me half an hour to order and eat. I was there for possibly three hours.

  • Report Abuse

    I wrote up a incident report on Trip Advisor. It was very crisp. You don't have to be angry to simply tell the story. The facts do enough damage. The other telling thing is that other guests had said much of the same thing. This place had not chosen to make any changes in the training of their staff or the facilities.

    I sought Walid out the next day and he argued hard not to publish. The manager tried to talk me out of it. I published anyway. Why? Because other guests before me had complained and they hadn't fixed the problem. Because my experience had been reported and recorded a number of times prior, and the manager's admonition to me the next morning that things would change right away was absolutely false. They'd had plenty of chances to upgrade, to respond. And they hadn't. So I published. And I told Walid that if they had cared enough the first, second, third, fourth etc. times that guests had complained, the problems would not still be there.

    As a Disney cast member (you are one for life, like it or not)I was at Disney World on opening day. I know something about customer service. You either care or you don't. There are gradations. You don't have to be Disney. But when you ignore the problem, they will indeed come back to bite you hard.

  • Report Abuse

    what a marathon post, jhubbel and what a read too. I'm not a rider but I can understand the thrill that it brings and the relationship with the horses too. your points about understanding that their culture is not ours are well made too.

    as for gastro-intestinal issues, please go well equipped to Cuba. I am quite susceptible in that area [I was even ill in Australia and had to miss the GBR as a consequence] but in Cuba even DH was affected and he is normally bomb-proof. We never drank tap water, were reasonably careful with what we ate and drank in cafes and restaurants, but in the end it's going to get you as it did everyone we met. So if you can take a prophylactic, do so, or take plenty of the "necessary" and copious amounts of what we in the UK call immodium.

    Good luck!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks annhig. I have tons of immodium, but in this case it is useless, for I am battling what is called c.difficile, which can only be treated with flagyl, since you only get it once your poor belly has been bombed with nuclear quality antibiotics, which mine has, and a very very very bad operator has been allowed to PAR-TAY. I am on a long course of this. I use a Steripen, which is used religiously. All I can do is pray like hell and eat nothing but rice and fresh papaya, which does wonders for the tum, and ply myself with Pedialite. I'm taking tons of stuff with me. All I can do. Appreciate the head's up.

  • Report Abuse

    As Walid was most kind, and he was, loud AND kind, he knew that I really wanted good papyrus. So he arranged for me to visit a genuine papyrus store not far from the Pyramids. Now those of you who have been here know you can get cheap banana leaf papyrus on any street corner for a few bucks. There are a few government sanctioned stores in town who are committed to making the real thing, the old way, and who provide demonstrations to you to show you how. And boy it isn't cheap.

    Walid dropped me off at such a store, and had a private conversation with the owner, who is a friend. I was to find out what this really means a bit later. I was handed off to one of the salesmen who showed me around, gave me a demo, and then delighted me for the next hour or so by showing me the various artists, styles, and educating me about what was used to make paint. Crushed rubies. Twenty four carat gold. The pieces he showed me all told stories. I had one piece in mind, an Isis figure. However so many appealed. Soon I had a pile. Some of them had enormous prices on them. These were all originals, and they were done by one of the better artists. As I am an artist myself it wasn't hard to tell which of the pieces had a steadier hand, a better eye, and greater talent. Natch. Like walking into a store and nabbing the most expensive piece off the rack.

    We had a curling pile of some eight pieces, which my guy gleefully added up on his calculator. After they brought out the defibrillator to revive me, the owner came out and took my salesman aside to have a quiet conversation.

    A few minutes later, he emerged with an amount that was reduced by 75%, the Walid "friend" discount.

    Some friend indeed.

    Once all was bought, wrapped up and packed, the owner drove me back to the hotel. What I so vividly recall from that conversation was his comment that "money comes and go, but people don't. We can always make money. But we cannot do that with relationships."

    This simple pronouncement has stuck with me ever since. I've quoted time and time again, and noted that it came from an Egyptian merchant hit hard by the tourist downturn. What I so respect about this man's comment is that even while times are tough right now, he understands that relationships matter far more than profits. Times change. How we treat each other lasts. Words for the ages.

  • Report Abuse

    On my last day, the salesman (whose name I cannot recall at the moment, being in Tampa at a conference) offered to take me to a stable to go riding. Walid was most concerned about this as tourists are monitored and provided guides, such as himself, for their protection. This young man was not a tourist guide as such so this offer was effectively "going off the reservation," and Walid was very protective. I ended up putting the two on the phone together, which was fun, because this young man was terrified of Walid, who of course was friends of his boss. Walid was kind, but clear, and probably put the fear of you know who into him about assuring my safety and not trying to sell me a bunch of stuff I don't want.

    I did get to the stables, which is in and amongst a great many of them, and here is where it gets difficult. After the 2011 revolution, the tourist industry took a massive hit. Nowhere did I see the impact of this more directly that here in these neighborhoods, where tourists once thronged to ride Egyptian and Arabian horses and get their photos against the silhouette of the Pyramids. The stable where I was taken, the horses were still in good shape.

    That was not true for many. You simply cannot blame the owners. If you had to choose between food for your family or for your horses, what would you choose? Precisely. So horses were let loose to feed in the massive garbage pile, wherein there were a number of dead horses left to rot. And here I might add the government imposes yet another unfortunate duty on these folks. They require a hefty payment to remove the trash and carcasses, money these people don't have, because there are so few tourists, so the carcasses stay. The locals have to live with the rot, the smell, the disease, and so do their children. In my mind, it's another way to punish the poor for being poor.

    Not my culture, not my country. But it was painful to see, smell, and ride past. Instructive, important to observe, understand. Not judge. Understand.

    The stable owner had a lovely white Arab stallion, for which he wanted eighty an hour. I don't pay that much for a top horse in Denver, so we negotiated. Hard. I got him to a reasonable price for his best horse, and my new guide, Magib, and I took off. We weren't two minutes out on the sand before it was very clear that my stallion was very lame, and unable to walk.

    I took Magib's Egyptian stallion (a horse that the stable owner said was about thirty an hour). This animal had been ruined by frightened tourists who had the horrible habit of sawing on his mouth out of fear, so his once soft, delicate mouth was like concrete. No matter, just something to keep in mind. Good thing I lift weights.

    The stable sent out another stallion, and Magib and I were set free.

    Now the area around the Pyramids is just made for haul ass. The sand, in places rocky, rises and falls, there a long, long draws. You can let your animal take off like a banshee, they are accustomed to it. The trick is stopping. The first time I tried this with my bad boy I got a lesson in just how hard his mouth really was. Fine. Lesson learned. It took me ten feet to stop him, which can be dangerous if you're close to an embankment.

    After that, Magib and I just ran our hearts out. We'd walk for a while, then rest. Often resting consisted of dismounting and walking the horses around the flat top of sand bank. You quickly learn that the desert is home to a particularly vicious kind of small swarming fly, which aren't as much a bother for the humans but are a terror for the horses' eyes. I quickly endeared myself to my stallion by putting his head into my chest and protecting his face, periodically rubbing his eyes, and keeping the salt loving flies off his shoulders. When Magib's horse found out that I would do this for him as well we'd take turns, the off horse enjoying a face rub. It was nonstop. As long as they were moving, the flies weren't an issue. At one point, we were walking around in a circle to give them a breather and I realized that there was heavy breathing on my left shoulder. My stallion was on my right, and I was stroking his eyes. Magibs stallion was pacing me on my left, and Magib was standing off to the side, laughing.

    "I think he likes you better than me," he joked. Magib had a lovely sense of humor, along with a thick pair of tree trunk soccer legs, which he used to hurtle onto his horse without stirrups.

  • Report Abuse

    There is a small rise in the desert not far from the Pyramids where riders stop to rest. An old man lives and works there, and he sells cold drinks and snacks. Most of the women who ride stop here after a short ride, then go back to the stables. Many of the male riders come here and show off for the women, so it's a busy place. Magib and I came here to get some water, and after tending to the animals' comfort as best I could, I noticed a little ass tied off to the side.

    Ever a sucker for a donkey, as they can be very affectionate, I wandered over. This little boy was no different, as soon as he realized what was in store. Once he was accustomed to the feeling of a neck scratched, he moved in so close he nearly bowled me over and began chewing my shoelaces in pleasure as I worked on his neck muscles. When I went after his head, he chewed my ankles and most particularly my Achilles' tendons. Not in a mean way, but mutual grooming. What really set him off was when I used my girly girl fake nails to give his long ears a proper scrub. It's genuinely fun to watch what a donkey does the first time a human goes after those long, long ears and really scratches them, down into the canal. Heaven on earth. Happiness indeed. He closed his eyes, flattened out his head, went perfectly still and as we say, was very much "in the moment." I love donkeys. He was one happy boy.

    Shortly thereafter we leapt on our steeds again and took off, with plenty of time left to explore the dunes, rocks and area, our horses ready for lots more running.

  • Report Abuse

    There are roads that wander in and out of this area where excavation continues, and riders can and do explore this area. This being rather late September, the temperature was milder, so even though it was late afternoon it wasn't horribly brutal. Magib and I explored here and there. Every so often my stallion demanded to run, and started to take off. I put his nose onto my knee and turned him around two or three times, a classic trick to make him mind. Magib had never seen this before. He asked what I was doing and I explained. It's the difference between getting into an argument and beating an animal, and simply showing him who's in charge by making him do what you want him to do by distracting him, I explained. It's gentler, it still makes the point, and there is no need to get into a full on fight with a 1500 lb animal. No one gets angry, and he ends up doing what you ask. Even if you have to do it several times, he ends up doing want you want, largely because you're consistent, and not mean. Magib nodded sagely. Seems like a new idea.

    We are out well west of the Pyramids here and all I can see is a host of winding roads, and my boy really wants to run. What I know is that he probably knows this area well, I have a guide, and the chances of my being able to do this again are nil. So I snugged in my legs, gave him his head, a little "Yah!" which is all he needed, grabbed a handful of mane and we were off like a gunshot.

    From there all I did was minimally guide him in a general direction. He knew the roads, and we were running at full speed. I had no idea what happened to Magib and didn't care at that point. We ran, and ran, and ran, and ran, tirelessly. These horses are bred for it. Periodically I'd lean way forward to check his chest to make sure he wasn't overheating. Not in the slightest. He was having a ball and so was I. He stretched out with a joy of running through the sands that horses of the desert so love, free do as he pleased, aware of the occasional request on my part to go left or right, and little more. His neck wasn't sweating at all, my hands were buried in his mane. I reveled in his speed and he reveled in his freedom. These animals, mostly ridden by tourists, likely don't get this kind of free and open run often enough, and I was happy to give it to him. We ran long and hard, longer than I have ever run a horse, until finally we were north of the Pyramids and I pulled him up for a walk. Magib was nowhere to be seen.

    He did eventually gallop into sight from behind a dune, grinning. We walked our boys back to the rise to rest them, get water, and then, as the sun began to drop, get our "romance shots," and head back to the stables.

  • Report Abuse

    One funny story I forgot to tell on Magib: we had stopped at one point in the afternoon were adjusting our saddles. Girths invariably loosen after a lot of running, so we tighten and adjust. This was still rather early in the day, and his boy hadn't gotten accustomed to being spoiled yet.

    Magib had let go of his reins and they fell to the ground as he came over to do a final check of my gear once I finished. His stallion took that opportunity, as stallions do, to check out the horizon, find it more alluring, and take off. Not fast, but fast enough. Magib's powerful but stubby legs were not long enough to keep up.

    The horse took off, up and over the dunes while I remounted and pointed my camera at the two of them. One stallion, fast disappearing over the distant dunes, one stubby Egyptian guy, running in the deep sand as fast as he could, losing ground with every step. I was laughing so hard I could hardly hold the camera.

    A few minutes later, the stallion came to a halt on the top of a distant dune, a lovely silhouette, his mane rising in the wine.

    It took quite some time, but eventually Magib appeared, slowly approaching, and the two united. He leapt back on, and they took off. He waved at me to meet him at the gallop at some distant point ahead, and we both took off.

    Anyone who tries to tell me horses don't possess a sense of humor has never owned a horse.

  • Report Abuse

    As the afternoon slowly wound down we rode again past the garbage, the kids, the old houses, the rotting carcasses of horses, the soccer games. We turned in our horses and I walked into the stable office to take care of business.

    Then it got fun. The operator wanted to charge me the same amount for the Egyptian horse that I had negotiated for the Arab stallion. I told him no way, as I'd negotiated a deal for the finest horse in the stable, who had turned up lame. Different horse, different negotiation. He was frustrated. I didn't budge. We found a reasonable price, and then he went to great lengths to explain the credit card override. To which I said I run a business in the United States, and of course I understand the override. Again, the eyebrows get stuck in the ceiling. Cultural differences. It always tickles me, this surprise that a woman can know these things, run a business, know medical terminology, be independent.

    My friend from the papyrus shop drives me to my ancient hotel downtown and on the way he informs me that Magib was telling him that I was a fine rider and had taught him many things. Now this was extremely sweet- of course Magib wouldn't be caught dead saying this to me, but it was nice nonetheless. What I appreciated was that Magib was willing to let me ride his stallion, which was not a tourist horse. That was very trusting on his part, and I owed him. Two way street. And yes, he got a very nice tip out of it, too.

  • Report Abuse

    Finally, I had one more night in downtown Cairo at the quirky Windsor, and an early morning departure. I did learn a tough lesson. DO NOT bring your Egyptian money back to America. No one will change it for you here. I cannot find a single bank or facility which will take mine, so I still have quite a few, a bad move on my part. Not a mistake I normally make. With most currencies not an issue but this one in particular, nobody wants Egyptian pounds. I'll have to come back to use them.

    I can think of a few horses I'd like to ride again. Given that, it's a very real possibility. I've tucked the money away, and we'll see what happens. Walid and several of his friends have ensconced themselves on my Facebook page, so we are all in touch now. You never know.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks annhig. I have tons of immodium, but in this case it is useless, for I am battling what is called c.difficile, >>

    oh dear, I can see that immodium would not help in these circumstances. Sounds awful. But we did find it very efficacious for the "normal" trots. Please take copious amounts of what you are presently taking to Cuba, and then some.

41 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.

Advertisement