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Egypt (3)

Friday morning


The pyramids


A tour of the pyramids nearly started very badly as we wandered into the local stables with all the horses and carts and we were mugged with men offering a rides and tours of the pyramids, Looking at the others I could see that none of us were going to be happy with the tourist thing and the condition of the horses was ok but the tack and their treatment was not pleasant to watch. So we walked. Despite the offers of lower prices half price and below etc These animals really are vital to the income of the families involved and which begs the question why the seemingly lack of investment in such a valuable commodity, unfortunately to me it seems that the horses and donkeys still work even when treated badly so why change anything?  Much of our own handling of horses and donkeys is based on the same principles, with most trainers doing what works without looking to see if something else might be better.


What an amazing site, the pyramids are huge, what incredible site and the thought of the technology available at the time of their construction makes them even more of a marvel. Massive squares of stone on the great pyramid and  two others made smaller and less impressive by the great pyramid. To think what it must have been like once upon a time. To imagine the toil, pain suffering and incredible endurance and vision of an ancient civilisation was incredible. Not only the building but the cutting of each block and its transportation to the site in the west of the city. The west is the place for death as that is where the sun god Ra dies each night, the east for rebirth as Ra is reborn each day.


The sales men are incredible readers of body language, for the much part I ignored them and walked passed and despite the initial attempt at engagement to quickly gave up. However, the one time I did glance at a head scarf in traditional fashion, my eye movement and moment of consideration was seen and the weakness was rounded on enthusiastically.   I was lucky to escape wearing western clothes and not dressed and a Bedouin tribes man.


The tourist police are everywhere. This one however, was none to happy for some reason with a local horse coach driver at the particular point on the pyramid road. As a carriage galloped passed dangerously fast and without any regard for the safety of the horse, angry words are exchanged and there is a waving of whips as the carriage driver sails past. The Policeman runs to his waiting camel and leaps aboard, urging the beast to its feet, and then tries to engage trot on the camel, not really quick pursuit. Anyway a different carriage is now coming back past the policeman and he handbrakes the camel to a stop leaping from the now kneeling beast and runs into the road to grab the reins of a horse coming the other way, to a point where the horse nearly rears up in total panic. With much shouting and pushing he forces the carriage around, for what reason I have no idea nor I suspect did the startled driver, now facing in the other direction the policeman then hits the horse with his hunting whip as if the horse has done anything wrong, complete logic less human thinking at its best that can be seen anywhere in the world or any show jumping event in the UK on a weekend in July. 


I practised crossing the street, generally there are two sides of the road and each one is big enough for 3 lanes of traffic, however the Egyptians manage to create a minimum of 5 lanes on either side. The first step is the most important, time that right and you have a fighting chance. It is like some real life version of an eighties video game, dodge the traffic and time your advance through on coming and never ending cars.


If required glance at the driver of the on coming vehicle to let him know you are going for it and then go, do not hesitate as that confusion could be fatal. But, like most things in life that seem crazy or beyond our comfort zones we soon habituate to them.


In the evening we took a drive to the souk, which was everything you would want a souk to be, from every film you every saw that had a souk in it. The place feels so real as though that’s how it should be and I think it is because everything you ever saw or read was the truth, because there simply is no reason to make any of this stuff up, the reality is enough.


The amazing architecture beautifully lit, the tiny streets the noise and bustle and smells of Cairo were enchanting. Bargains to be had a plenty and a 100 different gold shops or clothes shops or perfume shops or …. Well you get the picture.


The return of my suitcase, was up there with seeing the ancient, magnificent pyramids of Egypt. To realise actually I didn’t need all the clothes I packed and could have done with out them, to recognising how much stuff we don’t really need but we have or think we need. It was an excitement I might have missed if the case had not been mis-placed so I guess it was a lesson about being grateful for what we have and enjoying the things we have not taking them for granted. But, boy a cup of tea with an English tea bag lovely, small things bring great pleasures.



Today we started from the hotel and travelled out an hour from Cairo to an agricultural area. Egypt is such a mix of old and new. The centre of Cairo and Giza are cosmopolitan, but the rural areas take you back 50-100 years and into another world.


We arrived at the clinic and already 20 donkeys were waiting to see the “Doctors.” They are treated to 10 minutes of education before they can have their donkeys treated and then away they go. Order is kept and a list made and names called out and the vets, vet assistants and farrier, start seeing all manner of cases. Common things like foot abscesses, and wounds formed by ill-fitting tack are theme that runs through out the day that sees the first donkey being treated at 9.30 and the last one at 3.30 without a stop.


The owners are traditionally dressed men and the occasional women, the children are in western clothes and generally boys. The older men seem enthusiastic at the thought of free treatment and they watch with old leathered faces that really belong on Egyptian postcards. Donkeys are left tied up to anything including each other, but generally seem grateful to stop work.


Back with the treatments there are teeth problems, wounds, worming, tetanus jabs, snotty noses and lameness. The majority are underweight condition score 2 a couple of 3s and even perhaps a 3.5, several 1’s. The severe cases for the day are a condition score 0 donkey with very bad teeth, mouth ulcers caused by bad teeth, hooks and oozing abscesses all over the body. The other a condition score 1 donkey with a sarcoid and several skin lesions and a 10cm piece of flesh handing of his chest, apparently caused by the donkey himself biting and the skin lesions. It take 1 hour to treat this animal and then the owner and small boy, puts the saddle on, to lead it home I hope. The very poor donkey is given fluids by IV. After recovery the owner jumps aboard his other donkey and begins to pull the sick donkey behind him, who is obviously reluctant, then a helpful passer by, who’s horse the team have just checked whips the sick donkey across the rump to assist the donkeys owner in getting it going. You have to accept that you can only change small things and trying to change everything at once is surely doomed to fail.


It is hard to balance the feeling satisfaction at the donkeys helped with the realisation of how much there is still to do. I admire all those people and charities here and abroad that are making a difference to the care of equines all around the world. Some how this sight of the real world balances what is important and what is not.


I help with restraint and at one point demonstrate how to restrain a donkeys safely and gently, as it works I notice the method is copied throughout the day by owners and team alike. I also show how to pick up a hind leg on a kicking donkey wearing shoes, much more like dealing with a horse than donkeys in the UK. It works, people take note, the vet tries, it works, progress. The farrier then demonstrates that many farriers the world over have the same attitude that if you are strong in the arm you can quickly grab the leg and lift it high and hold on, and then get the job done, shoe removed! Then the vet tries to pick up the feet no chance, so nothing gained but the enhancement to the farriers ego, back to my way and successful treatment completed.


A long day finishes with the team travelling the short distance to the farriers house, shoes off and sit on the floor around the table for a beautifully prepared meal. Very generous hospitality rounded of a day of two halves, the first with the blood, sweat, wounds and suffering of the donkeys and the locals unnecessarily harsh treatment of the donkeys and then the generous hospitality of the local family.


Confused? you bet!


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