Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Colours of the Garden

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.
Gerard de Nerval

It is 8 P.M. in the homeland and my head is quite literally falling onto the computer as I try to compose this post. It's time for bed but I wanted to share the colours of the garden.

The colours that greeted me this morning were outstanding and even 'exotic' to my eye. The yellow lily possessed stripes, like a giraffe.

The lupins seemed so very tasty. Why is it that fuschia invokes my tastebuds?

Up close they look sooooo exotic.

And then there was the more subtle colour of the lilacs . . . yet their perfume was gloriously unsubtle. It filled the air with aroma.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

All in a Day's Work

Cat and I were awake in time to catch the sunrise . . . at 5A.M. What am I doing awake at 5A.M.??

 Having my coffee and enjoying the view. Our balcony doors have mirror glass and the scene was beautiful and peaceful. The day was crazy with all the various tasks of closing up the flat and having a couple of meetings in Luxor to boot.

I can honestly say that I worked from sunrise to sunset. I took time to enjoy the view of Ra setting behind the Theban hills. It will be a while before I pass this way again, but I think those hills get into your soul so they'll always be with me.

It's now 11:48 P.M. and I'm sitting in Cairo airport. Cat and I have a five-hour layover here before boarding the flight to Frankfurt. Tomorrow's post should come from halfway around the world, if all goes according to plan. Insha'Allah.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reaping and Sowing

Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today's actions to tomorrow's results. There's a season for sowing and a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which.
Gary Ryan Blair

I looked northward this morning from the balcony and was sad to see a load of bricks and new walls being built on agricultural land. All government inspectors seem to be sleeping these days and it seems that when they do wake up the building owners will only have to pay a fine. Maybe.

Egypt is facing a food crisis and people are building on the good soil rather than in the desert. It has happened in the homeland too, with much of the Niagara fruit belt being built over. It defies logic -- and our well-being -- that's why it's sad.

But then I looked southward and through the palms I caught sight of an oxen team ploughing a field. Behind the oxen walked a man in a crisp white gallebeyya throwing seed into the furrows. My spirits lifted.

And behind them trod the donkey hauling the plank to cover the seed. Soon there will be green growth here. Although, that wall in the background is another example of the post-revolution building boom.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Travel Tuesday Friday

We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Today was made special with a road trip to the village of Garagous, about 30 km North of Luxor. I went with a friend I met during my first weeks in Egypt, 15 years ago and a friend of his joined us on the visit to the pottery workshop established by Jesuits 65 years ago. We all had a great time seeing their work and buying a few treasures to take home with us. It may not be Tuesday but this is definitely Garagous, and it will be featured in an upcoming Travel Tuesdays post. Stay tuned.

I came home from the trip extremely hot so I restored myself with the first bite of the chocolate-Grand Marnier ice cream that I made yesterday. I began with the recipe on the Good Food Channel but had to make a few 'adjustments' due to an absence of eggs and oranges in my pantry and, because I couldn't leave half a bar of chocolate unused, I chopped up the remaining 100 gr and added the chocolate 'chips' after it had started to freeze. Considering the alterations and the fact that I don't have an ice cream maker, I have to say that the ice cream turned out quite well. I'm sure it would be even better with eggs and orange peel. I think I must conduct further experiments in the future. ;-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Exotic Moment

I have lived beyond the borders of my homeland for so many years now that I seldom have the sense of "Wow! That's exotic!" But I had one of those moments today walking home with my pressed laundry. Only in a tropical hot house at a conservatory would I glimpse such a scene. In the conservatory, I could sit in quiet contemplation. Here, I could sit beside the canal. I may even be able to contemplate. But it is never quiet. Here, quiet is exotic. ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Ahhhhhhhh. There is nothing more refreshing from the heat than a cold shower . . . sometimes two a day . . . weather permitting. ;-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Praise of Daylight Savings Time

There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.
Author Unknown

Cat had me out of bed before 6 A.M. this morning and I wasn't too happy about it. Then I came out to the living room and saw a big yellow balloon and agreed that it's good to get up early. It is very bright before 6 A.M. because Egypt dispensed with Daylight Savings Time this year so that, come August, Muslims will be able to break their Ramadan fast an hour earlier. I guess I can understand their logic, albeit from the opposing viewpoint: I wouldn't mind getting out of bed if the clock said 7.

Cat, however, doesn't care what time the clock says, it's time for breakfast!

In other news, this adorable filly with thick furry ears appeared this afternoon on the walk home.

She's very pretty and she knows it too, judging from all the posing that was going on. She's going to be a heart-breaker when she grows up. I can already hear all the braying that will fill the air when she trots past the boys. ;-)

 Mom may have a thing or two to say as well. She is pretty protective of her filly.

9:15 P.M. Update: I have just caught up on my reading of a favourite blog, Spitalfields Life. I don't know the Gentle Author nor much about London but I look forward to her (his?) daily posts and I feel we are kindred spirits if only because each of us has been blessed to spend our days (and nights) with a black cat. Just a few days ago the Gentle Author wrote (far more eloquently) about waking up early at feline insistence in The Caprice of Mr Pussy. I could relate to the toppling of books from the bedside table and the acrobatic leaps and bounds across or upon my semi-comatose body. There is no doubt that Cat and Mr Pussy are kindred spirits, if not kin.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunset Treats

One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.
Iris Murdoch, Author and Philosopher

Cat and I have our little treats, particularly at sunset.

The sheep, too, got their treat -- much to the shepherd's vexation. When he wasn't looking they made their way surreptitiously to the new corn field and had a good chow down before the shepherd noticed and had to run across the field to direct them back to the harvested wheat field. A good laugh is another treat. Boy, am I blessed!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ice Cream Philosophy

My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate. That's my philosophy.
Thornton Wilder, American playwright and novelist

Call me crazy, but I ventured out into the 40+ degree heat to run errands and help out a friend at the restaurant by 'testing' the new waiters' first attempt at creating a banana split. Someone had to do it. ;-)

I rather liked the 'after' photo, but I promised my friend that I would show off their work 'before' my spoon dived into the cream:
Wishing everyone a sweet day! Don't ask why or whither, just enjoy ice cream while it's on your plate.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cool Cat

You look so cool, so cool, so enviably cool.
From Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Temperatures peaked at 43C today - a mere 109.5F - high enough to employ cool Cat protocols. Protocol #1 involves hanging freshly washed sheets on the drying rack on the balcony to create a cooling tent for Cat. When the balcony is too hot for comfort Protocol #2 kicks in: laying a damp towel on the living room floor beneath the fan. Too cool. All she needs are Ray-Bans.

Friday, May 20, 2011

With the Sun In Your Face

The Sun was already searing hot at 7:30 a.m. The Portulaca bloom came to life in the Sun's presence. Known as the Sabeh el Kheir flower -- the Good Morning flower -- it pointed its face directly to the Sun's brilliance. Its fuchsia colour is said to symbolize joy. It certainly brought me joy.

I was out on the balcony getting an early start on cleaning it before dinner tonight with guests. Nothing like the imminent arrival of guests to spur me into house cleaning ;-) -- it doesn't matter that I've known these friends since my first week in Egypt.

Since temperatures were forecast to top 40 C, I thought a cold dinner was in order. So we had gazpacho soup, cold roast beef with horseradish sauce, potato salad and corn salad. Frozen melon yogurt was refreshing for dessert.

To accompany the soup I found a tasty recipe for Cheddar cheese biscuits at the Purple Foodie blog. These are so easy to make, are so tasty and, thankfully, do not call for Bisquit mix (geesh) that I wanted to share the recipe.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits Recipe
Yield: 12 large biscuits or 18 small ones

2 cups 250g all-purpose flour (unbleached or regular)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup 75g butter, cold, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. canola or any flavourless, odourless vegetable oil
1 heaping cup 6-7 oz. 150-170g grated old cheddar cheese
1/2 – 2/3 cup 120-160ml milk

For brushing on top:
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes or 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder.
2. Add the cubed butter. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut butter into flour until it is coarse, pea-sized (doesn’t need to be fine).
3. Add oil, grated cheddar cheese and the milk. Stir till well combined and holds together. Make sure to keep adding milk a bit at a time, just until the dough is moistened and you can no longer see any raw flour. (I used only 1/2 cup of milk.)
4. Drop approximately 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet or a Silpat using an ice cream scoop or large spoon.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes in a preheated oven at 400 F.
7. While biscuits are baking, melt 3 tablespoons butter is a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and the parsley.
8. When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Do this a few times – it’s fun to watch all the butter getting absorbed into the biscuit! Use up all of the butter. Serve warm.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nice Memories

Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.
Harlan Ellison

 This evening I caught sight of the vapour trail of an evening flight from an unknown land to an unknown destination. Many moons ago, the Time Traveller and I contemplated it from a different rooftop. Nice memories.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Different View

The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.
Pamela Hansford Johnson

Luxor sunsets are spectacular but I fear I will bore my kind readers with too many images of that particular hour of the day. My fear causes me to find new ways to capture the majesty of the setting Sun. This evening, it shone in golden baubles in my cold Stella. 

Focusing beyond the beer, it remained a spectacular sight.

And the spectacle continued after Ra's descent. For the first time since the revolution, illumination brought the mountains of Gurna to life. Day or night they are hauntingly beautiful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Canal Aflame

A few weeks a year we are treated to an avenue of 'Flame' trees blazing red alongside the main road and canal. They are a beautiful sight. Also known as Flamboyant and Royal Poinciana, their fern-like leaves provide much needed cover from the African sun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Top Marks

Top marks to the St. Joseph Hotel for cold beer in a frosted glass. That's a sight for warm eyes.

And the sunset was pretty good too. ;-)  The Aswan dam has been opened and the Nile is rising, flooding the low-lying fields beside the river.

Will Work for Food

I am helping a friend draw tourists into his restaurant by creating a magazine ad. We did a photo shoot this evening and at the end of it I got to eat the burger.

Manual Labour

Looking out the restaurant window, I didn't understand why the young fellow was stacking bricks, two by two. It looked a bit like child's play -- until the reality hit me.

With one rope and a strong back, each man could hoist more than 40 bricks . . .

. . . and carry them up several flights of stairs to a renovation job. While one carried a load upstairs, the other stacked the next load, which he carried. No Workman's Compensation here. And no work boots: one wore sandals and the other worked in bare feet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thank You Thomas Edison

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
Chinese Proverb

Two young men from a nearby village came to the flat today to install new light fixtures. They seemed pretty young to me (but they're all looking young to me now) yet they knew their business and paid attention to details. They immediately identified my new lamps as Khan el Khalili fixtures, which seemed a bit derisive at the time; however, when they stood back to admire their work they admitted that the lamps were lovely.

I love the geometric patterns of Islamic design. 

I won't have any problem reading in the living room with the new 15 watt energy-efficient bulbs.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Moonlight Writing

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears; soft stillness, and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
William Shakespeare

I looked over the side of the ferry and it seemed as though the moon was writing messages on the water's surface.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Linguistically Challenged

To have another language is to possess a second soul.

Being a linguistically-challenged person, I don't laugh at someone trying to speak my language. There are times, however, when I can't help myself such as this morning when I happened to look at the label on a candle. I suspect the candle was imported from China.

Sometimes I can understand how the error occurred. "No Entery" signs popped up all around Luxor a few days ago. I haven't looked recently, but the sign at the gate to Luxor Temple used to read ENTERANCE. That, too, made sense. Perhaps I have been here too long???

Not sure what happened to the previous two posts. They seem to have disappeared into cyberspace. :-(  I'm certain I saw them posted but I'm starting to doubt myself. I'll blame it all on evil jinns and will try to re-create them.

Saturday morning Update: The original posts have returned. I read that there was a problem with Blogger and that many people lost their posts. Thank goodness it was only temporary. The incident emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the Net. More fragile than gossamer wings. I'm glad to have the original posts back and will delete their not-quite-clones.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Walk Like a Camel

Best defense against souk touts: "Walk like a camel."
Egyptian Tour Guide

This morning I read an article on the Edmonton Journal website entitled, "There's no better time to see Egypt's charms" by Carmen Farrell. I was happy to read a traveller's positive reaction to Egypt and its people. Then, as I read further on, I had a good laugh at the advice of the Egyptian tour guide for avoiding hassle from touts in the tourist souks: "'Walk like a camel' and look straight ahead, [make] no eye contact and absolutely no response to any questions whatsoever."

This is good advice so, for the edification of all my dedicated readers, I walked down the road a ways to visit with the two flocks of camels that recently arrived from Sudan. They kindly posed to show just how a tourist should stand in the souk.

And here are the expressions your group should wear as you wander through the narrow alleys crammed full of colourful delights that tumble out of the shops and spill into your path.

Here is the answer to the common question posed by touts, "How can I spend your money?"

I particularly like this camel's rather more haughty demeanor achieved by raising one's nose level to one's forehead. This look will definitely silence pesky touts.

The problem with walking like a camel and looking straight ahead, of course, is that you can't ogle all the wonderful trinkets to find that special something that you really would like to buy. This fine beast exhibits the solution: heavy eyelids and a sidelong look.

Another solution, in order to avoid having flocks of 'camels' herded through the souks and buying nothing, would be to mute the touts. But, alas, they have been pestering tourists since Herodotus came to visit, so reform seems implausible. So . . . Walk like a Camel!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Precious Moments

Never take anything for granted.
Benjamin Disraeli

This morning I looked out the window and spotted 11 balloons. I almost said, "Ho hum" but shook myself saying, "Don't take these special moments for granted." As a result, I spent a delightful half hour with my coffee watching the dance of the balloons.

And as a special treat, one landed in the nearby field. It was exciting to watch as the ground crew ran about, yelling instructions to one another, to make for a perfect landing. I was so glad that I took the time to enjoy the balloons.

Time is precious and I have enjoyed the weeks spent with my parents. Their vacation seemed to end very quickly as we kept running right up until this afternoon with a trip into the town to buy DVDs to back-up all the great movies and photos taken over the past five weeks. Tonight they began their long trek back to the homeland. Safe journey. Ma'asalama (Go in Peace).