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The First Visit to My Egyptian Oasis

Hi everyone! I’ve found some free time for blogging about my crazy life again so I’m rebooting Aisha’s Oasis by reposting JOYRIDE TO EGYPT Episode 1: My First Cup of Tea in the Oasis

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My last glimpse of reality was three days prior, July 27, 1999, at 3 a.m.

I had been soaking in my hot tub on the patio of my condo, trying to soothe my jumpy nerves.

Now I sat reflecting on that lovely moment of 3 a.m. bliss. It was summer, the night was a cozy dark blanket between me and the rest of the world. My kids were asleep, our bags were packed and stuffed in the car. We were ready for our 5 a.m. exodus from reality.

My children thought we were going to see the pyramids.

I was soaking in my hot tub as a kind of ritual cleansing. I wanted to wash my old life off and start my new life fresh and clean. My whole family thought I was crazy. One of my brothers had tried had to dissuade me, even threatening to tear up my travel documents to “protect” me and my kids. My mom was so upset that at the last minute she refused to let me park my car at her house and would not give us a ride to Newark International Airport as we had earlier planned. I was already a nervous wreck, and this new thought of paying for half a month of parking at an airport added another heavy burden in my baggage.

I leaned back in the hot water, eyes closed, and played “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” one more time. The result was always the same, always exciting to the point of shivering, even in a bubbling hot tub. Maybe I was crazy, but I knew I was going to do it.

I was going to Egypt to marry a man I met on the internet.

I had never laid eyes on him, and it was all arranged. Within 24 hours of our first meeting, I would be his wife. Signed, sealed and delivered.

I was flushing the past 20 years of awful marriage to a mean drunk, a miserable divorce and a year of therapy while conquering a condo. I was ready for something exciting. Damn the torpedos – Full Speed Ahead!

On the one hand, some people get married after a night on the town. I, on the other hand, had lots of photos and phone conversations, and a 3-inch binder stuffed with email printouts. What more does a woman need after 50 days on the internet?

Now, here I was, sitting in a dark room somewhere in the middle of the Nile Delta. The room was long and narrow, with only the light of day illuminating the entrance. An old wooden bench supported me as I sat, peering into the dark as my two young children explored the depths of the room. Peeking through the open door at the far end, they cried delightedly upon discovering another room with chickens running around inside. I went to look. Light streamed in haphazardly from a thick grapevine arbor above.

Chickens running around everywhere! Source: yourchickens.co.uk

The chickens were running around everywhere, something like this. Source: yourchickens.co.uk

The floor was dirt, the walls were mud brick. My children had huge smiles on their faces, chasing the multi-colored chickens between little woven wooden crates and other miscellaneous debris. They laughed and the chickens cackled. I rolled my eyes, grinned, and returned to my perch in the cool darkened room.

A man suddenly entered from outside and I pretended not to notice. I had glanced that way when the light had been blocked but turned away nonchalantly. Reviewing the photo in my mind, I thought he looked similar to my new husband, but I knew right away it wasn’t him.

Happily, my husband prefers western style business suits. In my new apartment in the city, I found his closet full of wonderful suits, shirts, and ties. This man, however, was wearing a long, white nightgown.

My kids were just past the nursery rhyme stage and “Wee Willy Winkie” ran through my head. I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud.

His back to me the whole time, the man silently struck a match, lit a fire on a strange small box-shaped metal grill, and adjusted a valve on a small torpedo-shaped metal cylinder. The flame was extremely high and hissing loudly. I was peeking from the corner of my eye and growing alarmed.

From a dusty small cabinet on the wall, he took down a small orange box, a dusty glass cup and an old, dented brass vase with a long metal handle. Still without a word, he stepped outside and returned momentarily with the cup sparkling clean and the small brass vase full of water. I realized then that the vase was, in fact, a kind of teapot. He carefully measured black powder from the orange box into the brass teapot. It hissed and sizzled when he immersed it into the flames, setting it on the grill. Then he left the room without a word or a glance.

Making Tea in Egypt. Source: Daily News Egypt on YouTube

Making Tea in Egypt. Source: Daily News Egypt on YouTube

My husband had gone off earlier to talk with construction workers. He was preparing to remodel the 2nd floor, above me, to be our new home in the country. When he had left me and the kids in this old, darkened, narrow room I had felt sure no one had lived there for ages. It occurred to me now that I must be wrong. What were the chickens doing back there, after all? And the tea in the cabinet? I peered again into the dark, trying to understand my surroundings, ignoring the man when I heard him return again.

The scent of freshly picked mint filled the room, and I heard the hissing stop. The tinkling of a spoon in the glass cup caught my ear and I turned to see the man stirring sugar into the cup. He had poured hot tea over the mint and it swirled in the wake of the spoon.

He handed me the cup without looking me in the eye, and silently left the room.

I sat alone again in the dark, cupping my tea while sitting on an old wooden bench. My back against an ancient dusty wall. Pink sweater, white skirt, children playing with chickens. I sipped my tea and wondered how much further from recognizable reality this journey would take me.

Aisha's Future Oasis in Egypt - hit Refresh to display this!

My future oasis in Egypt – our 2nd floor under construction.

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Birds of Egypt: “Abu Ghuttaas,” The Pied Kingfisher

A Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), also known as "Abu Ghuttaas" ("father of those who dunk") sits on the wire hunting for fish in an irrigation canal fed from the Nile River in our rural village in Egypt

A Pied Kingfisher in our rural Egyptian village… (Please click image for more)

Another frequent visitor to our rural little corner of Egypt’s Nile delta is this handsome fellow nicknamed by the birdwatching locals, “Abu Ghuttaas,” loosely translated as “Father of those who dunk.” Ducking under water and coming back up quickly (as the ducks do) is referred to in my husband’s french chocolate tongue as “making ghuts.”

A Pied Kingfisher, this black and white beauty is properly known by his Latin name, Ceryle rudis, but the Ancient Egyptians reportedly called him “cnHb.t” or maybe it’s “cn-nHb.t.” Gutenberg doesn’t tell us how to say it, but is certain this translates into “the one turning around the neck (when hovering above water spying fish),” — I tried very hard to confirm this with the local Ancient Egyptians, but everyone around here insists he is just Abu Ghuttaas.

This particularly handsome bird up on that wire is a male, as he has two bands of black around his neck. Similar to his more strikingly colored cousin, Mr. Fairuz, (Turquoise) the Collared Kingfisher, Abu Ghuttaas loves to hang around our home, hunting for fish in the irrigation canal. All of Egypt’s delta region is watered by a wide network of irrigation canals fed by the Nile River, and we commonly see many little fish swimming around in the canal from our second floor windows.

Abu Ghuttaas favorite fishing canal on our corner in egypt

Abu Ghuttaas’ favorite fishing canal on our corner in Egypt

The electric wires coming to our home provide a perfect perch for many beautiful birds, and I always feel amazingly blessed and thankful to get such a perfect view from our windows. But I go way over the top of that when I get a good clear picture of a beautiful bird!! (or sheep, or donkey…lol)

Pied Kingfishers are not very picky eaters, hovering over water and diving straight down to capture fish, snails, bugs, it’s all good to Abu Ghuttaas. Eating on the wing, so to speak, they can continuously forage without needing to sit down to eat. Here’s a great photo by Karthik Easvur with all the stages of dunking, or “making ghuts,” superimposed on the image — it gives a great illustration of the amazing beauty of this handsome bird in action:

Pied Kingfisher's fishing manoeuvre, combined in a single image, c. Karthik Easvur (Wikicommons)

Pied Kingfisher’s fishing manoeuvre, combined in a single image, c. Karthik Easvur (Wikicommons)

On the other side of our corner, near our garage, are several “Toot” (Mulberry) trees. This must be a favorite hangout for the beautiful birds of Egypt, at least in our rural little corner, anyway — it was up in a nearby Toot tree that I was able to capture a couple of great shots of Cleopatra, the Green Bee-Eater, another favorite of mine. Here’s one more photo of Abu Ghuttaas, perched up in a Toot tree:

Abu Ghuttaas, a Pied Kingfisher, in a Toot (Mulberry) Tree

Abu Ghuttaas, a Pied Kingfisher, in a Toot (Mulberry) Tree… (Please click image for more)

 

You might like to learn more at Wikipedia about Abu Ghuttaas, the Pied Kingfisher, and here’s a YouTube video to watch, too:

Click here for the previous bird in this series: Abu Maghazil, The Spur-Winged Lapwing

 
;^)

Ep. 19, Joyride to Egypt: Did I Sleep?

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July Dawned Softly in the Eastern Sky

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“Out, Out, Out, Out, OUT!!!!” I screamed at that damn monkey in my hot tub. In the darkness of my little patio I watched his eyes grow wide with surprise, and I wondered suddenly if any of my neighbors had heard me yelling. A quiet, gated condominium community nestled in a tiny scrap of forested wetlands fortunately preserved by eco-visionary legislature, my neighbors and I were grateful beneficiaries of the 1990’s federal wetland protection acts.

Monkeys are probably covered in one of those eco-protection laws governing what goes on in my neighborhood. But this monkey was clearly in the cross-hairs of Scheri’s smoking wand of rose-scented incense, glowing softly from its stand in the flower planter beside the hot tub.
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Aisha’s Egypt: The Potter’s Wheel

Egyptian potter with vase on wheel

The Potter’s Wheel
 
Spinning like the Potter’s wheel
Ancient days and ancient ways
Traverse this earth in cycles
 
Spinning into foggy dawn
Recycling into sunset
In boring revolution
 
Time without evolution
Spinning like the Potter’s wheel
Until the potter is gone
 
Swallowed by oblivion
Ancient days and ancient ways
Unnoticed until missing
 
Like faithful dedication
Enduring pain with patience
Or aging gracefully
 
Spinning like the Potter’s wheel
Finally the ancient ways
Spin into eternity
 
 
© 2015 Aisha Abdelhamid
Dedicated to the Potter’s wife, whose husband is now passed away –
May God have mercy on him, his family, and us all.

 
 
A few more photos of the Potter’s workshop, kiln, and pottery for sale:

pottery kiln and workshop and pottery for sale-small
 
 
pottery for sale on table
 
 
potter with vase on wheel-small
 
 
;^)

Aisha’s Egypt: Where Old Ways Stay the Same

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Where Old Ways Stay The Same
 
Where old ways stay the same
There’s usually a good reason
Ways don’t tend to disappear
When shown appreciation
 
Love, good manners, and kind regard
Tend to wither with neglect
Seasons change and pass with time
Transitioning unchecked
 
Until no longer remembered
Until unneeded anymore
Until with unfamiliar face
Love slowly closes the door
 
 
© 2015 Aisha Abdelhamid
;^)

Aisha’s Egypt: Duck Market Day

Aisha's Egypt: Duck Market Day

Duck Market Day
 
Carrying her duck perched high on her head
She’s walking her duck to the market
 
He pokes out his head to get a good look
Observing his fate, sitting patiently
 
He calmly enjoys the view from on high
While the ducks back home view his privileged life
 
As the lucky duck who gets to travel
Escaping the farm with the farmer’s wife
 
How smugly he smiles and proudly displays
His best behavior while riding her head
 
Ignorance is bliss even for a duck
Travelling the world in an orange basket
 
Carried on the head of a farmer’s wife
As she walks her duck to the market
 
This moment of fun will soon be over
Life changes like that, and soon life’s over
 
Someone will eat him for dinner tonight
He won’t return home with the farmer’s wife
 
Even lucky ducks living privileged lives
Travelling the world while riding high
 
May escape the farm with the farmer’s wife
But won’t escape fate when it’s dinnertime
 
 
© 2015 by Aisha Abdelhamid
 
;^)

 
 

Ep. 18, Joyride to Egypt: The Transient Life of a Leaf

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The Transient Life of a Leaf, by Aisha Abdelhamid

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The coast was clear as my children and I entered the condo at the end of the day. I peeked left and right, but there was no sign of that damn genie anywhere in sight. Then I slapped my forehead and laughed out loud, tickled by the memory of Scheherezade transforming him into a monkey.

My daughter asked, “What’s so funny, Momma?”

On the one hand, my ten year old daughter was the most incredibly truthful child I have ever encountered in my life, and was definitely not ready for my current version of reality. On the other hand, my seven year old son was an incredibly “creative conversationalist.” His imaginative reports from the classroom, playground, and neighborhood friend’s house were always laced with magic mushroom sauce, driving his sister crazy as she argued with him about the truth.

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