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Tuesday, April 10, 2018


We've previously written that when the garlic comes to market we know it's time to leave Egypt for Minnesota.

A friend told us that when it's garlic season his wife buys 20 kilos and preserves it. 20 kilos is 44 pounds. That does include the weight of the stems but it's still a lot of garlic.  His wife, mother-in-law and two daughters gather in the house to peel and chop the garlic in preparation for freezing it to use throughout the entire year.  He plans to be away from the house the entire day because that's how long the preparation takes.  He said the entire house smells of garlic for a couple days.


Another friend says that his family buys 50 kilos of garlic in season.  That's 110 pounds!  No wonder the dinners are always so good at that house.  At this house they preserve the garlic in oil.  When we expressed amazement at that amount he said that the price will go up to 30 EGP per kilo (about $1.76) from a low of 2 EGP ($.12).  Who would want to pay that amount?  Back at the apartment we asked our neighbor if she buys a large amount during the season.  She said that she prefers fresh garlic so she does not stockpile it except for maybe one kilo that will hang on the balcony until used.

Friday, March 30, 2018




One of our special friends in Cairo was Gamal (the name means "horse" in Arabic.)  We received word today that Gamal had passed away suddenly yesterday at age 50 as the result of a heart attack.

It was a fortunate day back in 2013 when Gamal approached us on our daily walk and offered to buy us tea at a local coffee-shop a few blocks from our home.  Gamal was one of the many victims of "The Revolution" in 2011 which virtually eliminated the tourist trade.  He had worked with tourists  at a horse stable for a number of years.  Fluent in English, he was as amiable a personality as one will meet in this country.  He did his best to teach me the art of  dominoes.

A week or so later we encountered Gamal again and took him up on his offer to visit his home for tea.  His charming wife, Samiya, provided the tea.  For the next five years we were regular visitors.  I have many pictures of Gamal - almost all including one or more of his children and their cousins whom he doted over.
Gamal-7-1 Gamal-2-1

We always made it a point to bring some gifts that might make life a bit easier for Gamal and his family.  He was a fisherman which helped out a bit with the food budget.  We brought some new fishing gear and his brother told us today that one of the last things he had done this week was to go fishing.

Gamal and Samiya kept a small flock of chickens and ducks close to the house to also help provide food.

Gamal leaves behind four children, ages 2 to 15 years old. We miss you Gamal. Thank you for enriching our lives.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Save Mart Comes to Marioteya

There are not a lot of exciting retail businesses down on our end of the Marioteya canal.  Yes we have what must be Egypt's largest Papyrus and Perfume shop named Golden Eagle Papyrus.  But what if you are just looking for some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers?  It's a long hike up to the vegetable market next to El-Hekma Chicken (the best chicken in the city!)

Finally, a new market has opened for fruit and vegetables, just behind the landmark Ragab Sons supermarket.  The big sign on the corner says "Save Mart."

Fresh produce is a big attraction to us during our winter visits to Egypt.  At prices of 2.50 to 5 EGP per kilogram  (seven to 14 cents a pound) we enjoy the vegetables of the season.  Prices for bananas and strawberries can range up to two or three times more.

The structure of Save Mart just screams "low overhead" and seems to epitomize what city planner, David Sims, describes as"informal Cairo" in his classic Understanding Cairo, the Logic of a City Out of Control.

Think of this as a combination farmer's market and flea market back in the states and you won't be too far off base.  At its heart is a large, well-stocked collection of fresh vegetable merchants.

We recognized at least one couple who were previously doing a slow business closer to our flat. All of the merchants were exceptionally friendly.
SaveMart-04 SaveMart-06

The variety being offered even includes fresh grape leaves for rolling stuffed grape leaves - not found just anywhere.

Around the periphery there is chicken and fish for sale.  There are even a few specialty shops selling plastic, cleaning products and the like.

Last year, this corner was just  a vacant lot surrounded by a brick wall.  You never know what will happen as the neighborhood grows.  Now if someone would just open a bakery - perhaps in this empty stall.

Garlic Season

Once again, we are nearing the end of our winter stay in Cairo.  We know that it is just about time to leave when we start to see the truckloads of garlic arriving in the city.

This year we encountered something approaching garlic convoys on our trips out to the Fayoum area.  The loads come in all sizes.

Eventually, most of it ends up being sold from the back of donkey carts for 2.50 EGP per kilo (about seven cents a pound).

Some friends buy it and freeze it while others hang on the balcony where it will stay usable for months.  Everyone knows the price will only rise as the year goes by and it will be selling for 10 EGP or more before next season.  There is scarcely a dish that can be prepared here without a good base of tomato and garlic.

There was garlic in everything in this meal except the salad.  And it was good!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Visit to the Pyramid at Maidum

A friend asked if we would be interested in taking a trip out to the village of Maidum where his cousin lived.  We could visit the nearby pyramid while we were in the area.  We naturally responded, "Y es."

Maidum (also sometimes found as Meidum or Maydum in English transliteration) is a tiny village located about fifty miles south of Cairo near the main north-south highway that runs parallel to the Nile.

Heading south from the city toward Faiyum, the highway splits and the route toward Maidum/Asyut quickly becomes first rate desert.  It's 399 km, or about 240 miles further to Asyut.
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The black ribbon near the horizon is the road to Asyut.  We have pulled off and come up the dirt road to the top of a small hill with a good view.  The long building without windows on the right is a chicken coop.  It appears that there are a few building being constructed in this area, just barely beyond the Faiyum oasis, visible as green vegetation on the right.

Approaching the Faiyum Oasis, farmland appears along with the occasional desert villa that makes you think of perhaps building your own fantasy castle.

On the Faiyum Oasis there are a multitude of large and small farms raising grain, onions and other crops.


Livestock seems to be mostly smaller operations, probably to meet the individual farmer's needs. 
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Water is the key to crops in the desert and there is the usual series of canals around Faiyum as well as evidence of pumping from wells.

Exit the Cairo-Asyut highway, turning East, and the Maidum pyramid appears quickly on the horizon on this clear day.
Meidum-1 Meidum-18

The village and surrounding farmland provide a picturesque setting for this unusual lone pyramid that stands some three hundred feet tall.  
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The literature credits the Maidum pyramid to Sneferu and it is possibly the next pyramid built after the Step Pyramid on the other side of the Nile.  The Wikipedia entry includes an interesting reconstruction diagram showing the original seven layers.  It appears that there is quite a bit of dispute about when the original building collapsed and shed its outer coat.

It's about another 200 miles on south to Asyut.  From there, it is reportedly a pretty drive along the Nile south to Aswan.  Linda has been wondering if perhaps we should rent a car for a month and drive some of these roads ourselves.  She has just about got me talked into it.

Monday, March 26, 2018

It's Cookie Time- by Linda

Cookies-01 Cookies-02
I have been baking since our second week here but with our shortened stay this year I have had to bake a little more often than usual. I have a reputation to uphold.  My reputation as the "Cookie Lady", that is.



Chocolate chip cookies are the most requested. I used to find chocolate chips here but have not for the last couple years so a few packages are included in my stash of things that I pack in my bags.


Cookies-07 Cookies-08
During our hot spell (it was 94-100 degrees for about three days) I did no baking but now
as our time here winds down, I find that I have a kilo of butter and several eggs remaining. It's time to step up the cookie baking.

Cookies-09 Cookies-10

Chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, molasses, chocolate mint, vanilla and orange. These are the flavors of cookies  I've made this year along with banana bread and banana muffins. 


They are all welcome gifts when we go visiting and we always have something to serve with tea when we have guests.