What's New On Tom's Travel Blog?

Flickr has been improved! Almost all photos on this blog come from my Flickr Photostream. You can now go directly to a page that shows all of my Flickr photo sets by following this link. It's the easiest way to navigate in my on-line photos.

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.
Meidum-2 Meidum-02

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. 
Meidum-06 Meidum-10

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.  
Meidum-24 Meidum-23


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.

At the Cairo Flower Show/Plant Sale

An annual flower show is held each spring here at the Orman Botanical Garden near the Cairo University campus in Giza.  We visited the show a couple of weeks ago.

This is a bit like visiting the horticultural building at the Minnesota State Fair.  This year the show even includes this exhibit of  President Sisi in a "grass-art" portrait.

These are a couple of the permanent exhibits from the botanical garden's trees.
FlowerShow-02 FlowerShow-12

The scenes are beautiful so there is quite a bit of photography going on from "selfies" to professional shots.
FlowerShow-13 FlowerShow-19

We really enjoyed the stroll through the exhibits.




I found this giraffe on which to grow some ivy or other vine.  I thought it would look very nice in our front yard at home but I suppose our Home Owners Association would object.
FlowerShow-10 FlowerShow-09

Most of the exhibits are provided by landscaping/nursery companies such as these.
FlowerShow-25 FlowerShow-29 FlowerShow-30

If you decide to make a purchase, you will easily find a local man with a wheelbarrow who will take it to your car.  There are many of them cruising the grounds seeking an opportunity to earn a few pounds.  This seems like a really good idea.

Speaking of cars, this one, parked near the main entrance was in some distress.  The driver had broken a tire after hitting a pothole on the Ring Road and drove down here.  The show seemed like a good place to park while he hunted up a replacement.  Note that he does have an extra tire in the back seat "just in case."  (A suspicious person could have all sorts of thoughts about calamitous evil associated with this situation.)

Besides my own Flickr Album found here, you may want to visit this display from the flower show.

The location of the garden is shown below.