Why is it that I notice the most glaring mistakes just as I hit the publish button?

The desto roll will go in the stairwell, in case anyone is puzzed by meaningless references and a long gap between two parts of the same whole.

I refuse to apologise for typos. I am human.


Ups and Downs

My anonymous quotes of the week are:

With nuclear reactors the most important thing is to keep them cool."

"Magdi, hold on tight to the ladder in case it falls" - when Magdi was the one on top of the ladder on top of a VERY high drop. I am not sure what landing while attached to the ladder was going to do for him.

"In the Middle East it is better to be a willow than an oak. A willow bends with th winds, an oak will break."

"She was born offended."

No comments on them - but the variation gives you an idea of my week.

I have had a three ring circus going on here today. We have had the handyman from the Embassy, Magdi, and one of the three Mohammeds who are all guards putting up quilts. I have swung between delight at how they look and horror at some of the work practices.

The two men stood on tall ladders and threw tools back and forth to each other. No-one missed a catch, but one ladder rocked precariously and frightened the wits out of me. When I asked them to hand the things to me and I would carry them back and forth I was asked "Why should you worry? We have many more Egyptians!"

Arabesque is a two and a half metre wide quilt, and is almost as high. It fits easily well above a buffet in the dining room, and doesn't even look like touching the ceiling or filling the gap between the window and the corner of the room. I have never had a wall big enough to hang it or Postcards from Jerusalem. Now both are up -and nine others too.

I have one very special thing - a gift from a friend in Australia whose husband restores old buses. It is a Desto Roll. I am guessing that the name came from destination. In old buses they had a double roller and the fabric with the names of the bus stops was wound between one and another. It is black, about six metres long and has wonderful white lettering - and all the names of Sydney stops.

The men carefully removed shoes as they entered the house, and with shoes off they still skirted the rug in the entrance hall. This meant that they had to slide down small gaps between the rug and sidetables.

Then they proceeded to start cutting metal with heavy rasps - on the Persian carpets! It turned out that they were just marking the place to cut, but it left me speechless for a moment. One quilt is hung halfway up a long and narrow set of stairs to the basement. To hang it they wedged a long ladder between the top stair and the wall six metres away. they moved up and down this, fast and rapidly, sometimes both at once, while the ladder drooped lower and lower in the centre,
and they were totally nonchalent about it.

I have a very special place for this in the stairwell in the two storey drop between ground and first floor. That will go up on Thursday. I am not sure if I can bear to watch. I will post photos in the next blog entry, so those of you who know my big quilts can see the scale of the house.



We have had a hectic beginning socially, with several receptions and dinners in the last week. We have a delightful group here to work with and I am suddenly really looking forward to the next few years.

We were walking home at midnight - everything we do here seems to start and end with a walk. Parking is really so impossible, that even with a car I suspect I will often walk or take a cab. Anyway – it was midnight, and we were walking down the centre of the road. There were three of us – and it is awkward as we had to stop conversations and go into a narrow single file as cars beeped that they were coming past. It is surprising how sensible the system is when you are walking, and how stupid it seems when you are trying to sleep. Every shop was still open – even the little corner grocery shop. Chocolate shops, dress shops, shoe shops. There was no-one in them, and it was like walking through a deserted theme park.

We had a day in Saqqara the other day. Saqqara has a lot of pyramids, smaller that the Great Pyramid, but older and very interesting. The main site, with the stepped Pyramid had about twenty tourist buses - it is funny how sneery you can feel about tourist buses when a local of two weeks duration!

It was actually hot. We have had a freezing few weeks. I was so grateful to top up my warm clothes supply and greeted my Uggs with delight. Saqqara shimmered with heat and this is winter. Most of the places they wanted tourists to walk had a boardwalk – like corduroy – strips of wood laid down on the sand and attached to long strips at the sides to keep them in place. In many places the sand underneath had seeped away under pressure of too many feet, so you walked on a very springy suspended bridge, only inches above the ground.

The souvenir seller had some fairly ordinary produce, some looked like marble pieces dipped in deep blue dye – but the colour was spectacular in the bleached landscape and his face was like old leather. Taking photos of people is surprisingly easy here, and when I ask I get more acceptances than refusals. In tourist sites it always costs – about one pound is average. This gentleman wasn’t happy with my pound –he wanted caramellos. I assume he meant sweets, but I was a bit bemused. Most have problems staying alive, and a pound buys a days bread for one. Either he was doing reasonably well on subsistence living, or he just had a desperate sweet tooth.

And on the subject of teeth – the man offering rides on his donkey had about three left. A friend asked for a copy of his photo (in the set below) – as she has promised a young friend that she has lined up a good looking Egyptian for her!

We went into one tomb and it was just amazing. The ones at Saqqara don’t have the full colour of the Valley of the Kings, but are covered in low relief carvings, in soft and limited colour and beautiful detail. It was just exquisite – all scenes of everyday life, including food preparation, details of animal husbandry, and the most beautiful fleet of boats. Every basket had a fine detail of its weave, every head wore a tightly curled wig, and there were some kitchen scenes that were hard to understand. In one, two men strained hard pulling back on two sticks that ended in a pot. To add a bit more pressure a man stood between them, legs apart, and one foot on each stick to really add force. I would not want to be spread-eagled over a pot in this way, and it was hard to imagine the purpose of the exercise. If anyone knows – please place a comment. If you tick Anonymous you don’t have to sign in!

No photos – they weren’t permitted. It didn’t stop a tourist who pretended not to understand what he was being told by a guard – he must have taken fifty snaps, all with flash – managing to ignore the muttering of tourists all around him. I wasn’t sure whether to be disgusted or impressed. I would have liked the photos too – but am far too aware of the effect of flash on the delicate reds, blues and charcoals of these reliefs.

It was such a lovely day, and I think the Bent Pyramid will be my favorite. It was visited by only one other vehicle – a family car, and the tourist police showed off their very friendly camels.

We finished with a lovely meal in a boat on the side of the Nile.


More photos

Camel and submachine gun
Camel and submachine gun

The Bent Pyramid
The Bent Pyramid - or - what happens when you change your mind about the angle of the sides when halfway up!

The Souvenir Seller The Souvenir Seller
The Souvenir Seller

Dogs at Saqqara
Dogs at Saqqara

The Stepped Pyramid
The Stepped Pyramid - the oldest stone structure of its size in the world, 3000BC

Tourist Police and Antonio
Tourist Police and Antonio

Donkey Owner, Saqqara
Donkey Owner, Saqqara


A Week's Collection

A Weeks Collection
Wedding Regalia


Plastic Lace
Plastic lace

Feathers to Tickle Your Fancy
Feathers to tickle your fancy

Paper for Resale
Paper for resale

Christmas Decorations?
Christmas decorations?

You Want a Silver Keyring?
You want a silver keyring?

A Fez of the Heart
A fez of the heart

A Vehicle for a Man who Can't Walk
A vehicle for a man who can't walk

Looking up at Washing
Looking up at washing

Lettuce Stacks
Lettuce stacks

Oranges in Blue
Oranges in blue

Dried, Smoked, and Salted.
Dried, smoked, and salted

Baled Cotton
Baled cotton

Bananas on the Scaffolding
Bananas on the scaffolding