Qurna Homestead update. September 2014.

I haven’t written here in quite a while so I thought I would share how things have developed during the past 6 months.

DSCN9417Omar is still working the eight Kirat field down by the Nile and we are still eating the onions he grew there last winter. However, our flat is the only flat where there are still onions, because the women here have no idea of how to store things and will use veges, etc. in huge quantities as soon as they get their share of the harvest. The result is they have to buy their onions from the souk within weeks.  Omar tells his mother proudly  that I still have most of mine. Bad move!  Mother then goes and tells all the other women who then come to my door asking for onions! We’ve now put a stop to that! I budget my produce so that it lasts me until the next harvest, which is still six months away! I am not giving any away, especially as they received twice as much as we did to begin with. They’ll have to learn just as I did.

We now have a bull calf and cow, 5 ewes and 1 young ram, 4 white ducks, 11 white chooks and 1 beautiful cockerel and 3 hens…and a partridge in a pear tree. No, we don’t have a partridge…or a pear tree…but we have considered quails…

We eat bread made from the wheat Omar grew over last winter’s season, and corn meal from last year’s 2014-04-27 16.21.14maize crop. It is hard to find a mill that still grinds the corn into meal for human consumption, there are a few for animal feed though. Since last year’s harvest Mother had kept back some corn cobs while Omar sought out a mill, but he had no luck finding one. Then, a few nights ago he had a dream where he was given detailed instructions on where he might find one. He woke up telling me about it and wondered if it was real.

At the souk, the following week, he randomly asked a friend he met there if he had ever heard of a mill that ground corn meal in the place he had been told of in his dream. His friend said that there was! Omar couldn’t believe it! He took the bags of maize and took a tok tok (A motorbike with a trailer) to Bairat, (another village a couple of kilometres away) to find the mill. It took him two hours, but he came back with hot meal, freshly stoneground in the only remaining mill to grind flour for human consumption on the Entire West Bank! His mother was elated. She had been dreaming about Bettaw, a sourdough cornbread, which she knew from years ago. She was going to make some in the morning. Omar told her to wake me up so I could see how she made it. 2014-09-03 08.28.04

The following morning she woke me up and I went down to the bread oven, which she was firing up with the straw and dung from under our cows and sheep. All the kids were there watching too. However, mother was guarding her secrets and had already made the Bettaw mixture. Sharing is not a word in her vocabulary, unless of course everyone is sharing with her! I got Omar to ask how she had made it and it took ages because she avoided giving the right info, etc. until Omar became confused and didn’t understand any more. I pushed until I understood that it was just a basic sourdough cornbread! Her final remark, as she put the breads into the oven, was “Of course you have to cook them in this oven…you can’t cook them in your  ‘gas oven’. This is because I bake all of my bread in my oven upstairs and never use the clay oven! I have mastered my oven’s idiosyncrasies! Cheap rubbish from China! But, this was Mother’s way of owning her Bettaw-making! She is the only one who can make it…or rather, was! Mother likes to be the only woman in the house who can do anything…or own anything.

A few weeks ago she did a sneaky thing with me. She has her chicken house and I have mine. Mine is in with the animals and none of the kids are allowed in there unless they are doing a chore. Because of previous disempowering episodes with Mother I decided to push myself into the 2014-05-02 11.19.53space of this house. If we are paying so much to support the twenty people in this house then I want to be able to use a part of it, especially when it benefits the entire household. I refused to be pushed back up into my flat anymore, just passing out finance when they wanted it. It took quite some pushing!!! But, we built a chicken house and Omar bought me some day old chicks, which I raised upstairs until they were old enough to go downstairs. All the women in the house bought some too and we bought some for one woman who had no money. But the tom cats decided that unguarded chicks in boxes on top of fridges in houses with no doors, made a very good meal. The result? A lot less chicks!  So the women gave me their birds to raise upstairs until they were old enough to come downstairs. When they were ready I told the women, but they asked me to keep caring for them, as I do a good job of it, and they have nowhere to keep them  So all the chickens went into my hen house.

2014-06-26 12.46.50All was fine for a while. Omar went to the souk to buy me three ducklings and came back with twelve! So I decided to give each house three. Amira, the eldest girl in the house, and daughter of the brother who everyone thinks of as the ‘Authority’, took hers and kept them with her mother’s chickens. Her mother generally takes care of her own as she keeps herself quite separate to the other women. Mother does not like her because she gives Mother nothing! However, when they saw how well our ducks were doing Amira’s mother said to put them with mine in the garden to fatten them up! At my expense. They were not being fed properly and were half the size of the others. We had made a separate pen in the garden and put a hole in the wall so that the ducks could come out and swim. They spend the day there, while the chickens stay with the animals pecking around in the ground. Good for the cattle and good for the hens!

Mother bought 100LE worth of older chickens and put them in her hen house. But they started dropping like flies. So she put the remaining ones in with mine, thinking that it was the food or something. They feed their birds household scraps, which also DSCN9640includes rusty wire wool from cleaning the saucepans and plastic wrappers from the stock cubes! One by one, all of mine started dropping like flies also. Wasn’t the food! We bought some Dettol and completely cleaned both houses and put Mother’s back in with hers. She had one survivor!! We had quite a few more!!! Thank God! Then Mother began to make her take-over bid, just as she did last time. But this time I was on to her. She wanted me to keep her one cockerel in my house, then she started to feed the ducks and her one cockerel, in my hen house, with the same rubbish she feeds hers with. She kept doing it, purposefully and defiantly. It was her way of saying ‘she owned it’. But we fought her at every turn and put her birds back in her house. If she was going to try and play nasty games with me then she looks after her own birds. Being nice here is not an option! I have lost far too many chickens to that woman!

Everything was fine, Mother was being nice, even swapped her cockerel for a hen but insisted that we keep the hen with ours…again! We looked after her two Muscovy Ducks when one of hers died and fed them. We are still looking after the women’s birds and their ducks for 200LE a month! Mother was singing my praises telling everyone how I had saved her duck and her cockerel. Then the following day Mother has nearly forty new chickens in her hen house, not including the little white ones we had all bought in the souk the previous week. When Omar investigated, it turns out that all of the women had banded together, even the one who didn’t get on with Mother, and had bought fourteen chicks each, which Mother has complete control over in her hen house. But no-one had told me.  I was very hurt as they had all discussed this behind my back and had done everything without thinking of asking me if I would like to have bought some too. Mother was up to her tricks again.. Omar was furious as everything we do is to benefit all of the women and children, and the women know that they are free to take their birds whenever they want. They know we do nothing for ourselves, we have very little compared to what we give them. But because Mother was jealous and wanted to be in control she did a nasty thing.

DSCN9625On one level I was glad that the women all had birds now. Before I came here Mother was the only one who had birds. Now the women are thinking ahead. That’s a good thing. But the way it was done was mean. The woman I had sold our ram for, so she could pay for her C-section, felt guilty when Omar  said that no-one was to come to our door and ask for anything again. She said that walahi (I swear) she bought the three naked-neck chickens for me as she knows how much I like them. A month later however, I still have not received them. I didn’t want them, but the offer would have been nice as it would have meant it was genuine.

Omar and I made a selfish decision then. We decided, that from now on, we keep birds only for ourselves. So the women were given their ducks, which they all promptly ate without so much as a thank you! I still have the original hens, we have four as so many of ours died when Mother had her hens with ours, and I divided the survivors equally between the three women as I didn’t know whose had been killed. One woman has only two, the other has four, which mother sees as hers also, but that woman has since left and I don’t know if she will return. But Mother is not getting her hands on them if she doesn’t,  the eggs will be shared with everyone. We have one cockerel, which we call prince as he is so handsome, and three hens. More than enough for our use.DSCN9632

We have four ducks left, two pairs, and Amira still has one male, which she will kill and eat when her Mother is ready for it, or until it is bigger!!! Mother now knows that my hen house is under my control and even though I share freely I won’t be manipulated or conned into giving her what she wants and more. I know all of her tricks now. But it is all so bloody exhausting.

However, I have learned some valuable lessons! Being too generous and putting ourselves last is not a good idea here. No-one will ever think of us, they will only think of themselves, so its OK to be selfish and take care of ourselves, so long as we are not taking away from anyone else. This is stuff I learned before I came here, but because of the apparent poverty it is hard to be selfish. But we have to be. Or we will have nothing left for ourselves.

Keeping really strong boundaries is a must here, as no-one seems to have any!! (But that will be another blog!) Using personal power wisely is also a must, not allowing myself to be manipulated or controlled by lazy men and selfish women. Its a sad fact that the good women in this house just do not last here. They can’t cope with the games. I have to develop a really tough skin to survive here and stop looking for approval. All of those wonderful things I was learning about on my path of self-discovery become necessity here!!!

You really do have to ‘walk your talk’!! If you don’t, you will be walked on, just like the proverbial doormat!

The Irony that is Luxor.

Last night, a Belgian friend and I attended a meeting in the beautiful Sofitel Karnak hotel in Luxor. The Governor of Luxor had invited foreign nationals who live in Luxor to the hotel. Although I am not interested in what foreign nationals do here in Luxor I was curious as to what the Governor would want to talk to us about. To be honest I was suspicious! If I have learned one thing during my time living here it is that nothing is as it appears.

Sacred Barque in the dining room!

Sacred Barque in the dining room!

It took us an hour to find the Hotel, as we live in the West Bank and had no idea how to find it. But tourist police, also on the way to the meeting, guided us there for the last little bit! The hotel itself is decorated beautifully, with replica sandstone lotus pillars and a replica sacred barque. Artistic murals cover the walls, beautifully crafted. Not the usual Egyptian wall art!

When we first entered we were offered coffee and cakes; and once we had gotten some we sat down and waited for the ‘talk’. The room was full of foreign nationals, some of whom I recognised. I never realised how many actually lived in Luxor, many of them being retired UK ex-pats.

After a brief introduction, the ex-chief of Police, Gen. Hafez, spoke to us about a committee that he wanted to set up. This committee has a Facebook page, (which I couldn’t find) and a website, apparently! It will be about a place for foreign nationals to bring ideas for change and to solve problems in Luxor. But I still felt suspicious. I know that if I wait long enough the truth will out so I stayed with my suspicious ‘why are they really doing this‘  feelings until the end!

Ex-Chief of police talking to foreign nationals.

Ex-Chief of police talking to foreign nationals.

The next speaker, (I couldn’t hear any of their names) told us that we were ambassadors for Egypt. Everything we said had an impact on what people believed about Egypt back home in our own countries. Hmmm….

After the chats were finished we were given the opportunity to speak and ask questions. The second woman, from the audience, who spoke told us that she was on the committee and that they were looking for people from the community to join and help, with the intention to maybe meet once a month and then every week. They would do this big meeting with all of us monthly but the committee itself would meet weekly! When she mentioned that the committee had already been set up there were murmurs from the audience. I thought it was still in the idea stage? Obviously not! My suspicions deepened.

Other members of the audience asked questions, which I felt showed me how out of touch people really were in regards to Luxor’s needs. Was this committee set up purely with the intention of settling foreigner’s problems in Luxor? What about the Egyptians? What about their lives and struggles?

Questions were asked about why we didn’t have public swimming pools? Sports and recreation centres etc. Great stuff, unless you live in Upper Egypt where they can’t even afford medical care, and often food, let alone a swimming pool!

I stayed listening, still trying to figure out why we were there. One man asked the Visa question. First sensible question I thought! We were once able to get a tourist visa for one year but now only for 6 months. But we have to pay the same price. The men in the audience were angry for the right reasons.

But it felt to me that they were wasting their breath. The Ex Chief of Police said he would send a ‘memorandum’ to Cairo to see if they would change the ruling about Visas. A memorandum!

Sofitel meeting.

Sofitel meeting.

It seemed to me, sitting and listening to people speak, telling  this man their gripes, that they treated him as though he actually had the power to change anything! He is the ex-chief of police. How much clout does he have with the government of Egypt! Two revolutions, with millions of people, haven’t made a change in this country and the people sitting in the room expected one ex-chief, to be able to change it? It made no sense to me!

But, like I said, the truth usually comes out if you wait long enough for it. Just as I was about to leave, having heard enough, he spoke again and told all of us that he wanted us all to contact our governments and tell them to revoke the FCO’s advice about travelling to Egypt!  https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/egypt

Aaahh…that was why we were there! It had nothing to do with the committee or anything else. It was because he obviously thinks that we, as foreigners, have as much clout with our governments as he does with his! He thinks that we can just email and phone our governments and tell them to change their safety advice. We were to tell them that Luxor was safe and well and that it was OK for tourists to come back! It was all about money!  I had to laugh! Its not about them doing anything for us, but us doing something for them…again! Eh sorry mate…but we didn’t start the revolution!

Faux Sandstone Pillers.

Faux Sandstone Pillars.

The irony of all of this is that on our way to the Sofitel Hotel we passed the preparations for today’s 6th October celebrations. The day that Egypt won the war against Israel! Normally, as I’ve said in previous blogs, army tanks guard some sensitive points around Luxor, such as banks, hotels and Christian churches. Last night, those army tanks were also accompanied by numerous, large police vehicles filled with police officers. Other places had three or four army tanks, with machine guns on top and a soldier manning each one! They were prepared for the violence which they expect to erupt today. The Muslim Brotherhood are angry about the celebrations!

So on our way to a meeting, where we are being told to tell our countries that Luxor is safe to come to, we pass numerous army tanks and police vehicles, in strategic positions, ready to do battle. I did try to take a picture but was afraid that if they saw me they might shoot me, thinking that I was a spy…so I resisted!

That, my friends, sums up the position today in Luxor…and in Egypt! I think the FCO are right to keep their travel advice. I would not change it until I was damn sure that it was safe enough. Anything could happen and I think it is incredibly irresponsible to tell people otherwise. I know that the lack of money here in Luxor impacts on Egyptians hugely, but I think that the best way for us foreigners to help is by doing all we can for our Egyptian friends and neighbours, helping them in their hour of need. Stuff the swimming pools…as much as I would love one!

Sofitel Swimming pool!

Sofitel Swimming pool!

Here is a picture of the pool at the hotel! An average Egyptian would never even get to see a pool like this! It would be like us going to Buckingham Palace for  tea!

But we can dream!

 http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/wendell-steavenson/2011/10/6th-october.html

http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-5552-sofitel-karnak-luxor/index.shtml

Tourism in Luxor.

I’ve just finished reading a blog based on an interview with a German tour operator based in Luxor (Link below). It both shocked and angered me. This tour company runs Nile cruises to Aswan, including visits to the Red Sea and Cairo. However, the political situation in Egypt has meant that are no cruises at the moment. A situation the manager of the company laments; naturally…it’s his business. He blames the lack of tourists on the media, with their biased reporting and fear-mongering.

DSCN2772 (2)

The blog quotes “In the German media, they were saying for weeks that “Power Struggle in Egypt” was still shaking the country while it was in fact over. (italics mine) In order to underline this they showed images of MB angry supporters and made people think that big fighting is very near again and again.”  Taking the first point , it is not over!!! It might have quietened down but there are still bomb attacks and random outbreaks of violence. The problem is that no-one can predict where these outbreaks are going to occur! As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, if it was totally safe we wouldn’t still have army tanks guarding the banks! We wouldn’t have larger amounts of police at checkpoints!  Anti-Brotherhood sentiment is high here in Luxor. It is no longer safe to wear a beard. They are now seen as the enemy!

The second point: ‘fighting is near again and again.’Although it is not as bad as it was before; that doesn’t mean that it has disappeared completely. I would not feel good about inviting anyone from my family here at the moment. Not that I think anything might happen to them but I wouldn’t want to promise it either. If I wouldn’t bring my family here I sure as hell would not bring an unknown person here, just to bring their money! Because that is what this is about! Money!

One of the biggest shocks I had reading the blog was the amount of fuel subsidy that each cruise receives from the Government. “It is a big burden as it costs the government so much money. Subsidies fuel cost for each Nile cruise trip costs approximately 50 to 60 thousand Egyptian Pounds.”  50-60,000LE! Per trip! What????

My husband used to work on one of these ships when he was in his early 20’s. He told me that, today, an average legal worker makes up to 200LE per month (less than £20)!  A non-legal worker, gets the same. A non-legal worker is one who is not protected by the Government and the Government owe them nothing. My brother-in-law, who has worked as a driver for the local Government here in Luxor, has only recently been made legal, after nearly 20 years of service! Its cheaper for the Government to have non-legal workers than legal. They still have to pay tax though!

A kitchen worker on the cruise ship, the one who does all the washing up, gets paid 60LE a month. That’s less than £6 to you and me! Or less than $8. or just under 6.5 Euros. Could you live on that for a month?A ship’s Egyptian manager will take home a 500LE wage.

The staff all get  12 1/2% of the tips. 12 1/2% of their wages that is. If your wages are 200 a month, then you get 12 1/2% of that. If you are the manager you get 12 1/2% of your wages!  Then there is the baksheesh issue! Guess who gets most of that?

Women drawing water for their household needs.

Women drawing water for their household needs. (Taken on a river trip to Dendera)

My husband’s nephew works in a restaurant and he gets paid 100LE a month. That’s less than £10! A MONTH! 7 days a week, no holidays! The restaurant owners expect them to make their money through tips so they pay them very little. For the whole of the cruise the workers will probably average around 3 hours sleep a night! They get up a 5am to prepare for breakfast and spend the entire day cleaning and preparing for the next meals. They don’t get regular work -breaks but have to try to eat on the hoof. They’re lucky if someone puts some food away for them, otherwise they don’t eat!  The managers, who are really just supervisors, are the most corrupt and regularly steal vast quantities of food and property from the ships whilst sleeping with the single female travellers. Many times the workers, trying to better their lives, will zero in on single women and have a romance with them, all in the hope of getting money from them. These ‘relationships’ can last for years. But that’s a different blog!

Its no wonder that these foreign tour companies, who have businesses here, try to bring tourists back. They make a fortune. With the cruise issue, the Government subsidises the cruise’s fuel so that the tourists don’t have to pay the real trip price! As the author of the blog states “I think it would make sense if the tourists pay for the actual cost of the trip.” Eh…yeah!

One of the problems with the companies expecting their workers to make more money with tips is that the workers can put a lot of pressure on the tourists. I remember my first day-trip to Dendera a few years ago. We went on a small cruise ship from Luxor to Dendera. It was an early morning in February and no-one had warned us how cold it could be on the river. We were freezing! You could ask one of the stewards and they would get a blanket for you, which, of course, we did. However, the steward we asked was the one we didn’t tip when we first had a coffee on the boat! My friend and I had bought a cup of coffee and sat at a table, which was about three feet away from the cafe counter.  The man didn’t give us any sugar so I turned around to get some and the waiter, who had been hovering nearby, asked me what I needed and insisted on getting it for me, even though I didn’t want him to. The counter was right behind me!

So he got the sugar and then hovered again. I realised that he was waiting for his tip. He wanted a tip for doing something I didn’t want him to do in the first place. I felt pressured and annoyed, but I continued drinking my coffee and didn’t tip him.

So, later, when we wanted a blanket from him, he didn’t say he wouldn’t get it, he just didn’t gt it for us! He was going to pay us back for not tipping him! I don’t think he quite understood the concept of tipping!

So not paying your hard-working staff, and expecting the tourists to pay them for you, leads to an unpleasant, uncomfortable experience, not just on the ships but everywhere. The whole tourist industry needs over-hauling. Inasmuch as people are beginning to struggle financially now as a result of the lack of tourists, I think it could be a wake-up call too. Far too many people depend on the tourism industry; and exploitation and abuse have become the norm. Being a tourist here was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I had ever had as a visitor to any country.  But maybe if things were fairer, and better regulated, people would be better off and there would be less pressure to part with your hard-earned money!

 But we’ll have to see what happens when the tourists come back…whenever that will be…

http://luxortimesmagazine.blogspot.com/2013/10/in-depth-top-german-tour-operator-talks.html

Night Vision August 2013.

witchdoctor hutJust before going to sleep, while I was reading a Naguib Mafouz book, I began to feel a strong connection from ‘upstairs’. I could feel my soul energy reaching up to someone but I don’t know who. After a few minutes, while still feeling this, nearly physical feeling of ‘bigness’, I began to see, in my mind’s eye, an African Witchdoctor. He was standing in a round-hut made of reeds and mud and he was wearing the classical clothes of leopard skin and feathers. In the center of his hut stood a very large cauldron and he was looking into a very old book, which had red bookmarks marking some of the pages. As he looked into the book he added ingredients to the pot, which was now filled with a bubbling, viscous, green, liquid. When he thought it might be ‘ready’ he took a rat from a cage and, holding it by its tail, dipped it into the liquid. When he took the rat out all that remained was its skeleton. It was done!

villageHe walked behind the cauldron and pushed it over so that its contents spilled out on the ground and rushed, like a river, out the door of the hut and into the compound beyond. It flowed into every hut and animal pen, and it dissolved the flesh of every living creature it touched.

The green liquid had devoured every living creature…but one. A young woman, asleep in her high bed in her hut had survived. Because she was on a higher level than the ground the green poisonous liquid had not touched her, and she had slept though everything. But the unusual quiet awoke her.

She thought that it was curious that there were not the usual sounds of barking dogs and braying donkeys, women working and children playing. So she sat up. But before she put her feet on the ground she noticed the green stuff which filled her family hut. She peered closely at it to see what it was made of, then carefully touched the nail of her forefinger to it’s surface. It was solid, like glass. She stood on it carefully and it didn’t harm her, only being dangerous when in its liquid form. She crept carefully, and slowly towards the door so she could peek out and see just why it was so quiet. She saw that the ground of the entire compound was covered in this green glass-like substance but could see no-one.

Bleached_Bones-3

 The Witchdoctor watched from behind the door of his hut, and after a while, when everything was quiet, he walked out on specially made high shoes, like mini stilts, and surveyed the compound. As he walked he listened for any sound of life and each time he came upon a skeleton of either human or animal, he picked up the bones and threw them in a pile against the compound wall. She watched him as he walked around, looking into each hut as he went.

Then he disappeared inside the hut of her uncle and he carried out an armful of bones which he added to the pile of bones. Now she understood.  A noise from the gateway of the compound made her turn around and then she saw men in the distance, men she didn’t recognise, creating a huge wooden palisade, enclosing the village. She knew that she would have to get out of the palisade and the only way that she could do that was to dig a hole beneath her hut and tunnel out and into the desert beyond.

white-sand-desert-1920x1200

She quickly and quietly began to break away the crystallised green glass on the floor of her hut while the witchdoctor gave orders to ‘his’ men building the huge wooden wall, and dug her tunnel until at last she was free of the compound. Once outside she ran into the desert until her village was far behind her. She had not been seen but now she had to find a safe place to be, the desert being safer than her village.

And that was the end of it.

Addendum:

When I was recounting this to my husband, who was nearly asleep, I had an image of a Fez and then King Farouk! So this obviously goes back to that time. A thread of poison which has its origin in the past. I guess too that events in Egypt are far from over…

What does it make you think of????

Luxor Life.

I have been here in Luxor now for nearly two years now and it has been an education! I learned to just be a witness rather than try to change things because I learned that it is very difficult for anyone to change centuries worth of beliefs in a short space of time, no matter how frustrating it is to watch how those same beliefs just don’t work!

Living in the middle of Egyptian society is very different to living an ex-pat life and I have had no desire to become involved with the ex-pats who live here, except for two ‘foreign’ wives of our next door neighbours whose husbands are related to my husband! We meet for coffee and a ‘vent’ and exchange the stories of our lives and what we are experiencing. Its always interesting to see how our experiences match each others and how we feel about them.

Full Moon over The West Bank.

Full Moon over The West Bank.

Its not easy to live here. In fact it can be infuriating, expecially when you see how things are run, or not, in most cases. The corruption, across all levels of society is rife. Traditional and Islamic beliefs create a mish mash of cultural life which is hard to keep up with sometimes. Much of it doesn’t make any sense. But I have been trying to understand the origins of certain beliefs, the sources of certain behaviours, both dysfunctional and healthy, and that activity keeps me interested.  But it can also drive me crazy!

When I first moved here it didn’t take long for me to see how things could be done differently. So I tried…and met with huge resistance. In the garden I pruned the apple trees, just like I did with my trees in the UK. I trimmed all all the suckers from the Guava, orange and Lemon trees and Omar and I managed to get some of the garden to grow potatoes and onions. No-one actually believed that we could do it. I had been growing veges since I left home at 19 years of age. I know how to grow veges! But I was a foreign woman and obviously knew nothing about anything!

garden

It was very difficult. The one thing that drove me nuts was that no-one ever waited for things to be ripe before they would just pluck them from the trees. Lemons, figs, guavas, pomegranates and apples all disappeared. The kids and women just helped themselves. There are four flats of people here in our building plus Mother and Father. Four sons and their wives and children occupy the flats, ours being one of them. If something was grown in the garden people just helped themselves without considering anyone else’s needs. I couldn’t understand it.

Virginia Creeper clad walls of Mount Brandon.

Virginia Creeper clad walls of Mount Brandon.

I looked back to my own childhood and my Grandmother’s orchard. Mick, the gardener grew everything there and if my grandmother wanted anything she sent someone up to tell him and he would give her what she needed. Woe betide anyone who took something without first asking for it! To my mind this was how it should be. There was always food for the kitchen. Things were ripe and ready to be eaten. But here, as soon as it appears it is picked, unripe and unready!  Nothing had a chance to grow so nothing was shared either. Everything was so mismanaged! How did these people ever survive?

Orange blossoms on the tree...

Orange blossoms on the tree…

I gave up on the garden and my role in it after a very clear message from one of the older brothers that my ‘work’ was not appreciated. After pruning one side of the apple tree, I left one side the same as it was just to see the difference, this older brother saw me and said “What are you doing with my apple tree?” It was said in a ‘jokey’ way but it felt nothing like a joke. This was the brother who never set foot in the garden I might add!  I laughed, taking it lightly, and replied “Just wait until next year and you will have lots of apples”. This little apple tree only produced small quantities of apples, 5 -6, when it could have been producing lots but it had never been trained or pruned.

Two days later Omar and I were in the garden again and the brother appeared with an older man. They went straight to the apple tree! The old man was checking out the tree and my pruning. The message was loud and clear and I felt it in my stomach like a kick! “This is MY tree and you have ruined it”. Omar obviously picked up on his brothers intentions too and so he asked the old man how my pruning was. The old man replied that I had done a good job but I had pruned it back too hard. But it was good. (They only take off dead leaves here and the tiny tips of branchces when they prune).

Even though the old man ‘approved’ of my work I felt completely gutted. The brother’s actions were telling me clearly that I had no ‘rights’ in their garden.  It upset me for the entire day and I made a decision that I was just not going to get involved in the garden again. What made it even worse was that the other brothers defended this brother’s actions even though it was also clear as a bell to them what his intentions were. But no-one stood up to him!

Water Fowl. Keeping Cool.

Water Fowl. Keeping Cool.

So I turned my attention to chickens. We bought our chickens and converted an unused mudbrick shed into our chicken house. Omar’s mother kept her chickens and ducks in another shed along with the sheep. I bought my chickens ‘proper’ feed from the shop and gave them scraps as well. A few days later ‘Mother’ told us that rats were stealing her hens eggs and so, innocently, I suggested she keep them with our chickens. Bad move. Although I fed them they were now no longer my chickens. She questioned every little thing I did and undid everything too! The other women would send their children to get the eggs without asking so we told htem that when there were enough eggs we would share them with everyone. One wife refused any eggs at all because she couldn’t just go and help herself! Then another brother felt so quilty that the other wife wasn’t getting eggs that he refused the eggs as well. It was ridiculous.

There was a constant battle for control and I became so fed up with the whole thing.  Nobody else could see what was happening, or rather they chose not to. We decided to build another chicken house below our flat. Our flat is above the ‘apple tree brothers’ flat. Omar made mudbrick walls and put a door on and just before we were about to put our chickens there the brother kicked off again. He ranted that he didn’t want chickens outside his house!  That was the end of that idea!

I went to the UK for two weeks and when I came back I decided that I was going to take back my power and my control and take care of my own bloody chickens! So we put a lock on the door. Mother got one too..lof course. Totally defeated the object but one can’t reject mother!

The women, who were feeding them scraps, threw these scraps over the door and it stank. We told them to put the food outside the door rather than throwing it over the door and leaving a horrible stinking mess as you walk in to the coop! Nothing went down well. Mother was out of the loop!  But the scraps were still thrown over the door!

Two remaining ducklings!

Two remaining ducklings!

We bought three ducklings, two of which died when someone let them out of the palm run they were in. So we put our last remaining duck in with the chickens. But two days later Mother bought ducks and where did she put them? She threw them over the door and in with our chickens, which effectively meant that she could now enter as she liked.

I gave up and gave her all the chickens to look after! I had had enough. She was not pleased as it now meant that she had to feed and water them everyday. I no longer paid for their food and had nothing more to do with them. She complained that she still wanted me to look after them, which really meant she wanted me to pay for their food!  We said OK, but didn’t act on it, leaving her with the responsibility! We still own our duck, which she looks after,  but most of the hens have been eaten. In the winter we are putting concrete stairs up to the roof and we will build houses for our birds and rabbits. Then I will do it my way…hopefully!  But before doing that I will make sure that ‘the brother’ doesn’t take control of that idea too! It he does then I will not build the stairs but will wait until I have my own farm someplace else!

But there is a point to this blog. These incidences of power and control taught me about how women’s lives are here in the poorer parts of Egypt. How people can all live together and how the power dynamics between men and women, and the women themselves, make or break a family. I will write more about this in the next blog.

PS. The little apple tree died in the end and produced nothing at all after all its little apples were eaten. Everyone thought it was a case of ‘bad eyes’ after the pruning fiasco! Too much negative energy etc. All the other trees we took care of are now producing more fruit than they ever have.  Hey ho!

What Have They Done with Mother?

On doing my usual morning routine of checking out the latest news on-line I found this article: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2012/05/23/bishop-urges-priests-to-drop-the-hail-mary-from-masses/

Mary grotto from the 1950’s. Fourmilewater, Co. Waterford.By Ms. Jen.

Having been brought up as a Catholic and educated by Nuns I was immersed in the religion and one of the most important facets of our worship was Mary, Mother of Jesus. She is everywhere in Ireland. Every town and village has a grotto for her. She is Mother of Ireland. In later years, when I began to develop as an Earth Healer, healing the fracture in the collective unconscious around the Divine Feminine, I began to understand more about how the Mother was both revered and diminished in the Catholic religion.

Loughrea, Co. Galway. (Oninstagram)

In 2002 I attended a workshop which was the final part of a process which had taken me to Egypt the previous year and which changed my life completely. During this workshop, in Glastonbury, I met a woman from Australia (land of my birth) and we attended a Catholic healing mass. Everyone else did the Goddess-thing, it was the Summer Solstice, but we wanted to experience a Catholic healing mass.

While I watched the Eucharist being blessed during the mass I was struck by how Ancient Egyptian it all looked and felt. The priest looked like an Egyptian priest, dressed in his robes and the offering of bread and wine, traditional offerings to the Gods in Roman times but beer was used before they arrived.  In rituals to the God Amun in Karnak,  bread, cake and beer were offered in a ritual to the God every morning. The god lived in a shrine before which the ritual was carried out.

http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu/projects/Karnak/assets/media/resources/DailyRitual/guide.pdf

This is like the tabernacle in the alter where the wine and communion wafer were traditionally kept during the Catholic mass of my youth! I remember the priest standing in front of the altar, facing it with his back to us. At a certain point in the ritual he would open up the golden tabernacle doors, pull back the little red curtains/veil and take out the gold chalice containing the wine and the little gold platter on which lay the priests communion wafer. The communion chalice lay directly beneath it. (The definition of ‘Tabernacle’ is an enclosed space where God’s presence lives!!! An idea first brought out of Egypt by Moses!) 

The Tabernacle in the Altar. God’s dwelling place!

He would carry out this part of the ritual with his back still to us. He blessed the wine and communion, raising the chalice to the altar/God and ate his larger wafer in silence and drank his own portion of the wine. Then he would turn to us, the faithful and we had to file up to the altar where we were then given the Body of Christ in the form of a communion wafer.

‘Old mass’ now trying to be ‘resurrected’.

There is very little difference in this ritual to the Ancient rituals in Karnak, Luxor!!!  Only in modern times has it changed where it has become more simple and last supper-ish where the public are now more included in the ritual and there is no more altar!

Modern mass.

But what struck me the most from watching this healing mass ritual was the energy! As a healer I can ‘see’ energy and feel it. As the ritual progressed I could ‘see’ the energy charging the wine, like a vortex descending into the fluid. I hadn’t been to a mass in years so this all came a surprise to me. BUT there was NO energy going into the communion wafer! I couldn’t figure out why not! AND the only person to drink this charged wine was the priest himself!!!

Years later. attending a memorial mass in Ireland for my ex-partner who had died in the US, again I witnessed the same thing happening. A vortex of energy entering the wine but not the bread. We got the the bread/communion and the priest drank the wine.  What was also interesting was the size of the vortex itself. Like all channels for energy each person is able to channel the amount of energy directly related to his development. The bigger the channel developed through devotion and service the larger amount of energy that can be channelled into the physical world. This priest obviously had an ability to channel larger amounts of energy as the vortex of energy, which looks like a small white tornado, that he channelled was quite large.

My third experience in Ireland, during a funeral mass for my aunt Terry, who was a very religious and loving woman, confirmed this again. The wine was charged with energy but ‘zip’ went into the bread! We, the public, were not given the wine, although this time both the priest and his helpers received it. His helpers were the ones who now served the communion wafers to the public, where before it was the priest who carried out this part of the ritual. As in the energy healing world, in order to pass on an energy transmission you have to be ‘charged’ yourself, so they were drinking the charged wine!

Passing out the communion wafers, US-style.

The public received none of the benefits of this spiritual energy…at all! It was only during a later trip to Wales and while doing energy-work at the ruined St. Dogmaels’ abbey in Wales that I finally understood what was happening…and what had been lost! St. Dogmaels lies beside the River Teifi and was built in 1120. It was built on the site of an even older church called the Church of Llandudoch.

St. Dogmael’s Abbey, Wales.

In the ruins of this church is a crypt which is no longer roofed and is still accessible. It lies beneath where the altar would have once stood. When I was down in this crypt I felt a very strange slow-moving vortex of energy. When I tuned into it I ‘saw’ that it was a vortex of earth energy associated with the Mother, the female energy of the earth. (There are both male and female energies of the earth). As I experienced this energy I could see the priest on the upper floor standing in front of the altar which once stood there, a basic stone table, and he was doing the mass ritual. However, what was fascinating was that as he charged the bread he did so over this active vortex of female energy and this energy charged the bread, from below!!! When he was charging the wine the vortex of energy came from above, as I have always seen it do.  Then I was given the understanding of the Catholic ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’! The father is the upper/Solar energy and the Holy Ghost should be the Earth/Female energy. The ‘Son/Daughter’ is the medium between the two. The son/daughter is the one capable of channelling both masculine and feminine energies into the physical world so that all could partake of it! He stood in the Middle, the unifier of the two worlds. This was the mystery of the Trinity, the three energies in one person! God the Father, Earth the Mother and the soul of man/Woman. “Honour thy Father and thy Mother”. God wasn’t just talking about your parents!!!

This charging of the bread is an ancient fertility ritual done way back in the time of the Goddess Artemis and by our ancestors in Britain and in Ireland. Read about it in another adventure in time on my older blog!!!

 http://gaiamethod.blogspot.com/2006_01_22_archive.html

So when did they get rid of the Poor Mother? And why are the Catholic bishops trying to oust her again??? Nothing but complete control will suffice obviously! We are still living with the priests of Amun! When will it ever change?

Carter Castle Luxor. Final Part.

On we go…

Dining room.

The next room in Carter’s house is the Dining Room. A lovely, airy room with patio doors leading out onto a small verandah. This room leads both into the kitchen and the foyer. It was surprisingly cool and I wondered how they managed to keep it so during the very hot summers. It was hot here today and yet it felt comfortable.  Although I noticed that they has some very old electric fans in the corner of each room, with blades made of brass so they obviously had some help!

His artist’s easel sits in one corner of the room and a shelf of books is in another. Under glass on the table are photos and copies of his writing and his drawings of the objects found within the tomb. I was interested in his writing as it was very feminine and quite small. Not a man who liked to be very visible and yet he chose a work which made him famous!

The Next room was a spare room for when his family came to visit. It was a large room which looked out onto the tiny garden at the back of the house.

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Each window had lovely lace curtains, which were obviously original as they looked like the would fall apart if you so much as breathed on them!!! They hadn’t been washed for a very long time, but somehow this added to their beauty. I wonder if it possible to get these now as I would love  them!

Spare room for when his family came to visit.

You might have noticed…or not…that I never mentioned a bathroom. The bathroom in the house is a modern bathroom, which was disappointing. I was hoping for a 1920′s bathroom or at least an outhouse!!!! But there you go!!! But they did have one of those old towel racks so I guess that should keep me happy!! Anyway, it would have been lovely no matter what they ate! Interestingly, before the revolution, Zahi Hawass decided that one could sleep in this house on specified nights for $10.000 a night!!!!!  I wonder if that included breakfast…and who got the money?

Carter Castle in Luxor Part 2.

Back to the Carter house in Luxor. 

Water jars.

The next room, which was a lovely surprise, was his darkroom and the room where the water jars were stored to keep the water clean and cool. I’m not sure that it was all this clean and white however when he lived there as his house was surrounded by desert at this time and things never stay that clean for long!!! And he would not have had those beautiful Nubian pottery lamps which shine their beautiful patterns on the prisitine walls. But I love the look! In the reconstruction they have done a great job.

They have a rather huge camera outside his darkroom, which once belonged to Harry Burton, the official Tutankhamun photographer. It must have made photography quite a challenge in those days. He would have had to carry it to the site, set it up and then carry it back to the house again when he was finished. It would have been a major production!!!!

Harry Burton’s camera.

But it is a beautiful piece of workmanship. Made mainly of wood it looks more like a printing press than a camera!!! But it did have wheels, or rather casters, so there was some mobility.  Although not necessarily on the desert floor!! Looking at the photos of the excavation it is also clear that they were not spontaneous photos but well-planned operations!!! Everything is perfectly executed!!!

Carter’s darkroom

His darkroom was painted a dark red and pink. Was this its original colour? It was separated into two rooms and was certainly dark enough for me to use my flash on the camera! It was such a lovely idea to imagine him working in the dark with all his chemicals, slowly developing his photos of the tomb and its artefacts. I could imagine his focus and excitement, and his frustration when everything had to stop for wars, internal ministry issues and money problems. But he was a man with incredible perseverance. He knew it was there somewhere and he didn’t give up looking.

I can identify with his thinking in many ways. All of my adult life I have tried, unsuccessfully, to create a life where I could live like he did. Exploring, digging, recording and writing. As an adult I went to Winchester University to study practical archaeology because, A) I have always loved it and B) my phantasy (as opposed to fantasy!) was to live a life where I could totally focus on my research and discoveries without having to talk or interact with too many people!!! I could be totally immersed in what I was doing, like a laboratory technician and his/her microscope. I yearned for that life. However, the life of a healer is never a solitary one!! But I still yearn for the freedom to be immersed in some creative, exploratory venture which very little disturbance!!!

Carter’s Kitchen

The next room was the kitchen. Oh…it felt so spacious and light. It had a Frigidaire!!! A gas cooker and another cooker. And running water. He created the comforts of home. Power came from a generator outside the house and the running water was housed in a water tank on the roof, which may have been gravity fed! I had never seen a gas cooker this old and was sceptical that they even existed. I was also sceptical about the electric oven and the fridge? But, reality notwithstanding, I decided that I want a kitchen just like it someday! As it turned out however, there was every possibility that the Frigidaire was genuine as they were first put on sale in 1913 and Carter lived in this house until after 1922, which is the year they discovered Tutankhamuns’ tomb. Gas ovens too were in existence since the late 19th century so maybe…

Some of the items were copies of original items but they don’t tell you which is real and which is not. But I guess it doesn’t matter as they are all ‘age-authenic’.

The furniture in the kitchen had all been stencilled too which I wondered about! But perhaps it was done to make it look old?

Carter’s Kitchen Cupboards.

I did love the old cupboard though! It was one of those with the wire mesh to keep the flies off the food! It reminded me of the outdoor cupboards from the which we used to have in the ‘old’ days and which were used to keep the food cool  in. We used to put food that needed to be cool, like cheese,meat etc, in it. It not only kept it cool but kept the flies off too. For people who lived on farms this latter protection was invaluable!!!

Cooker!

All told, I loved this kitchen.  I loved the white, airiness of it and the space!!! It was clean and clear. He must have loved living here although I doubt that he spent much time in here!!!  He would have had other people to cook for him.I also loved the cooker hood. This is a definite Western influence as Egyptian homes do not have these and this one looks more like a chimney breast than a hood but there was a hole in the wall behind this which allowed the warm air from cooking to filter outside. If you have tried cooking in an Egyptian kitchen you will know how important it is to have a air extraction system as it gets pretty hot in there!!! This cooker hood allowed the hot air ‘out’ instead of adding to the already stifling hot kitchen.

But the dining-room? That he would have spent time in! But I will write about that tomorrow!