Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Weekend in Cairo, Part 1

The title would suggest that I live the life of a jet-setter, and as I construct some illusions in this blog, I will leave you with that impression…
Ok, ok. Actually, my husband suddenly got the urge to spend a few days of Ramadan in Cairo--where there is quite a bit of nightlife—so we went to visit family living there. That still sounds like I might be a jet-setter, and we did stay up until 4am every day. Appears wild, doesn’t it ? And we lived in the middle of the desert…Sounds even more daring, n’est-ce pas ?
         We had lovely and spacious accommodations an hour from downtown Cairo. However, here is what the desert looks like today:
Yup, it’s become a massive suburb of Cairo with miles and miles and miles of construction and sand, as far as the eye can see. 
Obviously, Egyptians resemble everyone else. They want the American dream of "BIGGER is better." These are residential one-family buildings. Sometimes they are divided into apartments for different members of the family and their children. Here are the backyards.
Huge houses are squeezed onto tiny lots with hardly no garden. And to think I’ve complained about uncontrolled construction in Tunisia.
          And yet, Old Cairo remains forever fascinating. My 10-year old granddaughter (gd10) and I went for a morning of drawing at the Coptic museum.
Among other things, this museum contains amazing textiles, usually in linen and wool (woven, tapestry, or embroidered), which date from the 4th to 6th centuries making them around fifteen hundred years old. The level of craftsmanship is astonishing: Tiny, ornate figures worked into intricate designs suggest a level of sophistication seldom seen today. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed in the museum.

And so we sat down on the cool, clean marble floors and we drew in our sketchbooks with markers. Besides being easily portable,  markers help children get over the impulse that they learn in school to erase. All lines are good.

gd10's drawing of a 5th-6th c. AD tombstone.
The hands of the person are raised in prayer.
We talked about how to situate the elements of a drawing and how to use different kinds of lines to create shadows and depth--light lines, broken lines, dots. 

Grandma's version.

People would come up and watch.
"Grandma, people are staring at us," noticed my hyper-sensitive, easily embarrassed pre-teen.
"That's because we're doing something so cool. 
You know, you will never forget this museum because you sat down and drew." 
And she seemed pleased.

gd10's drawing of the virtue of perseverance personified as an angel from a wall mural of the 6th/7th c. AD.

Here we discussed drawing faces and shell designs.

Grandma's version.

And so we passed a pleasant and peaceful morning in the museum. 
And I'll take a kid's drawing any day over an adult's.

     Outside, I sneaked a few shots of the lion statues, for which I have a fondness.

 gd10's rapid sketch of one of the lions.
The museum was closing.

The high point of the trip was a visit to the Shariya Khayammia or Tentmakers’ Street which requires a post unto itself, but I offer a sneak preview.

                 Indeed, Cairo shines as a welcome break in daily routine...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Coral Bells

Those who must endure blistering summer temperatures will understand when I mention that I have spent time glued to the AC lately. However, having a blog motivates me to finish, and so, I present Coral Bells in My Garden (31"x 28"/ 79cm x 71cm) with thoughts of winter in mind [See here for pictures of the real plant--a "mother -of-millions" succulent--and the beginning of this piece back in January].
While traveling in the States in April and May, I carried this piece with me and completed the hand stitching (running stitch and French knots).
This piece began as a sketch on fabric and escalated from there. It is hand embroidered and machine embroidered, appliquéd, and quilted.

                  And for all who are celebrating the fasting month of Ramadan, 
                                      I wish you “Romdhan Mabrouk.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Animal Assembly

They’re at it again. This time, the animals in the tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces want a democracy like the humans. [The first signs of unrest were reported here]. So they decided to have elections and create an Animal Assembly (the AA).
         As this is the New Tunisia, anyone could form a party to present a candidate for the Assembly. The animals went about it with enthousiasm and over one hundred parties came into existence. Not only did the horses, mules, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, fowl, and birds form their own parties, but parties split into more parties. The Guard Dog Party proposed more security while the Feral Dog Party insisted on freedom of movement.  The Chicken Party argued for Free Range feeding, while the Turkey Party just gobbled. You get the picture. Only the Leftist Party took members from all the species. As might be expected, there occurred a split in the vote. Interestingly, no exclusively feminist parties formed. How unfortunate. 
         And of course, wrangling and tangling has begun between the parties.

The newly elected AA, then, has been diligently chasing its tail and not getting much done. However, members did all agree on one thing: They gave themselves hefty salaries and benefits that include double and triple portions at every meal, an increase in meals to 10 times a day, paid vacation for twenty days of every month, and medical benefits that include spa memberships. How fortunate for them.

By virtue of experience (work in security, guarding gates, and chasing robbers), diplomas (PhD. in animal psychology), and age (sixty-something in dog years), Dabdoub was appointed President of MulticoloredPieces.
This honorary title entails greeting animal dignitaries who might visit, and sleeping a lot for a monthly salary of 30,000 dog bones [minimum wage is 300 bones per month] with all expenses paid.  Oh, yes, the Assembly voted that the President could declare war as well. In an exclusive interview, he intimated that he wouldn’t be doing much of that. How fortunate for the world.

Flora, Dabdoub’s wife and the new First Lady, stated that she would not allow this change in status to affect the upbringing of her pups.
However, she wishes to sell the Presidential Dog House and live in a new one. How unfortunate.

On the national front, the Higher Animal Authority (HAA!) ordered that all the animals in the zoo in Tunis be released from their cages.  This has created some disorder in the the tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces as stray hyenas, tigers, and bears have been sighted. The disappearance of sheep, goats, and calves from local farms may be attributed to the recently released wild animals. Lions were spotted driving away from a crime scene in a pickup truck crammed with sheep. 
         Complaints have been made to the Assembly, which contacted human authorities. Regrettably, the humans appear unable to resolve the problem. They have apprehended a few of the wild animals caught red-handed and returned them to the zoo, but much remains to be done and theft continues. How unfortunate. 

And such is life in the not-so tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces.

A question has appeared in the comments, so I will answer here. This story is a thinly-veiled fiction that parallels reality. How unfortunate for Tunisians.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer Garden

The hot, dusty Tunisian summer grips my garden as I struggle to keep it watered and alive. I emerge from my comfortable house into blistering heat every evening around 6pm when temperatures begin to drop while the sun sinks in the horizon. As the countryside dries up, it sometimes feels like a losing battle... 
           Someone noted that there weren't any photos of wide vistas on my blog. The reason is simple enough: my garden is large and I can never manage to get it all looking in order at one time, so I only take pictures of the decent parts. Since my trip to the States, everything is out of control and I still haven't caught up. However, here are a few shots with wide vistas. 
                                 My front garden from the front porch.
Note that my young pomegranate orchard is green. Grass sits at the bottom of the list when it comes to distribution of water resources. Fortunately, the local grass resists high heat and makes a comeback when well watered. It will remain yellow through the beginning of September. The silvery trees against the pine trees (upper right) are olive trees. 
                      Again the front yard, sidewalks and entrance driveway.
The large trees along the alley are fig trees, which provide deep shade and marvelous fruit. I'm on the lookout for pots that will sit on top of the two pillars. 
                                                The entrance driveway
                                           that leads to My Humble Abode.
A simple structure that keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer.   
                                 Nothing fancy, but I'm thankful for it. 
                                  Here are a few shots from the roof. 
             To the South, the front garden with a lone mountain in the distance.
                 To the East, a neighbor's property and another lone mountain.
To the North, the city approaches and we're seeing more and more construction. Not sure how long the area will remain farmland. 
Of course I have avoided shots of fields and local roads loaded with trash, uncontrolled dumping, and massive unauthorized and illegal building. Because municipal authority was wiped out with the Revolution, the thug culture that developed during the dictatorship appears to be taking the upper hand while Tunisia becomes dirtier and dirtier and suffocates in its filth. 

Ultimately, the tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces may only exist in a virtual form. That is where I take refuge...