Saturday, March 14, 2009

Organic Farming, Egyptian style

It's been a very busy week. Good busy, with field trips and fun with family, but also taken up with a meeting and illness which caused us to miss out on a much anticipated party. Ah well, that's life. Busy, with ups and downs.

Brian's class attended a field trip at the beginning of the week to an organic farm out in Dashour. This was actually the same farm that Honor went to last year to learn about date harvesting, but Brian's class had completely different activities.

Our first stop on the trip, was at a small farm where a donkey-powered waterwheel was demonstrated. It was a simple mechanism, but moved an amazing amount of water. We then continued on to a villa for the rest of the field trip. The kids were able to have snack and recess in the lovely garden there before everyone was loaded onto a donkey cart to ride to a nearby village.

They were invited to see inside a local farmer's home. The local homes are very simple, and the teacher made sure to point out how we have different priorities than these local farmers, and how their needs differ. There was no furniture in the parts of the house we saw, although the walls had once been painted a nice eggshell blue with roller applied flowers for decoration. There were electrical light bulbs hanging from wires from the tall ceiling, and of course, the every-present satellite dish on the roof! In the center of the home, an open staircase led up to the roof where the livestock was kept safe. I had never thought about it, but it makes sense. There was a lovely, open (half walls) porch on the home with a great view of the surrounding fields.

After this brief visit, they loaded back on the cart, and went back to the main villa. The kids were able to see a variety of greenhouses and other gardens, then were taught how to plant cuttings from a jade plant (a pot of which they got to keep).

There was a craftsman at the villa demonstrating traditional ways of making necessary products using the main wooden stems of palm branches. It was amazing to watch him work. He sliced the branches into equal lengths, split them into usable widths. Bored holes in the pieces, and banged them into a wide variety of projects. Very fast! As I was ending up with too much to carry, I bought a small basket - of the type that harvesters use to pick and carry produce.

We then loaded up on the bus and rode out to the nearby desert. We crossed the irrigation canal, and went past a local cemetery, which was built on high ground in case of flooding. We went through a small village where the roads were barely wide enough for the buses to get through... meaning "fold in the mirrors and hold your breath"! We saw a clay mine and brick factory that we were told had once stood on valuable greenland. The factory was moved out to the desert to free the fertile soil for planting.

There were also areas of this desert area where water was being pumped in, in order to reclaim the land. We were told that the land had once been farm land, but had been lost to the desert. They were working on bringing it back. It was quite something to see garlic, spinach and other greenery sprouting up out of the dry sand. The kids were invited to pull some weeds, as weeds took valuable water away from the good plants. They were also turned loose to harvest some tomatoes... the last fruit from an almost used up patch, but the kids did their best.

We went back to the villa, and the kids spread out through the garden to sketch the flowers. Their grade has regular visits to a senior center near the school. One of the projects they'll be working on, will be to create a floral mosaic for the center. The sketches they do will be painted, blown up, and printed nicely to make a mosaic.

Eventually these busy kids had lunch on the lawn. It included some delicious fresh veggies, local cheeses, and a sweet bread/cake called fateer, with honey on it, as a treat from our hostess. Then, after a bit of playing to let their stomachs settle, it was time to get back on the road and head home. It was a full day of activity, and I took a lot of photos. There is so much to see everywhere in Cairo. I love to drive around the area, watch the people, and see the real day to day life... maybe more so than I enjoy the 'tourist sites'. Real life is much more interesting.

Hope you enjoyed sharing this bit of Egypt with us.


Tina in CT said...

I love when you take us on field trips as I never will get to Egypt so enjoy reading about it on your blog.

Are the animals on the roof to protect them from two footed predators or four footed ones?

Amazing how the man helf the wood with his feet. My back and rump were aching just watching him.

Connie said...

Tina, I am glad you got to come with us :) There is so much to see here, that even those who do come to Cairo, do not usually get out to visit the real city and surrounding towns. You could spend an entire vacation just barely skimming the official 'sites'!

I assume the more likely predators are 4-legged. Lots of dogs and cats around. Although theft happens, like pickpockets in the Metro, etc. usually folks are very trustworthy, saying that, with a lack of fences... it would only take one disreputable sort to be a problem.

I liked watching the basket maker. I like crafts, and he was fast!

Simple Answer said...

I was AMAZED at how much I enjoyed looking out the window while in Cairo. So much to see!

But so dirty. Hard to imagine there being anything that is 'organic' and not tainted.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for stopping by to visit.

Nicole said...

Great slideshow! Thank you for sharing that culture with us. It is amazing how different things are in different countries, especially Egypt. Some day I wish to visit there.