Saturday, January 9, 2010

Riding in the Eqyptian Desert- Freedom!

My first sighting of the Pyramids on "Sugar".

After getting fired from my job exercising racehorses in Ireland, I spent a week working for a different trainer and then decided it was time to leave cold, damp, sleeting Ireland. Although I was just planning on going home, my mom told me that as long as I was over 'there' I might as well go visit my uncle who was working in Egypt.

My uncle Keith had been living and working in Maadi, Egypt (an expat suburb of Cairo) teaching Choir at Cairo American College. CAC is a K-12 school for kids who plan on attending college in the States, the student body is a real mix of expat's kids and locals. When I got there I found out I could substitute teach and make $50 a day. (Even though I SWORE I would NEVER set foot in another classroom after my student teaching experience). Fifty bucks was a lot of money at the time and I ended up staying from January until school got out in June. In June I accepted a half-time position the following school year teaching elementary P.E.

One of my favorite parts of Egypt, and the reason I would return in a heartbeat, was riding the incredible Arabian horses through the sands of the Sahara Desert. Endurance? Check!!! We would drive through the complete mess of traffic that was Cairo- cars, busses, donkey carts, and motorcycles packed like sardines and constantly honking and fighting for space on the road. There are no lines on roads in Cairo, everyone drives with inches of each other.

Once you get over the bridge that goes over the Nile things thin out a bit. You drive by the Sphinx and the Pyramids down the last dirt road before the city ends and the desert starts. Along this road are stable after stable of horses for rent. All of the stables have 2 letter names, like "FB" stables or "MG" stables- usually the initials of the owner.

My friend Barb and I drove out to the horses and on the recommendation of a friend rented horses from FB stables. You ride out into the desert, then gradually work your way to the right until you see the Pyramids off in the distance. Just ride towards the Pyramids and then complete the loop back. There are no roads or trails.


The Sphinx is always being repaired.

How big are the blocks that make up the Pyramids? This big.

Zeeku! This was one of my favorite horses, and I pretty much exclusively rode him the first 6 months I was there. One of the best parts about the desert is that there are no fences. Or trees. Or anything else that you would have to watch out for in a full-on gallop with tears streaming out of your eyes.

Look at all that galloping space!

Baby camel making ungodly noises. Some of the stables in the background.

Cairo American College campus. It was surrounded by a high concrete wall and 'protected' by Egyptian soldiers with guns.

My second year and one of my second grade P.E. classes. Swim unit.

The all-day ride to Sakkara. It was 3-4 hours one way. At first when we would do this ride a guide would come with us but after a while they let us go on our own. I have absolutely no sense of direction and it was disconcerting to me to not have a guide. We rode under power lines for quite a while.

One of my friends rode a new horse that the stable hadn't named yet. When she was done she said that she'd been through the desert on a horse with no name...

A boy holds some of the horses for us at Sakkara while we eat lunch and explore the step pyramids there.

My friend Mike on a feluca ride on the Nile- relaxing! Just don't touch the water.

Aseala and her groom Abdu Nabi. Oh Aseala. I ended up leasing her my second year in Egypt. She was one of the most amazing horses I have ever ridden. Her endurance and speed were beaten by none. Often we were asked to race while riding, usually friendly "you wanna race?" type deal. She blew every single other horse out of the water.

This was the area where there were more hills and varied terrain.

Aseala jumps over the sand bank.

One of my favorite pictures ever.

Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.

The Red Sea has some of the best snorkeling in the world. In Dahab (little hippie town) I rode a camel into the water much to the owner's aggrivation. I could only get him to trot for a few steps at a time.

Me and Bob Marley.

Life on the Autostraud- the main highway to the Airport.

Donkey cart.

Mom comes to visit! Just leaving the stables. The little mare they gave her (because she was a beginner) was slow and stubborn. We ended up switching horses half way through and mom had a great time walking through the desert on Aseala.


It was really cool riding at night because everything was dark and the horse's shoes would send off sparks when they stepped on the rocks.

Next country: Hungary! (A short one).



Anonymous said...

Another great post. What a cool experience, thanks for sharing. Looks like a blast and a half.

What's up with not touching the water of the Nile? Is it just gross or is there something in it that will get you?

Albigears said...


Stuff that can get you. We were told not to let Nile water touch our skin. Causes rashes and an assortment of other bad things.

EvenSong said...

What an AMAZING collection of photos of you, on *real* Arabians, in front of the pyramids!! There's a whole lotta nothing in that desert!

Anonymous said...

Cool post - thanks!

achieve1dream said...

Wow really cool!! I love these posts. Thanks for sharing them with us.

jacksonsgrrl said...

Yeah, they throw bodies into the Nile and burn them on funeral pyres don't they? Awesome experience! Looks like too much fun! OK. I acutally was going to devote a post to riding through the desert on a HORSE WITH NO NAME. That song kills me. If you actually rode through a whole desert on a horse with no name, would you not have formed a bond with it and named the darn horse? AGGGH! That song! Just name the horse already! :) Ok. sorry. Pet peeve there! People always think it is funny when I hear the song at work and say this, but come on, I have a great point! :)

Merri said...

Egypt - no way - I'm working on my Egypt stories too! I went to visit Maryanne in 2004 - you'll see a link to one of her blogs, Living in Egypt, on my sidebar. She lives on the edge of the desert in Abu Sir, which you would have ridden by on your way to Sakkara.

My dream was to gallop in the desert by the Pyramids, even though I was a bit, well, SCARED of running full out because of my first attempts at trying to gallop racehorses in the US when I got run away with.

My dream ride happened on the last day - OMG it was incredible. Harry was the horse (owned by one of MA's friends) and he was so amazing I wasn't scared at all when we ran full out. I'll email you a picture.

I went back to visit Maryanne again a year later and got to ride some other horses of hers in the countryside and the desert, had some more amazing rides.

OK, I've got to get busy on finishing all my stories now : )

thanks for sharing!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

manymisadventures said...

Wow, that is absolutely amazing!

And that baby camel is SO. CUTE.

Albigears said...

Yes, I truly learned respect and admiration for the Arabian breed in Egypt!

I don't know -why- he didn't name his damn horse. And WHY would he set it free in the DESERT? To let it DIE? What's it going to eat, plants and birds and rocks and things?

Merri thanks for the pics! I can't believe we've both attempted riding race horses in Ireland AND riding horses in Egypt! Small world.

And baby camels are the cutest ever.

jacksonsgrrl said...


Michelle said...

What an amazing adventure! I recently met a friend from Egypt that I'm working on coercing to go over there with me and show me around. Your post just gave me a ton of things for us to do!! Great photos.

Nicole said...

amazing lady-i so want to travel!

BritnieAnn said...

Too cool, thanks again for sharing! The pictures were great!

Akhal-Eventer said...

Wow. . .lovely post with AMAZING pictures. I was blown away. Now I really want to go to Egypt and gallop Arabians across all that expanse of sand!! Beautiful post. . .

Becky said...


There really aren't words to describe how insanely jealous I am of you right now.


Can we please trade lives? You can have the whiny cocker spaniel and angry baby and I can have all these memories of riding in Ireland, and racing across the desert in Egypt, and....


You are so my hero.

Cade Brown said...

Mike in the feluca, is his last name Scissions? I think I had him as a PE teacher at CAC. Randomly came across this post, I went to school there 92-96.

Albigears said...

Cade- yes, that's the Mike... small world!