Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Men Who Get High With Goats

 My next adventure in Egypt was to help my friend, Bill Key, get some photos for an article he is writing. It is about an aqueduct, shown in the first picture, which was built in the sixteenth century. In its time, Borg El-Sakkiyat played a major role in delivering water to certain parts of Cairo. Its tall pumping station, powered by oxen, lifted water from the Nile so it could flow down a gentle slope to various points of distribution.

 This once magnificent structure has been all but consumed by the infrastructure of Cairo. The exhaust from millions of motor vehicles has coated the stone blocks and mortar to form a dark gray patina that camouflages the structure. I would dare to say that the two kilometer stretch of this medieval aqueduct along a main thoroughfare goes virtually unnoticed by most people that pass by it.

 In order to get the best photos, Bill and I knew that we needed to get on top of one of the nearby buildings. The second picture shows a view of a hospital. The yellow building to its left is a girls school.. We were discouraged from entering the hospital by the general lack of organization and funk that met us at the door. We were forbidden from entering the girls’ school by an irate lady that glared at us two gringos like we were invaders from mars. Finally we gained permission the go on top of an apartment building, shown in the third photo.

 While climbing the stairs we began to notice, near the top of the staircase, that alfalfa, carrots, and other vegetable scraps were lying to the side of the stairs. Finally, we saw sunlight and as we stepped out on the roof we were surprised by the presence of about a dozen goats and a couple dozen small ducks. The roof had  a four foot parapet wall around the perimeter that served as a fence to keep these critters from falling to the street below. The parapet also served useful to me as a place to steady my camera while photographing the aqueduct.

After the photos were done we took a few minutes to visit with the roof top rancher. Bill and our friend Mahmud speak Arabic so we were able to find out that the owners mother had made the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. She was quite proud of her accomplishment which earned her a special place in the Muslim community.

After we went back down on the street, Bill and I walked the entire length of the aqueduct. Money had been recently appropriated for some repairs on the 500 year old structure and we saw several workers digging near some of the arches. The purpose of the excavation is to dig down far enough that the footings can be reinforced. The piles of dirt and debris being removed from the ground contained a few interesting artifacts such as glazed tiles. These tiles were probably part of a paved walk way at one time.

At the far end of the aqueduct lies the ancient pumping station which is shown in the last photo.

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