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Monday, 14 February 2011

Visit to see horses and camels at Nazlet Al Saman (Pyramids)

NOTE: This is a personal note based on my own observations. I am not a vet. This is not any kind of report - vets for different charities are writing these.

PERSONAL SUMMARY: The situation is not as dire as you may believe from the internet (which is not to say there aren't problems, because there are - there have been ongoing concerns about the condition of many of the animals there which long predate the current political situation). Donations are needed for ongoing medical treatment and food for the poorer folk. The charities are hoping to work there on an ongoing daily/near daily basis for the next 3-4 months. If tourism does not begin to pick up then things could deteriorate.

(UPDATE 14/2: I have now seen the vet's report for the day and it does say that he was informed by a local person that the number of horses dying had increased from starvation. There are also concerns about the nutritional content of the food at this time which is laying the animals open to catching other illnesses).


Following the furore on the internet in the past couple of days over the plight of the horses and donkeys (but strangely not the camels!) at the village of Nazlet al Saman at the foot of the Pyramids, I went along today to see for myself.

I went to the ESAF /Brooke Hospital station outside Ramsis Stables. Got there around 10am - they were already in full swing. I took over from one of the vets recording the animals being treated (owner, diagnosis, treatment) and did that for about 3 hours.

The Brooke people treated horses and the ESAF people treated the camels and also some horses and a donkey. The Donkey Sanctuary is treating donkeys elsewhere in the vicinity. I understand that the ESMA charity is also working in the area.

By around 1pm, about 400 animals (I think all street animals) were treated at that station, mainly horses and camels, and mainly for mange, worms and lameness.

One person went up to visit the graveyard - subject of many photos on the net in the past 2 days - and another person I met later in the day by accident and nothing to do with the 'situation' said that anyone who rides regularly in that area knows that this is the horses' graveyard. Basically, if a horse dies - and one of the stable owners told us there are around 7000 horses living in that area so there are naturally deaths - it is left out in that area for nature to take it's course, rather than removing and burying the carcasses.

A vet and another person also visited the place where the horses which have been pictured as starving were living. The owner said that there is some kind of sickness up there (predating the political situation) but they don't know what it is, but they were not starving the animals. The vet invited him to bring the horses down to the treatment station.

The green stuff which is the staple food of most of the horses seemed to be very available, and apparently costs something like 35-40LE per 100kg. I saw truck loads of it being brought in so it is available.

The ESAF/Brooke effort will be ongoing daily for the next 30 days at least, possibly longer.

After the station closed for the day, we sat down drinking tea and some of the stable owners and others were talking about how they can bring animal rights into the new political agenda. Some were expressing concern about how the furore on the internet had conveyed the wrong impression that all the animals were sick and dying of starvation. We discussed getting a journalist in to cover the situation properly allowing all their say. But we all know that when there is a 'party line' it can be hard to find someone willing to go against it. Hopefully, a journalist can be found willing to do a proper investigation.

They were also very angry at being blamed for sending the horses and camels up to the demonstrations last week and were clear that it was not anyone from that area.

I asked one of the stable owners if his stables were nearby could we go and look, so we all reconvened over at his stables. They are livery stables where foreigners keep their horses and I saw some magnificent horses in excellent condition.

The conversation continued, but we did raise the issues of how best to help the animals - tourists please come back! - but also how to raise the general condition of the street horses and camels which are not based in stables. These are all things the people are discussing.

We know things were far from perfect there before the political situation, and now may be the time to start sorting these things out.

From my personal visit and a discussion with the staff, if you want to make donations then I would recommend that you specify for them to be spent on medicines or medical treatments. I don't know, but I imagine the routine mange and worming treatments are relatively inexpensive, but there were animals who will need ongoing antibiotic and other treatments which may be a lot more expensive.

On another point, a friend was telling an Egyptian friend (middle-class, well-educated, professional) of hers what was happening up there to be met once more with the 'why bother with animals when people are starving' response so common here. There was little acknowledgment that the animals being treated were working animals and peoples' livelihoods depend upon them.

There is a major awareness-building an education effort needs to go on here with the general public.

I have no photos as I wasn't sure what the situation was, I didn't take my
camera-phone with me.

Charities working in the area:

Egyptian Society of Animal Friends

The Brooke Organisation (Note that Brooke are not able to apply your donation to a specific project unless it is substantial)

The Donkey Sanctuary

Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals

Friday, 11 February 2011

How to get your Etisalat or Mobinil mobile phone topped up from abroad

One of the issues we have had to contend with over the past couple of weeks is (a) shortage of cash (ATMs completely empty in many parts of the city) and (b) shortage of mobile phone topup scratch cards which were simply unavailable for a while and which are now being sold at a high mark up - 10LE vodafone costs 13.5LE and 10LE etisalat costs 13LE. I don't know about Mobinil since I don't use that network.

Anyway, in case there are any problems getting hold of cash and/or mobile top-up scratch cards, I thought I would let you know how you can get a friend or relative to top up your Etisalat (and apparently Mobinil) phone from abroad if necessary (cash or scratchcard shortage). (Doesn't work for vodafone).

The person abroad can do it on and can get you 100LE for about 18 euros which is about £15 or $25. Once the credit is paid for, it should appear more or less instantaneously. Be sure to follow through ALL the screens. This is quite a high mark up but when cash is in short supply, the ability to not have to use cash is a huge bonus.

We have found the only way to do it is to get a Wall-e card and use that to pay. The site claims you can pay with credit card but haven't been able to make that work from either the UK or Egypt. Maybe different from the US? There are other methods listed on the site but I guess you have to have those things set up already.

Wallie cards can apparently be bought in shops such as WH Smiths or Clinton Cards though friends in the UK had difficulty - I think this is related to the ID requirements being so tortuous. The UK site for wallie cards is

They can be bought on line on a couple of on-line gaming sites, but they require evidence of ID and phone calls so again, can be difficult if you don't want to start emailing copies of passports or ID cards around the place!

Anyway, two of those on-line gaming sites are: and

I had no joy buying from either of those from Egypt. The companies are both complete jobs worths - even if you are paying with verified PayPal, 3D security on credit cards, and even though I have spoken with my cc company in the UK and they are aware of the situation. Both companies wanted scans and emails of all sorts of things - passport, utility bills, credit cards - not good in a crisis. My friend buying from the UK just had to accept a phone call.

For some reason they refused to phone me on a UK mobile which I have with me or an Egyptian landline. One person here apparently had no problem but maybe he was able and willing to send scans of his passport and credit card to random strangers! Of course, with our internets blocked for 5 days we wouldn't have been able to do that anyway.

Might be worth you passing this on to friends/relatives out of the country.

PS - also worth noting that in Egypt you can transfer money from mobile to mobile (on the same network) so if you send topups to your friends in Egypt, they might be transferring it on to others - if you think they're using a lot ask if that's what they are doing.

Added 2nd October 2011:  apparently you can top up Egyptian Vodafone from abroad using this company:


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Situation in Egypt

Please note that I am not discussing the political situation, others do that far better than me, just practicalities.

I am using my Facebook Page as the place for ongoing updates relevant to expats here.

OldbagofCairo Facebook page

Not sure if you can read it if you are not on Facebook.

Just for the record, I am still here on the outskirts of Cairo and have not experienced any personal danger.  Many stories are doing the rounds, and it's hard to know what is true and what is not.

The situation is also very different in different areas.

At present, myself and the foreigners I know are keeping our heads down for another week, sticking to our immediate localities or if we need to travel, going about with an Egyptian companion.

Feedback I am receiving is that it is ok generally, but foreigners should avoid the Tahrir/DownTown areas and also village areas (around Cairo). Friends in Sharm and El Gouna report that it is ok there.  I only have a couple of reports from Alex, but assume similar to Cairo.

Animals are suffering a great deal in this situation and my friend One Fleeting Glimpse has done a blog article about it here:

Emergency Appeal for Funds

and this is a newspaper article on the effects on the horses (and their families) near the Pyramids:
Al Masry Al Youm - Animals at the Pyramids
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