It probably took up all of the goodwill between us for me to ask mohammed to drive me to the ACE (animal care in egypt) centre. He insisted it was far. I suggested it was only 5km away.
My last day in egypt, i had enough of shopping, wasn’t sure about pestering the locals on the west bank, and happened to read about the centre, which promised to answer the question i had since the very beginning of the trip: what happens to all the horses and work animals?
I guess i was expecting a bloody mess, but the centre looked very well-run. The animals were a world apart from the ones out in the street. A happier world. Some , but at least they were in healing hands. Their affection and familiarity with the lady giving me the tour (sorry i forgot her name) was obvious.
Mid-speech at the cats enclosure, the lady noticed a cat frothing at the mouth. I was shunted to a side as she and another volunteer sprung into action at this mini crisis. I trailed behind as she made her way one animal at a time, explaining where they’d come from, talking to them, looking over them intently. The real interaction was between her and the animals, i was merely the visitor on the fringe, and i was heartened at that.
Later, i spoke with the niece (there goes memory again..) of kim taylor, the founder of the centre. She was so warm, generously sharing about the centre and the obstacles that came along with it. Much of the work was building up trust with the community, much effort has to go towards educating misplaced beliefs. I can’t imagine the bureaucratic and cultural walls they bump up against. They receive something like 100 animals a day.
She also helped clear up some leftover cultural puzzles, mainly: no– it really never is a good idea to walk around with any limb exposed (“honestly!”). It made me feel justified trussed up in my sleeves and scarves.
I think about the horse that dragged us around giza, his shoes slipping on the stone slopes. His harness digging open sores on his back. We could have asked for a better horse. But the fact of the matter was that would simply have been an exercise in choosing the lesser of evils.
The ACE website goes into detail about the kinds of problems commonly faced, and how you can help.
On the way here, mohammed had kept giving me dubious looks the entire journey.
I only realised why when we pulled up beside luxor hospital, for people. I lol-ed in his car. Try miming animals. it makes you less of a stranger with anyone instantly. But he got me, his large shoulders heaving in laughter, and i bet, relief. At least his seemingly well visitor had no need for that kind of doctor.
Afterwards, mohammed insisted we had tea. We took the position i had grown accustomed to seeing in egypt: a couple of bros (i guess i was as brolike as the circumstances allowed) sitting side by side outside a cafe, staring out into the street. But sans shisha.
He spoke about how some doctors were corrupt in egypt, funneling money meant for development into their own pockets.
Mohammed asked: good hospital?
Me: Yes, very good.
Mohammed: doctor, good?
Me, emphatically nodding: Yes, they are very very nice. The animals are very good.
He grunts, still a little dubious. But i could see him thinking.
He also told me about his ex-wife. His voice had a hint of impatience and hurt left in it.