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Thursday 22 December 2011: Thanks to 'God'

I felt an air of celebration today, as I headed towards the ferry to cross to Luxor.
The dancing horses were out in force in a grassy area close to the rivers edge. Proud riders with their shashes tied tightly, holding a stick at least 2 metres long, that is dragged behind them as they race, kicking up the dry dirt, making clouds of dust. I imagine this makes the stallions look as though they are racing faster than they are. The horses are eager to run, dressed and adorned in tassles and old silver necklets, handed down through the family over the years.

Children sit in awe, dreaming of owning horses like these and riding as the men do. Many mobile phones are held up as the rider and his steed stand their ground to pose for the crowd.

The stick fighters have crossed from Luxor to participate, children racing camels and a small group of children playing musical chairs, to the beats of banging drums and NOT a cassette player as we used to use!

The ferry was overloaded with rowdy and excited children. 2 groups on the top deck were in competition; The boys and the girls, each beating harder against each other, the boys tied shashes around their hips, clapping and shaking their hips, while the girls, equally as good on the drums, broke out in song together. The boys backed down, as everyone watched the girls in their colourful outfits, jewel encrusted hejabs and sparkly stick on tattoo's. The girl's won!

As I walked back through the village, I was invited to dinner at the Blue Sky Restaurant in Ramla at 6pm.

Nubi, the owner, who I have known for 5 years, was going to kill a cow to share with all his friends, family and villagers. It is something the people do if they can, simply to say 'Thanks to God'

I arrived a few minutes after 6, not wanting to appear to eager - not a seat in the house! I was the only European there and the only lady - a seat was made available for me, close to my neighbour. Men huddled up in their winter gallabeyahs and abayah's, children excited and using their few words of English to speak with me, neighbours and friends coming over to say hello. One proudly announced that he had cut his long hair off, as he was going to join the army in Cairo within a couple of weeks. It was just as well he came over to me, as I would never have recognised him! I know a few of the lads that are off to join up, strange, as I have known them for so long...they will become men very soon.

Fresh sun bread, molokhiya, beans in tomato sauce, rice, salad and beef were thrust in front of us and a spoon. Bread is used as cutlery here and for the difficult bits, a spoon can be used, but you all dip in and share from the plates the dishes are served upon. (It tastes better this way)
It's a wonderful way to eat, very different to the UK methods. We will sit and pick, chat etc, but here, as soon as you have had enough, you get up and wash your hands..done!

Fantastic atmosphere, fantastic food and a very happy, satisfied Nubi, as he had 'Shared' with everyone. The men then went outside to sit in his riverside garden, have a cigarette and shai, whilst the lights of the East Bank and the Temple of Luxor tried to reach the shores of the West, via the Nile.

Nubi thanked me for coming, but it is I who should be thankful. For not only is it about being invited for dinner, for me it is an acceptance within the Community and that means more than I can ever express to him and the people I know here :-)

The photo is as it was - Fast and energetic!

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