It's really my bedroom window that he's living next to. So far he's been a decent neighbor, an occasional hee-haw now and then but at appropriate times. Most of the day he spends relaxing under a flowering tree next to the front gate. "Mishmish" (which means 'apricot' in Arabic) is used primarily to help the Egyptian employees here at the house get back and forth to the village, which is roughly a kilometer from our compound.
Life here at the Abydos dig house is very different than life in Cairo! First of all we're in an extremely rural area. Farming is the primary career path for the majority of the population. And not the kind of farming that you and I are used to where machinery makes it possible to plant and harvest on massively large tracts of land. Around here the majority of the work is done by hand: the sowing, the reaping and everything in between. But wait a minute! Farming in the desert??? It sounds odd, doesn't it? Yet for millennia the Nile River has been providing a very thin strip of land along its banks with the necessary water for such a thing. There are hundreds/thousands of irrigation canals that funnel the river water to fields farther back from the banks. However, there is a VERY clear end of the plants and start to the desert sands where those channels come to an end. And where we are living and working is right at that distinct line. The dig house is surrounded by sand dunes, just one kilometer east of the "Green Line" where the farmed land dominates.
Living in a non-urban area is definitely differently for me. But then on top of that (or probably because of that) the foreigners are not very frequent in these parts. This means that we are quite the attraction. As a result there is a strong layer of security surrounding us constantly. Not because there is a big danger of negative attention but more so because even too much positive attention can be a bad thing! As a result there is an extremely detailed process that must be gone through to even go shopping in the village. Because of this, we all mostly spend our free time in the dig house.
And because of this, many of the craftsmen in the local community who want our business come to us! There is a tailor who comes every few weeks to take measurements if anyone wants clothing made. There is a 'laundry cart' that comes by weekly for anyone who would prefer to send out their dirty socks. The carpenter visits occasionally to fix various items. I even found a need this week for a cobbler and the house manager sent out for someone to fix my leather sandals! We have a small but dedicated house staff, most of whom belong to the same family and have been working for the excavation for generations. The household has gone through transition over the years but is now fully equipped with electricity and running water (although rationed a bit). This year's big improvement is a wifi connection!
So what is life like in the dig house? Well, lets just say its a darn good thing that we all like one another! The building is actually a collection of work and living space. Bedrooms are shared by 3 or 4 people. We eat communally. All the rooms are built around a central courtyard where we can relax and hang out during our down time. The conservation labs, office areas and storage spaces are all within twenty paces so we are never far from our project. They day is structured around a simple schedule: up and out by 6:30am, work in the field until 1:30 with two short breaks during the day, return to the house for lunch and relax until 4:30 when we go to the lab or the offices to work for a few hours until dinner at 7:00. We do this six days a week with Fridays off.
Free time (what there is of it) is usually spent talking about what we discovered that day, or where we want to visit during our one day off. Archeology is never far from our minds. No matter how hard we try to avoid it the conversation inevitably returns back to the topic of dirt. I have to say.....this thrills me! To be surrounded by dig geeks is a glorious thing! I feel like I'm in a kind of theme park, like Disney Land for historians. Except the costumes are very scrubby and the mascot is "Mishmish" the donkey.
Needless to say (but I'll say it anyways) I'm having a wonderful time! Its only been one week but the dirt is speaking to me already and my companions are top notch. The playground of the pharaohs is entertaining me as the sands imbed themselves deep within my....... (ahem!) soul.