I have just met my first pregnant donkey. This may not sound special in an oasis which has thousands of donkeys, used to transport people and everything they grow and use, but I had been told that all donkeys in Siwa were male. The idea is to keep them concentrated on work and not female donkeys and this usually works, though you do sometimes see displays of impressive male donkey anatomy, when one male decides to mount another, and the comical performance as their owners strain to pull them apart, accompanied by bellowing from donkeys and drivers.
Today at Cleopatra Spring I was playing with Luna the kitten, who had been neglected a few days as T is away and I had not been out thanks to a stomach bug. A boy approached and told me in a scatter of English exactly what I should feed her. Branching from discussion of her being a baby cat, he told me proudly that he had two donkeys, one a baby. I answered in my basic Arabic that this was beautiful, thinking he meant he had older and younger male donkeys. He wandered off but returned with just one donkey and its cart, and he and his friend explained that this was the mother and baby donkey.
Now I realized, the baby hasn’t arrived yet. I asked could I touch the baby, being wary of how donkeys can behave and definitely unsure of how mother donkeys behave, and he indicated yes, if I was gentle. I felt under her for the baby, couldn’t feel anything much other than a firm donkey underside, then the other boy indicated I need to feel further down, with a slight smile that probably said “silly foreigner, doesn’t she know where donkey babies sit”. I still could not quite believe it, but a (visual) check for male appendages confirmed she is a she. So you learn something every day, and now I know there is at least one female donkey in Siwa. I guess she will be banished to the outer again once the baby is old enough to do without her, but in this society where it is 95% men you see each day, the donkeys included, it was good to meet another female.
On a darker note, the situation in Libya has worsened. I won’t go into that here as there are enough other sources for you to keep up to date on that. But given the continuing Egyptian revolution, we are all here feeling deeply for those just across the border from Siwa, where it has become so violent, and I plead with the international community to protest, and governments to take action and send medical and other support to the devastated population.
For wonderful images of the Egyptian revolution, those on Facebook should sign up to the page of Middle East Fine Arts, as the photographers providing images have captured so much more than I could ever say in words.