Little Gems and Big Horses
by Jimmy Dunn
I cannot say that I am really fond of those men and young boys around the Great Pyramids at Giza who sell horse and camel rides. They've been cut back a bit, since Hawass showed up as director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. But overall, there have been too many complaints of little schemes, here and there, to get the last penny they can from tourists. Being from West Texas, and actually having had horses as I grew up, and an animal lover in general, I also don't care for the shabby treatment of these animals.
Hence, it was very refreshing recently when I heard from a lady, well experienced in Egypt, with horses and with what it takes to run a reputable stable, named Maryanne Stroud. She runs, along with Tracy Karbus, a company called "Al Sorat". The name refers to a "straight or righteous path". Interestingly, I was somewhat familiar with the lady from a blog that she operates, but was not aware of her company.
Here, a transplanted Canadian (though fluent in Arabic) has niched out a good life and a good company and created a unique experience for tourists, or as she would prefer, guests. Maryanne Stroud moved to Egypt in the late 80's taking with her a love of horses and clearly, it was this love, rather than the motivation for commercial success, that drives her business. Also, I suppose from the tourist's standpoint, it doesn't hurt for her to have a masters in social psychology. She is joined in the business by Tracy Karbus, a long distance runner with a degree in travel and tourism management from the US. Both women are also trained in first aid.
This is one of the little gems that one runs across in Egypt, often small companies that do not get the play of grand hotels or large tour agencies. These days it is not difficult for us to recognize such companies when we do run across them. They are always the ones that take extreme pride in what they do, and with the treatment that they provide visitors to Egypt. It is always our pleasure, when we find them, to bring these sorts of Egyptian businesses face to face with our readers.
Here, horses are treated with kindness and understanding. One may find no healthier horses in Egypt, which is refreshing, since typically horses are viewed as property good for little else than what money they might earn. Each horse is a known entity, a personal friend, and as Maryanne would put it, an important members of her staff. In fact, the horses themselves appear sometimes to be the real personalities of the business, meeting and greeting guests as only horses are able.
Each of the working horses has been specifically trained for riding in the countryside and the desert of Giza. Some are better in the desert, while others are best suited for the trail, so depending on the use, different horses are selected for different purposes. Horses are available for all skill levels, and are safe, sane, well-trained and personable. Furthermore, the tack (saddles, bridles and other equipment) is first rate. The saddles are either American, made specifically to fit the horses, or fine English.
Normal tourists to Egypt are usually only interested in an hour or so of riding in the desert, which can be accommodated by Al Sorat. However, the company also offers riding holidays of up to ten days, visiting many of the lesser known pyramid fields such as those at Abu Sir and Dahshur, as well as Giza. Furthermore, these outings are very flexible. Also, the female bilingual (Arabic/English) guide not only understands the environment in which she is working but, knows how to interact with it in a friendly fashion and how to explain it.
In fact, the company can also arrange jeep tours for those who just are not interested in horseback riding, and Tracy is known to accommodate those hearty soles who might want to take a long distance run in the desert.
Sometimes, we make what I suppose one might call a small grant, allowing fee membership in the AETBI due to merit. We will never get rich this way, but welcome to the club Maryanne and Tracy. We know you will treat our readers well. Happy trails!
Recoub Al Sorat
near Abu Sir, Giza
Phone: +20 12 211 8386 (Maryanne) - +20 10 368 1684 (Tracy)