Nile Delta

We visited the excavation site at Tanis in the Nile Delta last week; it was the first time I’d been to the Delta. It looks noticeably different from the Nile Valley and I was enticed by the flatness of it all, and the farms that stretched in every direction. The hours of driving gave me time for inspiration:


Land stretched flat like a sheet

Interposed by half-built mud brick houses

Plots divided into soggy rows of growth

Speckled with muddy farm animals and bare footed men

They have nothing but what earth and roots can give them

Date trees lean in tired soil beside scarecrows made from shirts and bags

Deemed necessary to sacrifice to the gods of the sky

Canals run in deep trenches like blood veins

Bringing dirty water and floating garbage

Machines humming and sputtering to irrigate the fields

Chores last carried out by east African monsoons

Green feathered fronds of banana trees hide dozing donkeys

And little boys tasked with keeping them

Tree trunks are the palettes used to paint the sky in grey

Life is lived for here, for now, for the babies on mothers’ hips

For the ground their grandfathers tilled in the same way the ancients did

Land is the seasonal impetus for birth and growth and death

It is a place where modernity has yet to arrive

-photo by Dean Conger/National Geographic

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