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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

An Egyptian Scarecrow


By Priscilla Adum



Click on the photo below to see more detail.

An Egyptian Scarecrow: He's wearing a very modern style galabeya and matching lasa to protect his head from the scorching sun. His galabeya comes complete with a breast pocket where someone has placed what seems to be a small cassette player or radio — to more effectively ward off the likes of Heckle and Jeckle with the noise.

The very first scarecrows in history were made in Egypt. I found this interesting bit on a scarecrow site:

"The first scarecrows in recorded history were made along the Nile River to protect wheat fields from flocks of quail."

In Egypt a scarecrow is called a khayal el hakl which means roughly "silhouette of the farm". The word hakl isn't an Arabic word though. It's a word found in Egyptian hieroglyphics and it means "farm". Sometimes scarecrows are also called khayal el maata, from the old Coptic word maata, meaning "agriculture".

Scarecrows aren't seen as scary characters in Egypt like they are in the West. Quite the contrary, they are always viewed as kind and benevolent helpers on the farm. There's an old Egyptian saying that goes, "Enta 3amel zay khayal el mataa," which translates as, "You're just like a scarecrow," but is used to mean, "You're as useless or as good for nothing as a scarecrow."

In Egypt most scarecrows are boys. I'd love to see one dressed in in a colorful galabeya fellahi wearing a mandil bi ouyia on her head. Or maybe even wearing a coin hip scarf to scare away the crows with the jingly noise... now there's an idea!

Most of the scarecrows that dot the Egyptian countryside aren't as chic and fancy as the one in the picture.




About the Author

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 




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