Saturday, June 29, 2013

The blue moon: a place for those in need (part I)

An animal shelter in the middle of the desert, built with much blood, sweat and tears

Hurghada has more to offer than only sun, sea and cheap alcohol and the related sex tourism. Now and there, thanks to personal efforts, private organisations and opportunities arise that do not focus on short term profit. However, they seek to improve unsupportable situations for a better future. The “Bluemoon” is one of those and I’m going to talk about it in this blog.

“Bluemoon“ is not the name of a cosy country inn, but the name for an animal shelter amidst the desert. At the middle ring road, Monica is waiting for me, sitting in her bright red Volkswagen Beetle. We are jolting over a dirt road for another 500 m into the desert. Getting off the car, we are actually standing in the heart of the animal shelter. A white puppy is greeting us waving its tail, cats are sniffing at me curiously and are stroking around my legs while I’m looking around. There’s a huge table surrounded by a dozen of chairs, behind it there are two sofas, covered with hand woven rugs, beside it there are a kitchen table, a bench, a water pipe. Further to the right, I see a big stone table on brick-built pedestals. Cats and dogs are everywhere. Walls and pillars are made of building rubble and broken stones from the desert, palm leaves and straw provide shade. The floor: sand. Of course! All made from nature. Bays in the pillars give space to art work. Immediately, I feel fine. The half open construction leaves the view open towards the corrals.

The corrals – an empire for each animal
“Let’s first have a tour of the place”, Monica suggests and shows me the young plants of her mini nursery. Here, succulents are grown and sold at the markets. “What are succulents?” I ask. These are plants that retain water“ is her answer, which I consider as logical as I feel ignorant. Right beside, birds twitter in an aviary. I peek through the narrow mesh and discover light blue and white canary birds perching on bamboo sticks and rocking. For an instant, I remember my childhood… my grandpa.. yellow canary birds… 

Yet Monica’s voice brings me back to the here and now. She marches out into the blazing nine o’clock sun. Stroking a donkey she recounts that even the government brings her abused donkeys that they have confiscated from burglars. Just the government! Ironically, she and her husband Salah were accused by exactly this government of stealing water from the pipeline and they have been sentenced to one year in prison. 

While strolling towards the cats’ corrals, I hear however, that the previous government had authorized them to draw water directly from the pipeline and conveyed the land according to a lease/sell contract. The tugging has been going on for more than one year and because she lacks the money to buy water from the tanker, the plants and bushes are drying out. Hence, she has to buy green fodder which normally she could crop herself. It’s a vicious circle from which to escape quickly is not easy. In the near future, she wants to desalinate groundwater by herself. A second hand desalination plant is ready and will be bought as soon as enough money is found.

Lazily, the cats are lying around in the shade, dozily peeking from their lair. 68 cats are waiting for a home. They are street cats who were injured and are getting nursed back to health. Some of them are waiting to emigrate. All are castrated, others are not allowed. A tile is attached to each corral, giving its number in Latin and Arabic. Small cards hold the names and other information about the animals.

Monica takes me into a half open room. “This is our kitchen; we cook the fodder for our animals.” Some restaurants hand their kitchen waste and other food over to the animal shelter, but this is by far not enough to feed all mouths.

Why the name „Bluemoon“?
Monica: “Our favourite colour is blue. Besides, the moon is much more appreciated in the Arab world than the sun. Blue implies to be happy and to idle! We had the Bluemoon Balloon Safari and now the Bluemoon Gallery and the Animalcentre.“

At the dog’s corrals we meet two helpers. They are employed and draw wages. They clean the corrals, feed the animals and take care of them. A German veterinary trainee whereas has accommodation only. She takes care of the mistreated and hurt animal’s scars. At every turn dogs are barking, but they are behind bars and I feel reassured. As soon as Monica approaches a grid, the dogs come running and want to be caressed. 45 dogs are being accommodated. Some are also pensionaries because their mistress or master of a dog stay abroad or because travel documents aren’t ready yet. Lack of understanding is written in her face while Monica is talking about her many experiences. People get themselves a dog and suddenly, they move elsewhere and then, they just want to discard the dog. “What do they imagine? Can a dog just be discarded like a piece of furniture that is not used anymore?”

A puppy keeps us company during our walk in the torrid sun just like a shepherd dog. While I’m taking pictures and notes and listen to Monica’s narratives, she snuggles an all skin and bone mare with deep scars. After a hard labour life she may spend her retirement here in this friendly place and may know some care and tenderness; yet, nobody can help her anymore, her days are numbered. Her filly hasn’t got an idea of this life yet and I wish it never ever will.

There are turkeys in another corral „my husband wanted them; I cannot keep everything for myself“. At the cattycorner, a pair of dromedaries live, and just beside, some more horses. Further in the back there are goats; fancy structures are made up for them; and there are sheep, too.

Builders are pushing pushcarts filled with rubble over the sand. The corrals are by far not finished at all, only a small part of the construction plan has been realised so far. Incessantly, problems arise. “In this country, you always have a problem with anything” and even before Monica can go far afield, a small boy with fuzzy black hair comes running excitedly.

An emergency
Yasser is shouting that a dog has been bitten and hurt. At least, I understand that it’s about a small dog that was chased by a bigger dog and that he was bitten heavily at the side of his body and was bleeding a lot.

The chubby lady speeds up while saying to Yasser that her husband finally should close the gap in the wall with a door. The veterinary should get ready in order to bring the dog to the clinics. Yasser is running away. The small dog considers himself as strong and likes to mess with the bigger ones – just now this went wrong! Should I join going to the clinics? I decide to stay; there’s not much space in the VW Beetle and the excitement is huge.

While Monica is hurtling away, the first volunteers show up. Wednesday is volunteers’ day. Those who want, can and dare may provide their energy and abilities for a couple of hours, starting at 10 o’clock in the morning. They are eight women, greeting each other and sitting down around the table. Of course, it’s women when it’s about volunteers’ work, I think, and ask myself, where the other 50% of the human kind is hiding. Yasser cooks tee and after having exchanged the latest news and stroked the favourite animal, some women go over to the plastic bottles. During the next few hours, they will be busy filling sand into the plastic bottles. The bottles will be used as building material for a wall. Just beside the entrance, there is already a mountain of carefully piled plastic bottles of three meters in length and two meters in height. The other women are going to have a walk with the animals or assist the animal attendants.

Monica’s brother in law takes me in a blue Volkswagen Beetle to the clinic where veterinary Dr. Girgis has just stitched up dog Dali’s wounds. Without electricity, since the power cut lasts since early morning. The dog is still anaesthesized when I arrive; his injuries are not serious. Whether he suffers from inner injuries is not yet known.

4 employees taking care about plants and animals
1 veterinary trainee
2 children on holiday, taking care about the chicken and giving a hand where needed
sometimes housewives who wish to learn and help

Admission of animals
The animal centre provides pensionaries’ places for castrated dogs and cats. Apart from that, injured, old and ill animals are given shelter if they are unable to survive alone; they are medicated, tended and nursed back to their health and, if possible, placed with animal-loving people.

53‘000 m2; only a small percentage has been covered with corrals and plants so far;
water is brought in tanks; a well and a desalination plant are planned;
a small generator produces electricity.

Additional offers
Accessories like leashes, pillows, dog/cat baskets etc. are sold in a small shop;
agility trainings are taking place from September to May;


3 x per year, the Bluemoon Animalcentre turns into a market place: at Christmas, at Easter and in September’s Bluemoon Market; home-made products are sold; no stall fees but 10% of the receipts go to the animal shelter.

The Bluemoon Animalcentre is a NGO and 100% privately funded. Monica and her husband put all their private property into the animal centre.
Susy Utzinger Stiftung
and Franz Planck  provide professional support, dressing and medicine up to a limited extent. On a limited scale, revenues are generated by the pensionaries, placements, markets, sales of the accessories as well as money and material donations. One third of the clinic’s income contributes to the animal centre.

Visiting Day
Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9.30 am – 12.00 am

Volunteers’ Day
Wednesday, 10.00 am – 13.00 am


  1. Hello,

    I am planning on going to Egypt to work for 2 weeks at Blue Moon, but I have some hesitation given everything that has been going on in Egypt. I was wondering if at any time you felt unsafe in Egypt or at Blue Moon?


    1. Hi Dana, so you'll work there as a volunteer? That's great. Don't worry, Hurghada is fine. I never felt unsafe there. Just pay attention to what residents tell you (don't trust anybody, don't give away money, don't take any taxi driver, lock up your stuff - things you do everywhere in the world). Wish you a great time there.


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