A brightly day on past mid-January I and a friendly group visited the paddy fields of the Albufera Valencian Natural Resources.
Peasants let water flood the future rice-fields, from November until the end of January. It reminds me the natural flooding of the Nile that Herodotus and other classical authors describe and I had the chance to contemplate during my visits to Egypt as a tourist guide.
Both phenomena represent an opportunity for fertilization of the land by the mud and silt. A friend of mine, peasant and owner of an engine-well in the area, Vicent, describe the agrarian labors during the annual cycle:
"The perellonà means the furrows separating a flooded closed-area (tancat)." The tancat is an area of farmland to a level below the lagoon. On November 1 the gates of the "golas" (gates) connecting the lagoon with the sea become closed. Then, this fields are flooded and receive the mantle of humus and minerals rich soil that allow a new year of fertility, without exhausting the land by intensive agricultural efforts. Additionally, the flood marks the so-called Vedats or hunting areas out, in which hunters chase the migrants birds of the Lake, such as mallards and a variety of ducks. After the withdrawal of the water in the month of February, the fields are drying and peasants begin removing the mud with a little amount of water (fanguejar) or with the plough and work the land during the months of March and April with hooks or tractors.
Then they return to flood the fields and placed the sacks of rice to soak on the banks of the canals or ditches so rice pre-germine in 24 hours. The next last step is sowing "mixed rice". And the last step is Collecting the rice during the month of September with great festivals and bull-running in many of the towns that have marjal or fields of rice in their region."
As I guide, I have oft noticed the same marvelous process in Egypt. With this difference: the flooding of the fields does not occur in January, but in July, and second, in the Land of Pharaohs it is not an artificial phenomenon according to human mind at work. The Nile is the Lord, whose changing phases affect nature and becomes the creator of a new civilization. It is said that the Greek historian Herodotus (Book II, History) tells first about this fabulous River that flooded the lowlands for one hundred days after the summer solstice. Although to Herodotus attributed, it really was Hecataeus of Miletus who called Egypt "gift of the Nile". The annual flooding of the Nile in July and August always intrigued the Greek wise-men who gave fabulous causes. The truth we know at present is that the increase of Nile volume of flow is produced by the African monsoon that in springtime discharge their waters in the Highlands of Ethiopia. This Variations create an overflowing which results in generous and fecund silt covers on its banks. This determines to get generous crops and free time for creating a new civilization, dependent of the sun which is the soul of it, and water, the nutrient matrix of this life. Without much personal effort of their farmers, as narrates another ancient historian, Diodorus of Sicily, "people, freed from work during the time of the overflow, are dedicated partly to festivals and pleasure”, partly to arts and crafts.
After our trip trough Albufera natural resource park, as I meditated on those things, we
ride our bikes to the small and only slope of the land ( Muntanyeta dels Sants) to admire the spectacular flooded landscape of Valencia. We visited the adjoining Baldoví Ullal (source), one of the most spectacular springs that provide still water irrigation to the fields of a crystal clear water. We returned to Sueca admiring the spectacular sun-setting over the flooded waters, waiting for the Valencian rice planting.