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The International Writers Magazine: Egypt

Messing Around in Mesr
Brian H. Appleton
Tired of Persia? What about De Nile?

Day 1
We were flying in over the Sahara desert which was ribboned with the intertwined imprints of dried out riverbeds from where the Nile had shifted its course over history as many times as a teenager in love... As we came in for a landing, the airplane "shake rattled and rolled" as that King from the other Memphis used to sing!
I knew we were in for a very hot time even though it was early April because, it was the heat rising up off the desert that caused this shuddering. As I looked down I could see a thin green snake surrounded by the sands, which was where the current river bed made its way North. It was hard to imagine all the humanity of Egypt confined to this thin green strip but it was... It was so hot that later when we walked through the main square of Cairo, the asphalt would stick to the soles of our shoes and stretch like chewing gum when we raised our feet to take the next step.

As we sped in our taxi through the streets towards our hotel on the island of El Zamalek in the middle of the Nile in the middle of Cairo, I kept looking around to see if the flags were at half mast. I was sure a national leader had died because everyone was speaking in whispers in marked contrast to what we were use to in Iran from which I had just come... As I stepped into the elevator in our hotel lobby, a young Bell Hop, as black as the Ace of Spades took my bag from me and said in the perfect King's English:" Is this your first time in Cairo, Sir? I do hope that you have a most pleasant stay." And thus began one of the most memorable vacations in my life....

Day 2
The Great Pyramids At Giza
That night we went disco dancing at the Saddle Rack in the basement of The Mena House Hotel….
It was within the shadows of the three great pyramids I was told but we could see nothing out there in the pitch black of the night.

Our hostess and her daughter were Americans from California, who spent most of their time studying Arabic at Cairo University and playing bridge with Omar Shariff. Next day they introduced us to an Egyptian friend of theirs nick named Zacky who owned a string of beautiful Arabian horses stabled near the pyramids and he told us that his horses had been used in many movie sets.

They put me on a young stallion and although we started out riding as a group, my horse was so spirited, I just knew he wanted to run….finally I couldn’t resist his will any longer and I took off at a fast gallop across the desert sand…I ran a big circle around the pyramids and whooped " Yahooo, Ridum CowBoy, Yeeehaw!" like a complete fool but I just couldn’t contain my joy and the privilege of riding on such a beautiful horse who loved to gallop…besides like I said it was so incredibly hot out like 145 degrees F in the shade that no one else, not a tourist, not a local Egyptian was out and about in the noon day sun…"just mad dogs and Englishmen" and us, so I don’t think anyone really heard me…not that I embarrass easy…. Finally coming to my senses long enough to figure out which direction I was supposed to be headed in, I spun around and raced up the hill to the top where our hostess and her daughter, who had driven up around the back way to meet us by car were waiting for us at a restaurant up there… They inquired after my colleagues, whom I had completely forgotten about and I looked back down the hill after them to spy a row of 2 dots slowly heading up our way. After a few minutes after we had had time for a cold drink, the dots were large enough to discern as horses but they were riderless…. I told our hostess: "I’ll take care of this!" and I jumped back on my horse racing around gathering up the reins of the other horses. I headed back down the hill with two horses in tow and we retraced our foot steps back towards the pyramids. I found the two girls lying on their bellies passed out from the heat. One by one, I hoisted them over the saddles of their horses and tied their hands and feet together with some rope I had found in a saddle bag, so that they wouldn’t fall off and then I headed back up the hill to the restaurant. It looked for all the world like a cowboy movie, with my prisoners slung over their horses that way and me bringing them in for bounty.

The owner of the restaurant helped me carry the two girls inside where we laid them out on top of those long blocks of ice they use commercially. We hoped that the cold ice would cool them down enough to come back around but when they did come around with a sudden start both sitting up at once it was not from the ice but rather from hearing me get out my camera and wind the film with the idea of taking their picture passed out and without make-up…..

That was the day at the Great Pyramids and that night we went to see:" The Sound and Light" there which was wonderful and moody and enchanting like a dream. All the lights went out at the start of the show and for a few minutes we sat in silence, then suddenly the head of the Great Sphinx was illuminated by a floodlight and a strident melody blared out from a harp which you normally don’t think of as loud. Anyway it was very effective and theatrical and it made me jump with a start.

Then a love poem from a 19 year old ancient Egyptian girl found in the City of the Dead was read and she could have been the girl next door only 4000 years ago, so beautiful and filled with longing was her poem that I was envious of whoever the object of her affection had been, wishing it were me….

I’m glad that I saw the old sound and lights before Phillips Lighting came and redid everything making it into a laser light show more impressed with showing off modern technology with the ancient pyramids merely acting as a back drop for it….

© Brian Appleton September 2007

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