It was mid afternoon on 4 November I was free in Cairo. I was able to amend my original return ticket from India and would be able to catch a plane from Cairo to New York with a plane change at London, on the 6th. I caught a taxi to Giza and checked into a ! Swiss Chalet ! or cheesy imitation thereof, a sort of motel configuration, not too expensive. I laid down and was dead-out until I heard the muezzin calling people to prayer at daybreak, or about 12 hours. It was that kind of sleep where you offload immeasurable amounts of stress. But surrealism apparently doesn’t simply vanish but follows some trips like a con-trail. Or maybe I was just tripping, but here is what I experienced: This ‘chalet’ had a dining room and I was by now thoroughly sick of curried vegetables, the mainstay on my diet for the past six weeks. I wanted red meat. English boiled beef, fine no argument with that. Feta cheese was a treat. But here is what made the journey cartoon just keep going on; the ‘chalet’ dining room had an American ‘Old West’ theme … with waiters dressed in paper-felt cowboy hats with plastic sheriff star pinned to vest and toy revolvers holstered on their hips! This was the very outfit American parents bought for their 10 year old boys and here we were in Giza, Egypt!! I understood I wasn’t hallucinating but still .. face in my palm.

Cowboy

May I take your order?

This was the evening of 5 November. Earlier in the day, I’d been visiting the home of the taxi driver who’d fetched me from the airport and brought me to Giza, his home village. We’d had lunch with his family and he was wanting to know when I’d like to see the pyramids .. Haji Hassan El-Koly was stunned to hear a westerner state, and his daughter nearly fell on the floor laughing at his amazement .. when I’d gestured to the window and said “I see them, they’re there.” It was almost inconceivable to him I was more interested in discovering who the Egyptians of the present were, than going to some presentation or touring any archaeology site. We spent part of the afternoon discussing contemporary Egypt and regional geopolitics, as well he became curious and was asking questions about myself. El-Koly stated he would never forget me on account of my name: “Where the Sun goes down.” He probably never did forget me; I had paid him an honest fare for my trip to & around Giza and return to the Cairo airport .. but then tipped him one inferior quality counterfeit USA $100 bill, courtesy of a Guardian Angel.

Cairo_to_London

Arrival in London (L) from Egypt (R)

At Heathrow in London, I had to clear customs to walk across a street into another concourse, to catch my plane to New York. Two British counter-narcotics officers were waiting for me as I entered the second concourse, they wanted a look inside my carry on day-pack. I had a collection of perfume oils I was returning with, to give to a woman friend. Eight brown glass vials about 3 inches tall and one inch wide, probably seen in some x-ray scanner my pack had been through. Asking me questions about the movie ‘The French Connection” as they pulled out the flat box containing the vials, I merely replied ‘Not everyone’s life fits a movie script.” They sorted soon enough it was oil of musk & other scents and one of them asked “What are you West, some kind of a rat?” And then let me go. I ate a ‘drop into dead sleep over the Atlantic’ pill I HAD smuggled, just for that purpose, and woke up at JFK in New York.

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My Madcap Adventure (all episodes)