My Brother in-law took me to the airport with a small entourage and my wife. My big orange suitcase, recently purchased from my market (lb of bananas type) trading friend, summoned everyone to attention. “Here I am” it screamed, just in case I couldn’t spot it from a country mile on the luggage belt at my destination. I booked it in along with myself, onto the flight and was ready to depart after saying my goodbyes.
The flight was already delayed, emergency maintenance work meant that connecting to my flight in Milan would require a little urgency from me. Ever the athelete I was always willing to urge the Linford Christie out of me. On boarding the flight to Milan, a mid-sized passenger jet, I noticed a tanned gentleman, chiselled features, shoulder length brown hair and very smartly dressed. He looked familiar and I swung my head over to look at him, my glances slightly reminiscent of a cartoon character. It was only when I sat down that I realised, “bloody hell, that’s Leonardo!” For those of you not in the know, Leonardo is a Brazilian footballer, incredibly talented and painted with medals every player dreams of. He’s more famous in the USA for a stunt en-route to winning the World Cup in 1994. A perfectly timed elbow that smashed into the face of the unfortunate oncoming USA defender, Tab Ramos.
I proceeded to scan through my phone. Guess who I’ve just seen? Leonardo! I wrote, without deciding who to send the message to. For records sake, I sent it to my friend who sold me the suitcase, but in retrospect I don’t know why I sent it at all. I’ve never really been fascinated by personalities, or so I admit to myself. Regardless there’s a small piece in most people that makes them say, “oh.”
Leonardo, great player.
The only other person of note that I saw on the flight was an Arab looking gentleman. What caught my attention wasn’t the fact that he was Arab looking, I mean in fairly recent politics, Brazilians can get mixed up for being Arab looking (I’m referring to catastrophic incident involving the late John Menezes- may he rest in peace). It struck me that he was wearing the biggest Cowboy hat that I had ever seen but what made it more ridiculous was that the aisle wasn’t wide enough to let it fit. It was straight out of a spoof western, exclaiming with a hint of John Wayne in it’s tone, “This aisle isn’t big enough for the both of us!” I didn’t care much about him because the less attention I had as a young, bearded gentleman travelling to Egypt, the better.
The other thing about the term “Arab-looking” is that what the person is really trying to say is terrorist. Except of course in the above event, the sentence doesn’t flow if he’s terrorist looking. You wouldn’t tell someone else that there’s a terrorist looking person, in that event, you would either scream or take flight. How many times have you ever read or heard a witness claim that there was an Arab-looking gentleman looking suspicious? I mean come on it’s not just bizarre, it’s just a slighty ironic more politically correct way of saying, terrorist.
Back to my story. In Milan, I did my impression of Linford. Leonardo had since departed, I think city has a greater appeal for him than Cairo. I rushed on board and the flight was ready to go. Here we go.
With the basic luxuries an little leg room on the most economy of economy tickets I strapped in ready to greet Egypt. Looking down from my window seat made for interesting viewing of Egypt, there was obviously an incredible amount of sand and a severe lack of greenery. The hugely impressive Nile River was, well, exactly that- impressive. Above it all though, the sun shone down and I was eager to arrive and have my feet on the ground. I’m not the biggest fan of flying though I know more people die on the ground than the air, but there’s something uneasy about being 10000ft in the air, we’re just not meant to be there.
We landed at 3pm, bang on schedule. In the end, the flight was jittery and I had got yet another headache courtesy of it, but I didn’t think of it as anything ominous. Instead I was quite the optimist when my feet touched the floor. The only real problem I faced was the slight delay in landing in transit at Milan.
“Alhamdulillah,” I thought to myself, “I’m in a Muslim country.” At that point, my feet touching the floor felt relatively light, everything was proceeding normally. I had heard many things about the human rights abuses that the Egypt has stained on its hands, but never considered me likely to face anything of the sort. To date I’ve been fortunate enough not to have experienced anything like it but this red/burgundy/maroon (whichever you prefer) passport I hold, can miraculously metamorphosize into an get-out-of-jail card when required. I’d like to quote the South African diplomat, when he raised his papers aloft and screamed to Mel Gibson, “Diplomatic Immunity.”
Anyway, that aside here’s some background. I wear random clothes. Probably nothing appealling to many people except myself, I’ve been told it leans slightly towards the effeminate side of things. Though still this side of stiletto heels and a handbag, I’d say random describes it best. Sometimes shalwar kameez, jeans, khakis or whatever, occasionally I also wear thawbs.
Exact recollections of what I was wearing that day is a struggle for my memory, so for the record lets just say track pants and a stunning-red football shirt with a Matchroom emblazoned across my chest. Looking all the bit Chav and not the slightest Egyptian, I worked my way through the queue and purchased my visa stamps ready to collect my luggage. Like clockwork…