25 May 2016
Yesterday we woke up on one continent and went to sleep on another. We flew over the Mediterranean, relayed a radio call from a search and rescue aircraft (EgyptAir 840 search still ongoing) to Cairo Control (Center), landed and transited customs at an Egyptian military airport, had guns pointed at us – might have just been the emergency vehicle, but it looked ominous as it pulled up to us on the ramp – flew over the pyramids, saw and no doubt was seen by four Egyptian military jets, landed at an airport named for one of the Egyptian wars against Israel over the contested Sinai, were met by Eddie Gould, our man in Cairo, parked our airplane in the ancient hangar of General Badran who moved his own airplanes out into the sun and wind and sand to make room for ours and brewed for me Turkish coffee and delighted in my taste for it to the point of insisting on a photograph together, enjoyed the greatest hospitality, breathed more cigarette smoke in a day than I have breathed in years, changed the oil in the Bonanza in the General’s hangar, was driven into Cairo at night on an apocalyptic nightime highway – blowing sand, great fires burning bright in the desert, military checkpoints intended to detect and deter terrorists from Libya, feral dogs, a total absence of detectable traffic laws – and finally an hour or more of Cairo city traffic that should have been nothing more than the demolition of thousands of automobiles and was instead the continuous and instantaneous avoidance of collision hundreds of times a minute and an unavoidable and ultimately successful demonstration of faith in the skill of our driver, Abdullah, who, like a good pilot knew just when to charge ahead and just when to hold back that split second that separates a moment passing unremarkably from a life-changing catastrophe. As to the traffic? Don’t tell me you have driven in Boston or New York or London or Greece or Italy and you know about city traffic. I’ve been there. I’m sorry. You have no bloody idea. Absolutely no bloody idea.