In the land of pharaohs
It was the morning of January 1, 2000. The sight that greeted my eyes
across the window as I awoke just puzzled me.
"Welcome to the 7th millennium" a banner dancing in the morning winds
read. Was there a miscalculation? Then I remembered that I was not in my
own resplendent island that was probably celebrating the dawn of the 2nd
millennium but in the land of the pharaohs across which flowed the
amazing blue river Nile. Specifically we were in its capital, Cairo.
To put it bluntly, Egypt was just laughing her sides out at the rest
of the world whose two feet had been covering themselves with fig leaves
while she was building her giant pyramids and dams and castles.
That encases a very long story which gets displaced by my own short
Just across the hotel was a small well-kept fruit shop that we, the
tourist group from Sri Lanka, used to hang around in the evenings. The
woman who ran it was known to make cute and camouflaged parcels of
fruits for foreigners to carry home and at very subsidised rates so that
everyone was eager to keep contacts with her. One dusk when I sauntered
there I saw a woman at the entrance looking utterly miserable. Though
language barrier prevented our dialogue, she knew some English words.
Egypt forbids beggars but she was doing some sort of begging under
"Hip bone", she would tell me pointing at her hip. "Broken. Hit by
husband". Well, Egypt despite its fabulous past was no extra terrestrial
land but just a part of the world where women are often assaulted on
domestic issues by the stronger species despite international
I put a few coins in her palm and as I came close to her my nose got
burdened with a strange odour. I tried to decipher it and was startled
to find it, some sort of a miasma of death. Surely the woman could not
be dead however desperate she looked. Anyway I forgot all about her as I
had to maximise my travel experience for the exorbitant money paid. Even
the Giza Pyramids I climbed with the help of the tour guide, Yusuf.
He had picked me for he was in the same trade as I was and may be I
was minus the tinsel of many a female in the group. Tour guiding was
just his pastime for he was a lecturer in Egyptology at a university in
Cairo and after a tete-a -tete with him when I revealed my own
educational qualifications the young man was always keen to help me.
That is how when the females of my age just stared at the way the Giza
pyramids rushed to heaven and shook their heads, Yusuf volunteered to
help me if I agreed to climb up. I was just dying to do it.
In my ignorance, I was expecting to see the mummies entombed up
there. "The mummies are all in the Cairo Museum", Yusuf said to the
group and laughingly added that they were the only ancient artefacts not
All the rest that included all the gold and silver utensils that
contained stuff to make the voyage to the unknown Great Beyond
comfortable, the unscrupulous vandals had robbed not caring a two pence
whether the dead, the kings, queens and all the entourage, went hungry
all that way to the other world. They were academics who do not believe
in this after death life. Die and that is the end. There is no after
But not all was smooth sailing. Yusuf had explained about the mummies
in the Cairo Museum which I hope are still intact there despite the
recent Arab spring that infected certain countries in making the hoi
polloi go berserk and ruin the heritage. It is the same famous or
There were 40 mummies or more specifically dried carcasses of humans
in the museum, terrible to look at. Only the teeth and hair gleamed with
a mysterious vibrancy that defied millennia. A guide trailed behind us
and explained the history of each mummy. They all sounded such bizarre
tales and he sounded so shaken, that I suspected that he was fabricating
The jingle of cash in the pockets is any tour guide's desire. More
fantastic staff you relate more the jingle. But I too tend to be
sceptical much to my own discomfort.
He came to mummy No. 30 or 31 0r 33,I forget which, when he announced
that this is the mummy, a female, with a hip bone fracture. What
happened, someone in the group wished to know. "Anything is possible,
Sir, except being run over by a motor car because despite all their
pyramid feats our people, never knew how to make one."
Someone else butts in. "Maybe, the husband assaulted her on the hip
for unfaithfulness. There was laughter. "Quite possible" agrees the tour
guide, "Because this one carries a more miserable leer than the rest".
Miserable leer! I remembered the woman at the entrance of the fruit
stall. Her leer too was extra miserable. We were to leave the following
morning for our homeland. I went to the fruit stall for my parcel and as
I approached the place that terrible smell assailed my nostrils. And
then I saw her, disappearing just across the street her hands on her
broken hips. Concluding that she was in and out of the place. I inquired
from the son of the vendor -woman about her. He was surprised. Never
seen her, he said.
She said, "Our country allows no beggars", The mother now intervenes
as I let out that she had a hip bone fracture. "Look in the museum", she
She giggles. Still I have not solved the riddle of that giggle or
remark or the cause of that stench. But one thing I know, is that the
males who flex their muscles to helpless women come down the line from
4000 BC to present times.
And they may belong to royalty or to the lowly stock. Even the maids
of the queens sometimes went up to pyramid tombs.