Strange Things are Afoot

15 Jan

I don’t know why, but one of the lines I’ve always remembered from the 1980s classic film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure comes when they’re confronted with their own selves from the future (or past, I can’t remember the details of the rather intricate plot) in the parking lot of the local Circle K, and Ted says, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” I sort of feel that way about the past couple nights in Cairo.

Melissa & I went out by ourselves the past two nights and had a couple of fun, and slightly strange, experiences. I think it was the first time we’ve been out alone two nights in a row since Finn was born (and who knows, it may be the last).

On Tuesday night, I finally took Melissa out to celebrate her birthday (only 9 days late). We went to a teppanyaki place on the Nile that we like. Since it was just the two of us, there was still plenty of room around the grill, so we were joined by a group of very loud, and increasingly inebriated, oil people. Being oil people, about half of them were from Texas, including someone from Falfurrias (I asked Melissa, “You mean the place with the Dairy Queen?”) and another guy from Los Fresnos (Melissa’s description: “podunk”). Sitting closest to us was a guy from Houston who has been in Cairo, away from his family, for about a year, and was clearly very lonely. For some reason, he kept talking about Pittsburgh during the 1970s. It was a decidedly one-sided conversation. The next closest guy to us was from Wales. He was very impressed that I had been to Wales, and I was very impressed that he could pronounce the name of one of the towns I visited while I was there: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. The night ended with them singing happy birthday to Melissa in English (though the guy from Houston who was leading the singing had a tough time remembering the tune — a sign that one too many glasses of wine had been consumed), and then in Arabic, and then partially in Welsh. We felt like we had celebrated her birthday at the United Nations.

Then, last night, we went horseback riding at the pyramids. There were about seven of us, including a couple of Egyptians who got us local prices on everything (there’s a definite price markup on white skin around these parts). I was excited about the idea of riding horses at the pyramids at night, until I remembered that never in my life had I been on a horse. Let alone ridden one in the dark of night. In Egypt. Too many variables. It took us a while to get saddled up, which gave me ample opportunity — like waiting in a long line staring up at a rollercoaster — to think about all the things that could go wrong. They put me on the shortest horse (I didn’t catch his name, so I just called him “Stumpy”), which I figured was good because it reduced the amount of space between me and the ground when I was inevitably thrown off.


As we headed out toward the desert, I felt like we were in a Western, riding the streets bringing truth and justice to town. Then I realized we were in Cairo (actually, Giza), and it would take a little more than a few guys and gals on horses to bring order to the frontier. In fact, it was kind of like two Hollywood sets getting mixed up — Clint Eastwood meets Omar Sharif.

Anyhow, we started on a nice leisurely walking pace, which was all fine and dandy. Then the kids who were escorting us starting talking their crazy Arabic horse talk, and we started trotting. That was a new, freaky, painful, potentially emasculating sensation. Then we got out in the desert, and the horses starting galloping at full speed. I pretty much just held on for dear life. After a while, I was actually starting to feel comfortable, and enjoy the ride, when right in front of me, one of the horses’ front legs buckled under him, sending our friend Andrew (who also had never ridden a horse) flying straight over its head, tumbling into the sand (fortunately not rocks). Stumpy did a good job of just barely avoiding a collision. Good Stumpy.

Apparently Stumpy wasn’t bred for long distance running, however, because after a couple minutes, he slowed down to a trot, then a walk, then just plain stopped. Then, he sat down. Then, he started rolling over, with me still on top of him. I was completely paralyzed, and didn’t have the sense to either get off the horse or try to get him to stand up. (Reminds me of my first attempt waterskiing, when I got pulled headfirst and was being dragged underwater for several seconds because I sort of forgot that crucial piece of advice: “If you don’t get up, let go of the rope.”) So Stumpy was about to crush me under his weight, when fortunately one of the Egyptian guys came over and got him to stand up. Crisis averted.

Melissa, on the other hand, was about a mile behind, because her horse refused to move. On the return trip she switched horses and kept making him run faster, laughing the whole way — you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.

We finally got to a little camp out in the desert, with a perfect view of the pyramids. It was absolutely beautiful. The sound and light show was going on, so they were all lit up (fortunately, we were too far away to hear the campy narration or overly dramatic music). Plus, the moon was on the horizon and, thanks to the pollution, it was a really deep orange color. When we rode back to town, we had the pyramids on our left and the moon on our right — just an incredible, surreal scene. (Sorry we don’t have more pictures — our camera battery died.)

I was just getting into the moment, enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime charms of Egypt, when my horse (I was upgraded from Stumpy to Chocolate for the ride back) started running again, and my awe was transformed once again into sheer terror. The boy riding alongside me just laughed and urged Chocolate to go faster, which didn’t do me any favors down below.

Finn may end up being an only child, but at least we got to see the pyramids at night by horseback. Pretty cool stuff.

Speaking of Finn, here’s a couple new pictures (a reward for getting through my post):




4 Responses to “Strange Things are Afoot”

  1. Dre January 16, 2009 at 12:32 am #

    I’m sure that the branch choir will be delighted to have a new soprano. My apologies to you for leaving horseback riding out of your home school curriculum. But then, you were always so frail and weakened…………….

  2. Javi (not the brother) January 17, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Strange things were certainly afoot. But if you guys were all thinking of the same number… that’d be freaky.

  3. Renee Chambers January 18, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    We laughed ourselves silly at your expense. I hope you’ll forgive us. The image of the horse laying down on you, Patrick…I know it wouldn’t be funny if it were me, but yet, I can’t help but grin. Quite the adventure. All you had to say is horses, desert and dark and it was already memorable…funny.

    Guess you won’t do that again soon–or ever.

    Eric is now in Kentucky and coming every other weekend to visit. Hey didn’t we do this years ago–like when we were dating?? What is it about this Chambers guy and distance??

    All the best,
    Renee and Eric Chambers

  4. Shabnam January 21, 2009 at 8:37 am #


    Cora and Omar are around and they say hello. They tried sitting on an elephant, but only for pictures 😉

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