About Gail Howard's Egypt Travel Adventures
Gail Howard flies to Cairo, Egypt from Khartoum, Sudan in 1968 and that evening tours the pyramids of Giza under a full moon with Winfred Godowski, who is dressed in full formal wear. Next day, while crawling on hands and knees in the tunnels of the great Pyramid of Cheops Gail runs into Mr. Farouk, the Ceylonese gem merchant she had met in 1966 when she barely escaped being arrested for smuggling gems.
Mr. Farouk informs Gail that no valuable gemstones can be found in Cairo since Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, had socialized everything. With no gems to buy, Gail goes dancing and dining, with wild-haired Bedouins who famously whirl like dervishes.
The crazy-driving-horse-back-riding Godowski and Gail gallop through the desert around Cairo and then on to Sakkara, Memphis, and Alexandria looking for Egyptian antiquities and ancient artifacts. Gail Howard meets Robert Hosni, one of the five leading authorities on ancient coins in Egypt, who introduces her to the works of the famous 19th century ancient coin expert Dattari and to Henri Shiha, the leading authority in Egypt on ancient coins and Egyptian antiquities.
Totally charmed by Gail, Henri Shiha assesses Gail’s genuine but less than fabulous finds and generously gifts her with truly wondrous treasures and fascinating stories from Egyptian history, as well as tips on how to turn a $150 purchase into a $5,000 sale.
On a trip to King Farouk’s palace Gail determines that Farouk could have used the services of a man like Henri Shiha since the famous king had obviously tacky taste. She learns that it was the Egyptian military and not King Farouk who had turned his palace from riches to wretched.
Near the end of her Egyptian trip, Gail Howard discovers the wonders of The House of Sayed Abd El-Latif, a perfumery founded in 1845. In this olfactory heaven, she is surprised to find so many male customers until she learns that ambergris is considered an aphrodisiac.
Gail Howard ends her Egyptian adventure the same way it began, with a wonderful night of dancing and wild galloping horses plus a water pipe of fine hashish, Gail Howard as Cleopatra on a Persian rug in a tent “On the Other Side of the Moon” in the desert gazing upon the ancient pyramids.
Gail Howard's Travel Adventures in Egypt
Written by Gail Howard
During my flight from Khartoum, Sudan to Cairo, I sat next to a dignified elderly man who graciously invited me to a diplomatic dinner party. It was arranged that he would send an associate, Mr. Winfred Godowski, to my hotel to accompany me to the affair.
Mr. Godowski appeared at the appointed time wearing a dinner jacket. I was wearing an elegant silk dress, but he asked if I could change into a long dress since the party was formal. I was a bit embarrassed and apologized for not having formal wear with me.
Not having the proper attire to attend the formal diplomatic function, Godowski instead took me for a drive around the Pyramids of Giza. And what a beautiful introduction to the pyramids it was! Three dark looming triangles in the flat desert were illuminated by a fat full moon. Later, the Sound and Light program cast eerie shades of green and yellow, giving the pyramids another intriguing dimension.
Next day I took a guided tour of the pyramids. I entered the Pyramid of Cheops, half crawling in a crouched position down the long passageways until I arrived at the chamber of the tomb. Many false passageways and false rooms were designed to mislead robbers. The king was buried in the dead center of the pyramid. Two other openings led to false chambers. One of the passageways dropped off into a deep well. Despite all these precautions, the real tomb had been plundered over 2000 years ago.
By coincidence, crawling through the passageways with me was Mr. Farouk, a Ceylon gem merchant whom I had met two years before at his cousin’s wedding in Galle. Rafi Joonos, one of the young men who had shepherded me around Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) had introduced us.
Mr. Farouk was passing through Egypt for a few days as a tourist, on his way to Germany for business. Farouk knew everyone I knew in the gem trade, and was delighted to catch me up on the latest gossip over lunch. In the afternoon, we walked in and out of almost every jewelry store in Cairo, and Farouk was amazed that there were no precious stones in Cairo. Of course, there were no more rich people to buy them since President Gamal Abdel Nasser had confiscated the properties, banks and big businesses of the rich and turned Egypt into a socialist country.
Our conversation continued through dinner. And afterward, we went to a nightclub near the pyramids called Sahara City, where we were entertained by a non-stop show of belly dancing and folklore dances. The belly dancers all had the same routines and did the same four steps over and over, but the folklore dances were spectacular. Wild looking, long-haired Bedouins played flutes and drums while a young boy whirled and twirled in a difficult fast paced dervish dance.
Egypt was one of the most rewarding and fascinating countries I had visited. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo was always exciting to me even though I went there almost every day for two weeks to study the antiquities I hoped to buy. And every day was a feast for the eyes and the soul. I absolutely love ancient Egyptian art.
Over the next few days, I took all the sightseeing tours in and around Cairo, Sakkara and Memphis.
After work each day Winfred Godowski would take me anywhere I wanted to go. Godowski had reddish-blond hair, was 33 years old and unmarried. He had worked in Egypt for six years and spoke Arabic like a native. He was a great help to me in many ways, yet not possessive or demanding in the least. If I told him I had a date, he would say, “O.K., see you tomorrow.”
Godowski drove like a maniac – that is, like an Egyptian. He screamed and shouted in Arabic at drivers or pedestrians, even when it was his fault. Which he never thought it was. Although his disposition was sweet, his dark side emerged behind the wheel.
It was always scary driving with Godowski. Also because Egyptians are crazy suicidal drivers, too. They never give way. When traffic is heavy, they obstruct traffic by waiting in the middle of the intersection to be first to get across. Pedestrians race through traffic between cars with absolute faith in Allah. What amazed me most was that I never saw one accident during the two months I was in Egypt!
Several times, Godowski and I went horseback riding by the pyramids. We would gallop across the desert until sunset, then slowly walk our horses and watch the colors change in the sky until the sun slid below the horizon. The sun sets rapidly in Egypt. Once we timed it. From when the sun touched the horizon until it disappeared, it took two-and-a-half minutes.
We also went horseback riding at night. One cannot gallop the horses after dark, but there are other delights. The pyramids are most exciting at night because shades of darkness surround them with an aura of mystery. Egyptians stroll around the pyramids until all hours of night, talking and laughing, and vendors try to sell you things.
A collector of ancient coins and Egyptian antiquities, Godowski bought only from the shop of Mr. Nassar. He had all his purchases appraised in Switzerland and they were genuine, so he trusted Mr. Nassar.