Saturday, 26 April 2014


I was looking for a cafe in Garden City, a quiet, residential part of town, not so far from Tahrir Square. I was lost (as is usually the case) and people kept giving me conflicting directions (as is usually the case). I found myself turning into a badly lit road which ran past what seemed like a deserted old building surrounded by a high wall. I was alone in the street apart from a soldier in full combat uniform guarding the gate. He was standing directly in my path and staring at me in an unpleasant way. As I walked towards him, he began to click the safety catch of his gun.

I didnt know what to do and thought if I turn round, I'll have my back to him which didn't feel like a good idea, if I say hello he might shoot me but at least he'll know I'm friendly, if I say nothing he could still shoot me, if I continue walking I'll also have my back to him. To be honest, I just wanted to drop to the floor and curl into a ball. I reminded myself that I had looked down a few  barrels of  guns  in my journaistic career, and  in Kabul had heard bullets whistle past my ear as the Taliban fought their way into the city. In these situations I tend to want to piss in my pants. 

The words of my father, an ex-soldier, came to mind, 'There is nothing more dangerous than a bored, badly trained soldier.'  I continued walking, hoping Egyptian soldiers were well trained and that this guy was working out a particularly challenging Suduko in his head. I avoided eye contact. He followed me a little way up the street, clicking the safety catch as he went. 

You never know what's around the corner.

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