of the happiest periods of my life began in May 1934, when I was
transferred to the Frontier Corps. In August of that year, forty days after
divorcing my first wife, I married `Ayshah Labiyb. Like my
father's second wife, my mother, `Ayshah was an orphaned daughter
of a lieutenant colonel of infantry. `Ayshah lived with her widowed
mother, a brother, and three sisters in a large house in Hilmiyat
al-Zaytuwn, the same suburb of Cairo in which we were to settle
after the Palestinian War.
hope you understand our financial situation," she said, after I had obtained
her brother's permission to take her as my wife. "We used to have a
large income but now all we have is debts."
her jokingly for cutting off my line of retreat.
I don't marry you now," I said, "it will look as if I were interested
only in your money."
her whole family was living on an income of £ 80 (then about
$390) a month. Hasan Kashif Nuwr al-Diyn, her
maternal grandfather, had owned 512 acres of farmland near Baniy
Mazar in Lower Egypt. Before his death he had converted
his estate into a private trust fund to be administered according to Islamic
law by the Ministry of Waqfs. The executors appointed by the ministry had
so mismanaged the estate that his heirs owed £26,000 (then
about $125,000), which was almost half as much as the land was worth.
After the Revolution the antiquated system of administering private waqfs,
or trust funds, was abolished. Nuwr al-Diyn's estate was liquidated,
and, after the payment of debts and taxes, `Ayshah inherited seventy
acres, the income from which, £1400 (now worth about $4000),
amounts to almost half my salary as the President of Egypt. But
I have never used any of my wife's income, even on clothing for our sons,
for I have always felt that the bulk of such money rightfully belongs to
the first year of our marriage we lived at al-`Ariysh, on the Mediterranean
coast of Sinai, but I was seldom at home for very long. Most of
my time was spent in the desert chasing smugglers. If my father's duty
as a district commissioner in Sudan was comparable to that of a
Texas ranger, my own duty as a captain in the Frontier Corps was comparable
to that of an internal revenue agent before the repeal of prohibition in
the United States. The drug traffic is a serious problem in every country,
but it is far more serious in the Muslim East than it is in the Christian
West, where the drinking of alcohol is a commoner vice than the smoking
of hashiysh, or marihuana, the cheapest
and therefore the commonest of the drugs to which non-drinking Muslims
are addicted. Since the Revolution we have increased the penalty for illegal
possession of drugs to life imprisonment, but even today it is no easy
matter to obtain a conviction, for the law still provides, as it must,
that the accused be caught with the drugs in his actual possession.
of my first successes as a captain in the Frontier Corps was the capture
of Sallam Qadir Abuw Fadil, one of the
most dangerous of the smugglers then operating in the Eastern Desert.
Abuw Fadil, was able to unload his camels
and throw his bales of
hashiysh into the sea
before I caught him. It was not until several years later that he was finally
caught with the evidence in his possession and sentenced to a long term
another occasion I led a chase that resulted in the capture of five smugglers
and the seizure of 9140 bundles of Hashiysh.
(I have never forgotten the number because the first three figures corresponded
with the last three figures of the year in which the First World War began.)
With the help of an elderly tracker named Dumah `Awad, I
overtook the five smugglers as they were leading four camels laden with
up the Wadiy al-Gidyy toward Misbah
Pass. They retreated up a boulder-strewn hill and opened fire on us before
we could close in on them. Our only alternative was to take cover and return
their fire until the issue was resolved. I exposed my cap and ordered Dumah
to expose his turban in the hope of giving the impression that we were
four instead of two. But the smugglers were undeceived and presently they
began to advance down the hill, firing five shots at us for every shot
that we could fire at them.
as I was armed only with a revolver, and Dumah was showing signs
of fright, I seized his rifle to prevent him from escaping. Fortunately
I killed one of our five opponents with a lucky shot, whereupon Dumah
recovered his courage and begged me to return his rifle, which I did.
He wounded one of the four remaining smugglers just as the sun was setting.
The others, instead of trying to hold out until darkness fell, decided
to surrender just as another patrol approached us from the opposite direction.
month or two later Dumah and I set out after another band of smugglers.
This time the chase lasted for fourteen days. The smugglers kept zigzagging
back and forth from one side of a sandy ridge to the other in the hope
that the wind would obliterate their tracks. Within a few days we and our
camels were approaching exhaustion. I had to fight with Dumah to
prevent him from drinking our last half bottle of water. We finally found
a well, but the water it contained was so brackish that, after drinking
it, we both came down with diarrhea. We might have died if we had not been
found by a wandering goatherd, who sold us a Skinful of milk and directed
us to a more potable well. After filling our bottles we continued the chase,
but before long the weaker of our two camels fell and refused to rise again.
We left him behind and continued on foot, leading his stronger companion.
On the ninth day we found the smugglers retreating before another patrol.
Together we pursued them back and forth across the dunes and mountains
until, on the fourteenth day, they chose to surrender rather than die of
exhaustion. We ourselves had eaten nothing for two days except the gum
from occasional thorn trees.
lunch in Suez a few days later my good friend Shawqiy
`Abd al-Rahman, who is now a major general, predicted
that I would be decorated for bravery. I was feeling rather sorry for myself
and predicted that I wouldn't. He suggested that we make it a bet, and
so we agreed that whoever lost would have to buy the other a full-course
meal at his first opportunity.
next patrol was in the vicinity of St. Catherine's Monastery (1),
which lies at the foot of
Gabal Muwsa or the Mount of
Moses, otherwise known as Mount Sinai. It was here, according
to the Book of Exodus, that Moses saw the Burning Bush.
I was escorted through the monastery by an Orthodox priest, an Arabic-speaking
Greek, who called my attention to an icon of the Virgin Mary. A
small silver hand had been affixed to the icon immediately above the lamp
that was burning in front of it. The hand, said the priest, was in memory
of a miraculous occurrence. The priest whose duty it was to fill the lamp
with oil each morning had once overslept. just as the lamp was going out
he was awakened by an invisible hand that slapped his face. He was so ashamed
of himself that he affixed the miniature hand to the icon in the hope of
atoning for his sloth.
Virgin Mary (pbuh) is revered by Muslims as well as Christians.
Though we do not regard her as the mother of God, or even as the mother
of the son of God, we do regard her as the mother of the Prophet Jesus
(pbuh), , who was as close to
God in his own way as the Prophet
Muhammad (SA`ws) was in his. I was
therefore glad to join the priest in praying before her image.
my return to Suez a few days later I learned from `Abd al-Rahman
that I had indeed been decorated as he had bet me that I would be. I had
been decorated, moreover, on October 21, the very day that I had
prayed before the
Virgin at St. Catherine's Monastery. I bought
`Abd al-Rahman the most sumptuous meal that either of us
had eaten in weeks.
patrolling the desert as much as anything I have ever done. It was a hard
and dangerous life, but it was full of compensations. It gave me a sense
of physical and spiritual well-being such as I had never experienced before
and have seldom experienced since.
on my patrols, I would be called upon to play the role of healer. The beduin
of the desert, Eke primitive people everywhere, suffer from numerous chronic
ailments that can be easily cured but seldom are because of their poverty
and ignorance and their nomadic way of life. In my pack I carried a first-aid
kit containing a supply of aspirin, eye lotion, unguents, astringents,
and laxatives, as well as iodine, medicinal alcohol, and bandages. Whenever
I visited a beduin camp I was usually called upon to treat one or more
persons for sore eyes, stomach-ache, or infected wounds.
I was asked to treat a child who was suffering from insomnia. I couldn't
very well refuse, and so, praying to God for His forgiveness, I gave the
child an aspirin tablet, passed my hand before its eyes in the manner of
a hypnotist, and murmured some meaningless incantations. The next time
I encountered the same band of beduin I was greeted with cheers. The child,
thanks (it was supposed) to my ministrations, was now sleeping normally.
undeserved reputation as a healer spread to such an extent that hardly
a day passed from then on without my being called upon to cure somebody
of his ills. I was even asked to treat a woman with a swollen belly, which
was a mark of great confidence, for desert Arabs are reluctant to let even
genuine physicians examine their womenfolk for fear of their being dishonored.
I decided, after examining her, that the woman was suffering from a tumor
of some sort and that an operation would be necessary. I sent her to the
hospital in Suez, where one of the surgeons confirmed my amateur
diagnosis and performed a successful operation. The end result of such
attentions was that the beduin kept me informed of the movements of the
smugglers I was seeking to arrest.
greatest success as a healer resulted from the treatment I prescribed for
a young husband who complained of impotence. I gave him half a dozen eggs,
two cans of bully beef, and two of my four remaining laxative pills. I
told him to take the pills as soon as he had consumed the rest of my prescription.
I warned him that the pills would make his belly ache, but I also hinted
that they would restore his powers if he only stopped worrying about his
supposed loss of virility.
years later, when I was the deputy governor of Sinai, I returned
to the same area to preside over a peace conference between two tribes
that had been engaged in a long dispute over the use of certain grazing
lands. One of the lesser Shaykhs who was present suddenly prostrated himself
before me. He then presented one of his sons-the result, he said, of the
magic pills that I had given him eleven years before.
(To be continued)
St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai . Located at the foot of Mount Moses
(pbuh), St. Catherine's Monastery, was constructed by order of the Emperor
Justinian between 527 and 565 AD. It is built around Moses' Burning Bush,
which has a chapel built atop it.
Catherine who was tortured and beheaded for her Christian beliefs, lends
her name to Sinai's center of religious tourism. A Sinai monk once had
a vision of her body at the top of a nearby mountain named Mount Catherine
which is the highest summit in Sinai, where her remains were discovered.
The Monastery was originally ordered built by Empress Helen, the mother
of Constantine the Great, but was actually built by Emperor Justinian to
house the bones of St. Catherine of Alexandria. St. Catherine, whose body
was reportedly carried away by angels, was discovered 500 years later at
the top of the peek that now bears her name. Her relics are stored in a
marble reliquary in the Basilica of the Transfiguration.