Egypt 1981

I had my eye on the girl from when I first saw her. There were five foreign tourists, including the bearded stranger. I’d befriended them in the middle of Cairo and persuaded them to come out here to Giza, for horseback is an exciting way to see the pyramids, even on the rather broken-down nags from my cousin’s stable.

The bearded one clearly had never been on a horse before. He was at least willing. There was a small man who was a natural on a horse and just took off. Two lads couldn’t care about anyone else, or even the sites: I pointed out a direction to them and they just rode off, away from where I wanted to go. Because I really liked the look of the girl on horseback I offered to guide her and the bearded one. Personal service. Me and the two of them - and Ahmed, my cousin’s young son -, we could do a tour between the three pyramids and the Sphinx, and then head into the desert for a bit. They agreed.

I had arranged a signal with Ahmed, and when we were in the right place I nodded. He whipped the bearded one’s horse really hard on the rear and it took off fast, with only the horse’s pain and fear in control! Very funny to see the stranger shaken about. I shrugged at the woman, who hadn’t seen the whip, and suggested we went to look at the dunes. When we reached a remote spot down among the dunes she told me she was uncomfortable being alone with me; she told me she wanted to go; she told me to back off and stop trying to touch her. And then there was a loud cry and the bearded stranger appeared on the crest of a dune. While I glared at him, the girl snatched her reins back from me and cantered away to join him. They swore at me, screamed about respect and trust. They said they expected better behaviour from someone in my position. I was, it was true, still wearing my uniform as a tourist policeman, paid to make sure tourists were safe.