I was a kilometre from Anwar Saddat when he was gunned down nearly 30 years ago in Cairo, and Hosni Mubarak began his period as military dictator of Egypt. The country made a mark on me physically (my scalp still has the stitch marks where it was split open by a bus that nearly killed me, and my liver nearly packed in from a particularly rampant inflammation of Hepititus A on my return which required a year long recuperation), and mentally (it was the moment of realisation of my ability to be free and determine my direction and destiny, as well as appreciate that others were not so fortunate).
So, these days have been absorbing in watching the place forisfamilliate (I'm using the word loosely and ironically, given Mubarak's father of the nation posturing); I said then that I would not return until some significant change had occurred, and that that wouldn't be for thirty years...looks like I wasn't far out. I do so hope that this latest stand for freedom produces the reality; I might just fit in my return visit before the year is out.
This is me in September 1981 on the steps down to Tutankamon's Tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, set against other photos I took at the time of the statue which some say inspired Shelley's famous poem 'Ozymandias'. After all these years I can still recite it perfectly, well almost. And perhaps the words ring especially true today.
Here it is in full:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.