In the Sahara Desert
Thursday, November 09, 2000
I’m on board a SriLankan Air flight enjoying “Sri Lankan smiles.” This is the first time I fly our own National Carrier. A window seat!!!!! That’s a good chance to see the beauty of the Earth and the panoramic view from the air. Are we doing enough to preserve this beauty was the first thought that came to my mind.
Mr. Bernard who is seated next to me seems to be quite reserved and talks a little with his deep voice. (He should have been a rap singer with such a deep voice.) Seems as if flying is nothing humorous for him. After a 4 ½ hours flight we are in Dubai. Have to spend almost 8 hours here for the next flight.
I finished reading an Asterix cartoon book that I bought at Katunayake Airport and Bernard is reading a fat book. I used to read something light on tiresome journeys. Cartoon books are my favorite. I like Tin Tin and Asterix from my childhood.
“Let’s buy something fresh to read,” suggests Bernard. I buy a newspaper, Bernard, another fat book. According to the newspaper there is a tension in Florida over the counting of ballots of the recently held Presidential Election in the USA. Florida! Florida!!.. Great heavens!!!!! This is the state I’m visiting after Cairo!! Election! Recounting!! I’m startled. We had enough of elections in Sri Lanka. Election means violence and killings in my country. Please no more elections.
Lunch at McDonalds at the Dubai International Airport, the United Arab Emirates.
On board an Emirates flight. Heading for Cairo. Flying over the Arabian Desert. This is a terrible sight. There is no greenery. It is sand everywhere. Is this Earth or am I flying over another planet? Still I see some buildings and roads. How do the people live there without seeing trees or flowers? How lucky we, Sri Lankans are. How fertile our land is. We can see beautiful greenery everywhere in Sri Lanka.
That is why Robert Knox – a British national who was captured by Sri Lankan king’s soldiers in 1658 – has written in his book An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon that even a dried piece of wood will grow in to a live tree in Sri Lankan soil. The land in most parts of Sri Lanka is that fertile. It is unfortunate that today we are importing food items from other countries due to bad management of agriculture and trade.
We reach to the Cairo International Airport. Two more new friends. Mr. Lakshmikanth and Sister Jennifer from India. Nice friends with the subcontinent air of warmth. And I like the way Indians and Pakistanis pronounce English.
As usual, have to spend a half an hour to get cleared by the immigration officers. My lengthy name (Tikiri Bandage Nandasiri Wanninayaka) gives me troubles in almost every airport. In Beijing I had this. Now in Cairo. I’m sure in New York, too.
Though I was anticipating to see Egyptian men wearing turbans and women wearing purdahs, (veil-like Muslim head cover) I didn’t see a single person in those traditional clothes in Cairo. Everyone is wearing Western clothes. (I know it is absurd to anticipate people wearing the traditional clothes of a particular country when we first visit it, as those people have a right to wear what they like. But we always fancy to see American Red Indians in their traditional clothes with feathers, etc. in the Wild West and all Asian Indians to wear their traditional clothes like saris and salwar.)
After a 30 minute taxi ride we are in Marriott Hotel, Cairo. A beautiful hotel built in a palace on the Nile riverbank.