“You’ve been to Egypt” said the immigration officer at Inverness airport as he flicked slowly through my passport. I couldn’t work out whether it was a statement or question, a threat or a compliment. I see you’ve been to Egypt. It’s the only reason I’m stopping you for longer then the others. It’s not that you’re black. But you are aren’t you. You are black and you’ve been to Egypt.
I could have said how incredibly perceptive of you sir. Why yes I have been to Egypt to find the parts for my clandestine project to take over the world” He closes and returns my passport in one well practiced movement. I no longer get angry with these indiscretions. They happened before 9/11 and they happened after. The only difference now is that more white people get held up at the airport. Now that’s equality right there. Harrasment for all I say.
I’ve been to Egypt. I’ve been to the part of Egypt just off the red sea Taba Heights. I stayed their five days and spent afternoons diving with The Journalist into coral reef.In those evenings across the sea we could see the borders of Jordan Iraq and Israel the most violated areas in the world. The Egyptian immigration officers stamped the passports right at the front. Wherever I go in the world the Arabic text is seen by all – EGYPT land of promise. It’s a freakin advert is all. And the only promise it left me with is the promise that I will be stopped at more airports.
A car is waiting for me and the driver takes me through Inverness and up into the wilds of the Scottish highlands to a farmhouse called Moniack Mhoor. It’s a writers retreat and I am teaching here for a week. As we wend downwards towards the house a giant
muscular buzzard lifts out of the heather its powerful wings thrash the air. It’s a good
a sign as any.
The car growls onto the gravel. As I get out the passport slips upon the car floor. I don’t notice it. I’m in the very large farmhouse kitchen chatting away with the centre organiser Cynthia and two other women from the centre. The friendly taxi driver enters in a fluster pushing his flcok of grey hair back . “you’ll be needing this in future I think. Found it on the floor by the car door” He passes me the passport adn I thank him a million times. He passes me the passport and raises an eyebrow.
“I see you’ve been to Egypt” he says.