[24] The Donkey’s Revenge – Egyptian safari

A donkey snorting under the heavy load on my Egyptian safari.
A donkey snorting under the heavy load on my Egyptian safari.

G.K. Chesterton describes the donkey thus:

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devils walking parody
On all four footed things.”

We misuse his name to despise our less popular public figures.
Least fortunate are those of his kind disgracefully ill treated in places beyond the protection of the RSPCA.
Carrying children along the beach must be his dream of heaven, as he is petted, pampered and fed sweets.
In a beautiful little church, at Stoke Pero, high upon Exmoor, I read the tale of one, Zebedee, who carried all its building materials up those steep hills.
My admiration of the architecture, and offering dropped into the box seemed but a small appreciation of his labours.

Easter, mid-1960’s found me working in Cairo on my Egyptian safari, in a traffic jam, fortunately not driving.

Imagine rush hour at its worst in London, plus car fumes as bad as our worst diesel lorries, theirs much worse.
MOT? No such thing.
Taxi drivers pedalled accelerator, horn and brakes like a demented pop group.
My Belgian colleague claimed the trams came from Brussels before WWI.
High rise buildings enclosed the scene, at a temperature too hot for flies.
Hotel carpets were laid in the road – the rolling traffic cleaned them!
Donkey carts completed the cast: flat drays on two solid pram sized wheels salvaged in hundreds from tanks in the desert battles of WW2.

The donkey pulling the cart squats down on my Egyptian safari.
The donkey pulling the cart squats down on my Egyptian safari.

Meanwhile, at the cross roads, overhead traffic lights were ignored while a windmilling policeman waved each lane across in turn.
Even before he signalled, fumes belched and engines roared as the next lane sensed its cue.
Two huge characters perched on a dray headed our queue, drawn by a very small off-white donkey.
He waited for the whistle, it stepped slowly forward, and the horns they blazed away.
The whistle screamed and the whip cracked.
‘Enough’ thinks the donkey, as he spreads out four legs, and sags forward into a flopdown strike.
The policeman pointed and the whip whirled, but just one ear twitched in derision.

So the Oliver Hardy twins had to carry first the donkey, then the cart off stage to the sound of McNamara’s Band, off key.
Great was the loss of face in the Arab world – more effective chastisement than any fine for cruelty.
I rejoiced, as justice was seen to be done.
HE had put down the mighty from their seat.
G.K. Chesterton concludes:

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.”

Go on, this time look it up for yourself- it’s seasonal (written leading up to Easter): Matthew 21, verses 2 to 9.
No Bible? I am sure you could borrow one or go on-line at biblestudytools.com (opens in a new window)

Joe Lucas March 2007

See Joe’s next African safari [25] A good read on my Tanganyikan safari
Joe’s first article: [1] African 1950’s Safari introduction

By Joe Lucas