Christmas arrived in Egypt on Christmas Eve loaded with gifts and promises of fun for everyone. Having finished his Christmas Eve tour, he took the bold decision to stay on until 7 January to join in Coptic Christmas celebrations.
Predictably, Santa’s stay in Egypt was no easy one; he was just a tad too unconventional to fit in with government regulations. To begin with, his reindeer were quarantined at the airport, and the authorities refused to grant him a licence to drive his sleigh in the streets of Cairo for more than three days.
On the advice of friends, Santa, who had by then steeled himself for a non trouble-free stay, decided to rent a tuk-tuk to cruise the city’s streets. His red outfit worked to stun the traffic police; he thus escaped many a predicament that could have landed him God knows where.
Santa decided to stick to the upscale district of Mohandisseen, where he thought he would be safe enough since most people would recognise his figure. But he hadn’t counted on its being Zamalek Club country. Near Mit-Oqba, home to the club, his red outfit branded him a fan of Zamalek’s deadly rival Ahli—whose colour is the same flaming red. A crowd gathered, and Santa was barely saved from being beaten to death by someone who rushed to the rescue, volunteering the thought that Santa was better alive with gifts to give away than dead for the sake of Ahli.
Merriment in their eyes
Deciding he had made an unwise decision to go to Mohandisseen, Santa willingly listened to advice to head to the underprivileged areas in Cairo and Giza. The merriment in the children’s eyes when he gave them their gifts more than made up for his previous woes. On the Tuesday before Christmas, though, and as he travelled around in the district of Munib where he was having the time of his life at the Tuesday Market, some smart guy got the better of the fat jolly Santa as he stood sampling some of the freshly-cut vegetables and fruits, and lifted his gift sack.
Flanked by friends, Santa went to the police station to report the incident, but a series of arguments with the officer on duty landed Santa in detention. God only knows what happened there; he himself refused to speak to the press when he was finally released, looking gloomy and shabby.
With no regrets, Santa turned his back on Giza and headed for Downtown Cairo. Turning right from Ramses Street onto Abdel-Khaleq Tharwat, where he would have had his first taste of Downtown proper, he paused to look at what seemed like a demonstration on the famous stairs of the Journalists’ Syndicate. As he stared, trying to make sense of what was going on, a heavy hand clamped on his arm and he was carried away with the ‘rioters’ to—not again—another police station. The worst part was that he was maltreated by everyone: the Islamist detainees because he was an infidel, and the nationalist detainees because he was a deceitful western agent.
Finally Santa had had enough; he demanded to be handed over to the American Embassy. The police, not knowing what to make of him or what to do with him, thought this an excellent idea. He was handed over to the American Embassy in Cairo on the grounds that they immediately get him out of Egypt as persona non grata. But first, the police demanded, he should give back the tuk tuk.