By Len A.Hynds

There were four civilian police stations in Suez Town, and the one we had most dealings with was on the edge of the notorious Arbein district, a squalid maze of alleyways of debauchery, which catered for every sort of sinful taste. All police stations were called Caracols, and I would be sent to the Arbein Caracol several times a week, as the duty inspector there, could transcribe English statements into Arabic and vice-versa. He sat at a high desk in the entrance hall, and just inside the door was a huge cage, into which all prisoners were put, both men, women and children, and it was normally packed with people. As I passed, prostitutes would put out pleading arms to me, through the bars, calling me 'Bibi,' a term of endearment to try and effect their release.

The strangest thing there was when the Superintendent (The Mahmour) arrived in his chauffer driven car, the police constable outside would blow his whistle furiously, and everybody throughout the building would show deference by standing to attention (even if out of sight), and all the prisoners would kneel. They would stay like that in utter silence until he had entered his office by a separate entrance. The whistle was blown again when he had vanished and life continued. It was like being back in the days of the Pharaohs.

One day I was on my way back to my station in the garrison when I saw a crowd watching an incident in which two soldiers of the Royal Engineers were involved. They had been driving through the town when the passenger noted in the mirror an Egyptian stealing something from the back. He had leapt out and had the thief cowering in a doorway, with the soldier pointing his rifle at him. At that moment apparently a uniformed Egyptian policeman with his blue uniform and red fez, with rifle slung on his shoulder turned the corner, and on seeing this, had pointed his rifle at the soldier. The driver on seeing this then pointed his rifle at the policeman.

What a ridiculous state of affairs. I stopped the jeep, knocked the rifle away from the driver and told him to get back inside the vehicle, which he did. I went to the other soldier, told him to get back in the vehicle, at the same time grabbing hold of the prisoner and the stolen property, and dragged him swooning toward the Egyptian policeman who was now pointing his rifle at me and the prisoner, who could barely stand through fear.

With that damned rifle just inches from my face, I smiled at the policeman and it was obvious he couldn't speak English, so I said in Arabic, "I know your Inspector. It would be best if you make the arrest, I know he will be pleased with you." His rifle slowly lowered, and he hit the poor prisoner an almighty blow to assert his authority. I gave them a lift back to the Caracol. Another source of trouble quickly diffused.