Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo was the meeting place in those days. It was "out of bounds" for all but Officer rank at this time, even so there was seldom even standing room on the front porch or in the rotunda. It was in this celebrated building that the story of an Officer being court-martialled for chasing a "femme" up the hallway without a stitch of clothes on him originated. He of course, was exonerated completely. A smart young Officer defending him learned from Regulations that an Officer was permitted to be "suitably dressed for the sport in which he was engaged."
Life in Cairo was interesting, never a dull or quiet moment. The incessant peddling and soliciting on the streets, and the perpetual parade of Femmes and Madames in carriages was enough to entertain any young 2nd Lieutenant with only a few piastres in his pocket. Like the old lady in the dress shop who said "I only came to look", we just couldn't afford to "try anything on", not even for size.
Being stationed at Flying schools all the time in Egypt, I had met a very large number of flyers, both while they were on courses and at their home aerodromes. We did quite a bit of visiting back and forth as distances between 'dromes was seldom more than an hour's flying. In this way I got to know Oldfield, who later became the personal pilot of Lawrence of Arabia. Oldfield was with me originally at the Pool Flight at Heliopolis. He went up the line in the Middle East, flying an R.E.8 and later a Bristol Fighter, doing reconnaisance work with the Artillery and strafing the Turks. We never knew of his association with Lawrence until we read about it in a book by Lowell Thomas. Barney Oldfield was a six foot raw boned individual. We called him Barney because the name Oldfield was famous at the time for automobile racing in the States. He was a cool customer and nothing ever rattled him. Besides this, he picked up the "Gippo" language fast and could make himself understood when the rest of us were at a total loss.
We had done considerable sightseeing from the air, being only about twenty minutes flying time away from the Pyramids and Sphinx and from Heliopolis or El Khanka where our F.I.S. was located. But, it was not until the rains came in the cooler winter months that I had a chance to go out and see these marvellous construction feats from the ground up. When wintry winds and rain equalled "washed-out-flying" we could leave the camp for the day. Jonesy and I, Jones was the other Canadian with me at F.I.S., organized a trip to Mena House at the foot of the great pyramids where we had a lunch served and spent the afternoon exploring the Pyramids and the Sphinx from camel back. At that time the Sphinx was almost completely buried in sand and had not been excavated as it is now.
Riding one of those "ships of the desert" was certainly an experience. I almost fell off when the beast was getting to it's feet and I certainly never could relax on that rocking hump. I had to hang on continuously to keep from being spilled off my perch with each step the beast took. That is one form of transportation that is not built for comfort. In my estimation flying is much less hazardous.
Other places we visited were the Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque. This Mosque is completely lined inside with alabaster removed from the great pyramid. This is one of the most marvellous architectural structures (built entirely of stone) in the world today. The huge arched dome is certainly a tribute to the stone masons of the early period in which this structure was built. The method employed is still a mystery, much as the building of the Pyramids still is. Even unto this day modern man with all his power tools and derricks cannot figure out how the Egyptians raised blocks of solid stone six feet square over six hundred feet up on top of the Great Pyramid.