The official viewing site for the eclipse was in Sallum at what appeared to be an abandoned air force base under heavy checkpoint surveillance near the Libyan border.
The early waiting and partial phase hours in Egypt were more entertaining than at any other eclipse: an elaborate preparation was underway for the arrival of then-president Hosni Mubarak. Young soldiers in smart parade uniforms were arranged in rank, then in file, then re-aligned. Superior officers inspected and fussed and dusted: tunics were jerked, collars straightened, caps adjusted to the perfect angle. The soldiers finally stood in solemn formation in anticipation of their leader.
A large, multicolored seating area was assembled with gilt furniture, gold-potted plants, and a red carpet stairway leading to a massive portrait of the president’s big ol’ face.
Events took a turn in the minutes before his motorcade pulled up: a team of men in jumpsuits scrambled to dismantle the stage and hustle the red carpet and other decor to a low and modest tent adjacent to the showy grandstand—which I’m assuming was a decoy all along, presumably to deter an assassination attempt (!) Travelers to the site that day, was that your impression?
Mubarak, his wife, and several Ministers, Egyptian officials and various governmental hangers-on soon pulled up in their sleek motorcade and observed the eclipse from the lesser enclosure. Mubarek boarded a black sedan shortly after third contact and waved “wadaeaan” from the window.
Above: That’s him
Welcome to Salloum—however you spell it
Egyptian military at the ready
Mubarak’s viewing area—not Mubarak’s viewing area—Mubarak’s new viewing area
Bye now, gotta go stand trial
Nice armored Mercedes Benz s Class