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Kari Sayers is a my turn columnist. 9-1-11

My husband and I met in Egypt on Oct. 1, 1968.  We were married in Norway four weeks later, but it’s a long story.  

I was on a study-travel tour to Cairo, and most afternoons my fellow travelers and I met our guide in the hotel lobby at 2 p.m. ready for our excursions. One day I came downstairs too late, and the group had already left.  Since I wasn’t about to waste an entire afternoon in the hotel, I took my camera and went outside.

In a park nearby, I spotted a young mother shrouded in black from head to toe nursing her baby.  The scene resembled a Medieval Madonna painting, and I started to snap pictures.

Then out from behind some bushes appeared a man I assumed was the woman’s husband.  He immediately tried to wrench the camera from me but failed and I ran back toward the hotel before he could catch me.

At the entrance stood a tall man in a short-sleeved white shirt with a crewcut like an American GI. He held the door for me.

“What’s going on?” he asked in a Midwestern drawl, and right away I noticed his kind blue eyes.

I told him the story.

“Let me buy you a coke,” he offered and waived to a small Egyptian boy.

He introduced himself as Harry Sayers, and we sat down in a corner of the lobby.  He worked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he said, and had just returned from a long trip around the world with King Feisal.  Now he had a one-month leave and was on his way back to Kansas City, his home. His flight left the next day at four in the morning.

After we finished our drinks, I rose to leave.

“Care to have dinner with me?” my new friend asked casually.

I accepted.  After dinner we said goodbye, exchanged addresses and promised to write.

When I came down for breakfast the next morning, Harry was sitting alone at a table by the window, fresh in a light blue and white checkered shirt and looking very American.  

“What happened?” I asked.

“I overslept and missed my flight,” he said.  “But there’s another flight tomorrow at the same time.”  

He had overheard the guide say we were off to the pyramids, and since he hadn’t seen them either, he decided to go. He’d take a taxi, he said, and invited me to come along with him—more comfortable than the bus. Today I wouldn’t have been so reckless, but this was the 1960s.  

Harry kept “missing” his flights, and since my trip included several days in Luxor, Harry decided to fly down there too—on a Russian Ilyushin aircraft, which seemed just as exciting to him as the sightseeing.  He checked into the Winter Hotel which, unlike our smaller hotel, had a pool.

From Luxor he and I took a side trip on an old dhow ship down the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. We rode donkeys from where the dhow docked to the actual tombs. When we arrived, however, we were unable to enter because we had no tickets, and tickets were only available at the place we had docked.  The attendant probably expected a bribe, but we just laughed it off and explored the surrounding sand dunes instead.

“So how would you like to come to Saudi Arabia with me?” Harry asked on our way back.  

“That would be an adventure,” I replied.  “When?”

But at that time, you couldn’t visit Saudi Arabia as a tourist.  You had to have a relative or some legitimate business there.

On the following day, we just hung around the pool, swimming and sunbathing. After changing, we lounged on the terrace of the Winter Hotel overlooking the mighty river. The sun was low and we were sipping Turkish coffee, watching the dhows loading and unloading their hauls.

“So, what do you think of coming down to Jeddah?” he asked again.

I remained silent as I knew it was too difficult to get a visa.  

Without missing a beat, he took my hand and said unceremoniously: “How about marrying me?”

“Right now?” I said and laughed.  I viewed his proposal as just a way to go on another adventure, not a real proposal for a marriage that would last a lifetime.  We had known each other less than a week.

At the end of our stay in Cairo, we both traveled to Norway for Harry to meet my Norwegian family and friends, who all thought I was crazy.

We were married on October 29, more than fifty Valentines ago.

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