The first stop in Cairo was the stark Ministry of the Interior off Tahrir Square.

"What were you doing in the desert?" asked the man in a large, sparsely-furnished tenth-floor office.

"I was walking to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage," answered Hellanback, across the desk. Two uniformed police officers stood behind him, two other men in civilian dress were on either side of the desk.

"You must have known that you were in a restricted military area," the man stated.

"It didn't make any difference. I had tried to make the trip by other routes, but your government's restrictions on transportation made that impossible. My responsibilities to the Creator are greater than my respect for military conflicts."

The man signaled the officers, Hellanback was escorted from the office and taken to the ancient citadel El Kalifa in eastern Cairo. Accommodations were dungeon-like. Sixty-odd men -- mostly Palestinians, awaiting deportation, and members of the Islamic Brotherhood, a domestic group fighting for Koranic law -- in a large barren room.

One day, after some three weeks in El Kalifa, a rumor filtered down that Hellanback was slated for deportation. The following morning prison officials entered the cell and, in the normal fashion of summoning those to be removed from the jail, called Hellanback's name. Hellanback remained silent, but he was the only westerner in the cell. The guards, who had no difficulty determining who he was, were giggling.

"You go Jordan," one of the guards informed him, in English.

"I go not," Hellanback replied in Arabic, sitting cross-legged on the floor. He was determined to complete his pilgrimage in Moses' footsteps. To fly would be a sacrilege.

Guards and inmates shared an air of amusement. Hellanback wondered whether this might be the first time in the history of El Kalifa that someone had refused to leave the prison.

When joking and cajoling proved insufficient to move Hellanback from his cross-legged position, three guards lifted and carried him from the prison. He was deposited in a jeep and driven to the airport. He was carried from the jeep, placed in a seat aboard an Air Egypt jet, and the prison guards handed his passport to the flight steward with instructions to return it to Hellanback upon arrival in Jordan.

The plane flew, not as a crow, but skirting the fortifications in the Sinai, over the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba for landing in Ammon. Passport in hand, Hellanback followed a gaggle of tourists to the terminal where he was given an entry card. In the space marked "Reason for Visit," Hellanback wrote "Deportation." The clerk flashed him a quizzical look, and picked up his phone. Suddenly Jordanian security officers stood on either side of Hellanback. One asked whether he would mind accompanying them. Without waiting for a reply, they led him to a room off the main terminal.

"Why did the Egyptians deport you?" One of the officers inquired.

"I'm the Pharaoh. Those Egyptians are crazy. They're crazy. That's it. They're crazy. I'm the Pharaoh, and they're crazy," Hellanback ranted, waving his arms, staring blankly.

"Wait here," one officer said, and both left the room. In less than two minutes both officers returned with two more officers. "Get your jacket. Your plane is leaving in five minutes."

Hellanback was escorted back to the same Air Egypt jet which had brought him to Amman and hustled aboard. After the circuitous route back to Cairo, Hellanback slipped off the plane and followed the crowd to customs, hoping to ease back into the country without being noticed. But the flight steward caught up with him, pointed him out to officials, and he was back in the clutches of Egyptian authorities.

Transferred from the custody of airport security, Hellanback was taken by national security police of el Bas Amne el Dawla to the United States embassy.

At the embassy they met with an American consul.

"We want this man deported to the United States," the police informed the consul.

"The government of the United States has no authority to deport him to the United States. The United States is a free country," the U.S. consul informed the Egyptian secret police. "We cannot force anyone to enter the country against his will."

He was transferred to el-Kanatra, a prison by a bridge just north of Cairo.

*** ***

In a country where the daily wages of a laborer amount to less than price of a pack of stateside Marlboros, Hellanback didn't expect the penal accommodations to be very attractive. He was right.

Prisoners were fed once a day, a pint of rice and a piece of bread, twice a week there was half a cup of beans, and on Friday a small chunk of meat. Lice ate well, there was no way that a prisoner, the guards were infested too, could avoid hosting a multitude of them.

Each cell block was about two hundred by forty feet, a self-enclosed unit within the prison compound. Five tiers of seven-by-eleven foot cells. Each cell was the lair of from two to six men, two hundred and fifty to three hundred men to a tier. Each tier had two eastern-style hole-in-the-floor toilets, three sinks and a cold water shower. Adjacent to each cellblock was a twenty-foot-wide exercise yard, running the length of the building, bounded by a twenty foot wall.

While in el-Kanatra, Hellanback met Fhyz Ephrim Awat. Fhyz had been a soldier in the Egyptian army. In l973, as the Egyptians were mobilizing for war, Fhyz declared that he would not fight. He urged his comrades to do likewise. He preached that they should not kill Israelis over God's land because as Children of God all men are brothers. The army sentenced him to be shot. Sadat commuted his sentence to twenty-five years in prison. Fhyz was inspirational. Where many spent their time in idle gossip, Fhyz listened to the problems of other prisoners. Many sought his advice. While others played backgammon or cards, Fhyz taught arts and crafts, and organized bible studies. In the unpleasant prison Fhyz lived a life of meaning.

"I do not think Fhyz deserves to be in jail for what he did. If I ever go back to America I will try to get him out," Hellanback said to Majid, whom he took for a mutual friend.

"Fhyz betrayed his country," Majid spat. "What about me? I bring a little hashish from Lebanon. To make a little money, just to feed my wife and child. Sadat's friends bring many hundreds of kilos. They do not go to prison. Fhyz deserves to be in prison more than I. You should help me get out."

Even saints have their critics, Hellanback thought.

After being held without formal charges for eight months in el-Kanatra, Hellanback was abruptly taken from Kanatra and driven to el Bas Amne el Dawla headquarters. He was placed in a basement cell, where he remained for a couple of days, before being taken to an office on the top floor with an impressive view of the Nile. In the office was a huge desk and expensive furnishings. Behind the desk was a large man wearing a uniform with a lot of braid and decorations.

"You are a problem," the man in the office informed Hellanback. "We do not like to keep you in the prison, but we cannot have you in our country. You refuse to cooperate. What can we do?"

"You can allow me to get on with my life as I see fit," Hellanback suggested.

"Certainly, but how? We cannot allow you to move as you like within our military lines."

Hellanback asked for paper and pen. "I promise that I will leave Egypt without entering any restricted military areas," he wrote, signed the note, and pushed it across the desk to the official.

"Set me free and I will abide by this agreement," Hellanback promised.

"I will see," the official replied.

Hellanback was returned to el-Kanatra. Two days later he was released.

When he was working Hellanback had given much of his earnings to his friend Abdullah. Immediately he walked to downtown Cairo, got twenty pounds from Abdulla, and bought a train ticket to Aswan. In Aswan he booked passage on a ferry which carried him across Lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa. On the ferry he met an English couple who were trying to transport a Land Rover to Kenya. They had had considerable difficulties with Arabic-speaking officials and asked Hellanback if he would accompany them through the Sudan to act as their translator. He agreed to go as far as Khartoum.

Once in Khartoum Hellanback made his way to the United States consulate, which was located on the second floor of a dingy building in downtown Khartoum. There he asked the consul to notify the Egyptian government that he had arrived in Sudan. Next he went to the telegraph office and sent a cable to el Bas Amen el Dawla advising that he had fulfilled his agreement. Finally he sent a postcard to the same address. "Arrived Sudan without entering any restricted military areas. Weather fine. Wish you were here."

There were a couple of days to kill before the next train left for Wadi Halfa. When it left Hellanback was on it, then the ferry back to Aswan, then the train back to Cairo. After a couple of days visiting with friends in Cairo, Hellanback left again for Port Said.

IN THE SINAI AGAIN ===========>>