If Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal had been a plea for sympathy, at the Pyramids she was a dramatic assertion of independance and strength. Ironically, on the plane to Cairo she had been reduced to tears as her husband, who had shared the plane as far as Ankara, got off to enjoy a private holiday in Turkey. It was dark when the Queen's Flight arrived in Egypt for a five-day tour in the month of May. Calling over her shoulder, the princess said: "Everybody ready? Too late if you're not!" At the bottom of the steps, the British Ambassador presented a minister, a distinguished lady with responsibility for family policy. A line of respectful handshakes followed, accompanied by bows and curtsies from British delegates and beaming smiles from the Egyptians.

 

After the customary formal welcome chat in an icily air-conditioned VIP lounge, the princess climbed elegantly into her armour-plated limousine and set off through Cairo's suburbs to the Ambassador's residence in the British Embassy. The princess's schedule started the next morning with a low-profile meeting with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his wife the First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, who was born to a British mother, at their residence in The Heliopolis Palace. Accompanied by the Egyptian First Lady, Princess Diana visited some charities including the Cairo Institute for Polio and Rehabilitation. There, she toured around the indoor and outdoor facilities, meeting doctors and patients with the assistant of a 10 year old girl named Heba Salah, a polio sufferer who became her unofficial guide at the institute.

 

During her short stay in Cairo, Princess Diana visited Al Azhar Mosque, where she covered her hair with a silk floral veil and walked barefoot in accordance with Muslim traditions. It was followed by a visit to the Heliopolis War Cemetery, where 1,742 British and Commonwealth casualties of World War II are buried. The princess appeared elegant wearing a blue and white Catherine Walker two-piece suit with a matching wide brim hat designed by Philip Somerville. The sightseeing part of the solo royal trip to Cairo started with a visit to the famous Sphinx at Giza. She was accompanied by the famous Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Dr. Zahi Hawass.   

 

Recalling her visit to the Gret Sphinx and Pyramids at Giza, royal photographer Jayne Fincher said: "Princess Diana chose a beige safari-style dress to visit the Pyramids. Photographers sighed with frustration knowing her desert-toned dress would blend in with the sandy background, making her less visible. Nearby were some camels draped in red, yellow, and green saddle cloths and reins. We promptly hired one to add some color to the rather drab scene and sat back, feeling pleased with our plan, to awaits Princess Diana's arrival. Just before her car drew up, an overzealous palace official rushed up and demanded that the camel be removed. Later that day, I told Princess Diana what had happened. She laughed and said: 'Yes, of course, I would have posed with the camel as long as you didn't ask me to sit on it!' Pulling a face, she said: 'Don't forget, I'm wearing a tight skirt.'"

 

On board an aircarft, Princess Diana then travelled to the Luxor Governorate located 635 km south of Cairo to visit the giant Karnak Temple and the tombs of Tutankhamon and King Seti I at the Valley of the Kings, followed with a private cruise on the Nile River. During this visit, Egyptian officials presented the princess with a statue of the Goddess Hator. Later, the princess travelled further to the south to visit the Aswan Governorate, where she attended a class for children with special needs at the Aswan Social Rehabilitation Centre.

 

Not only was she a global ambassador, but Princess Diana was known for her genuine concern and compassion for others. Royal photographer Arthur Edwards experienced it first hand during the trip to Egypt to photograph the princess. He had caught dysentery and for three days was too ill to leave his bed. As soon as Princess Diana heard that Arthur was ailing, she sent her personal physician who travelled with her to his bedside, and the next day one of her police bodyguards brought mineral salts to help rehydrate his body. Arthur managed to return to work to photograph the princess at the Cairo Museum. Princess Diana came over to ask how he was. Arthur told her: "I'm fine Ma'am, I just haven't eaten anything for three days." Princess Diana laughed and said: "Yes I can see that. It has done wonders for your waistline!"

 

Sources:

  • Portraits Of A Princess: Travels With Diana By Patrick Jephson. Publication Year: 2004

  • Diana: Portrait Of A Princess, By Jayne Fincher. Publication Date: 24 August 1998