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Mushrooms of Zanzibar pages

Sheikh Ibn Heer Befir Interview (1)

June 2, 1971


At long last we had received the notice that our application for a meeting with the fearsome Sheikh Bin Heer Befir had been accepted. We worked our way through the twisting streets of old Zanzibar and finally reached the palace of the Sheikh in the city's center. The building was surrounded by a 12-foot high wall with a double, solid teak gate upon which were emblazoned in paint and bas-relief two perfectly shaped replicas of the prized Ephemera Wartacatchafrumae.

The entire complex of buildings showed the traces of decay which time infllcts upon such structures.

As we entered the first ante-building which contained Ibn's harem I cou1dn't help but notice the two impressive and tall harem girls standing guard outside the room. On the inside sat thirty or so eunuchs which began to deepen my concern as to what type of man we were about to deal with. My fears were alleviated, however, when the Major Domo, Captain El Ektrek (whose father had gone to America as a boy and became a high ranking officer in American industry), explained that the Sheikh had merely rented out the harem hall to the local eunuchs' union for their meeting.

After what seemed like an endless walk of twisting, turning stairways we at last stood before the Sheikh's chamber.

I passed through the be-beaded entry and there before me was the mighty Ibn. He was dressed in silk and brocade and had an awesome look as he glared at me from his throne. Piled about his legs were many satln pillows tied together in knots (the knots were sheepshanks - waht else to hide the Sheikh's shanks), upon which his many wives sat when they were allowed his Visage.

Gathering courage, I said, "Ibn Heer Befir, I presume?"

"Vell, den vhy is you here again?" he snapped. (His crackling voice reminded me of Myron Cohen.)

"No, no," I said, "I meant that I recognize you as Sheikh Ibn."

"You vas expecting maybe Semmy Davis? I hope to tell you I been the Sheikh!"

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