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
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