Departure hall at Sana’a airport
On the large table beyond the first x-ray machine, the security officer picks a toy car with giant wheels out of its box. “Can you take out the batteries for me please?” he asks the young woman who has bought it as a present. She does. “Can you show me how it works please?” At 03:30 in the morning, she politely obliges, grappling with the remote control until the car’s large wheels light up in a blizzard of fluorescence and start singing. “Thank you,” he says. “We have to check otherwise they say that we’re not doing our job properly.”
At the next x-ray scan, laptops are to be taken out of bags and displayed separately. A man in a long black coat stands unsmiling beyond the arch of the body scan. It beeps as I walk through, but I am let past. My two bits of hand luggage are checked again (“Do you have a large fish in your luggage?” asks me a tall polite Yemeni woman in a colorful hijab.) - but not as thoroughly as the first time. This time, nobody opens my wallet to check for explosives between the YR 100 notes.
Cairo airport, transit desk
Tall Egyptian policeman in white: Good morning! Where are you going?
Me: To meet friends
Policeman: What are zeir names? (Pulls out a pen and starts writing.) Give me zeir names!
Me: [Great, Egypt has become Israel.] Erm, ...
Policeman: (smiles) How many friends are you going to meet?
Me: (arms firmly crossed) I don’t know!
Policeman: How many?
Me: I don’t know, perhaps five, maybe more...
Policeman: Great! I’ll give you my telephone number and if you meet more than five you let me know! Ok? You let me know! (laughs)
Cairo airport, x-ray before gate to Beirut
"Is this your bag?" asks the policewoman. I nod. She struggles with the straps, then pulls out all 15 cm of my key to home in the old city of Sana'a. "This is a key?" she exclaims. "Hey look!" she calls out to her colleague busy behind the x-ray screen,"This is a house key!"