Photograph Contributed by Betty Felice
After working a year with ARAMCO you were entitled to a short leave of absence. Reservations, itinerary and plans were always made in advance for this welcome occasion. It was the fall of 1952 and I had made plans to visit Cairo, Rome, Switzerland, and Istanbul.
I had remembered to send a letter to the family of the Egyptian girl, Roseanne. I informed them in the letter that I was planning on visiting Cairo and that I would love to deliver Roseanne's wishes in person. I gave them the date of my visit. I did not receive a reply. I left on my vacation as scheduled and landed in Cairo. Unexpectedly, a young man met me at the airport. He introduced himself as the brother of Roseanne. His name was George. George was employed by TWA Airline and worked at the airport. He said he would be my tour guide and would escort me wherever I wanted to go. I asked him how he knew I was coming. He said he had been caring for his family's house and mail while they were away on holiday in Greece. He had seen my letter and knew of my arrival. I felt very lucky as I didn’t speak the language and he knew English well.
I discovered that George had married the American Ambassador's daughter and she was in Los Angeles on a maternity visit. George could not get a Visa to join her. I was disappointed for him. He dropped me off at my hotel and asked what I wanted to do in Cairo. Of course, I said, “I want to see the pyramids”. We arranged to meet the next day.
The following day, with camera in hand, we were off to the desert to see ancient Cairo and the amazing pyramids. One will forever wonder how they managed to build them. I managed to climb up on one of the huge blocks of granite to have my picture taken. George also got one photo of me riding a camel with the pyramids in the background.
I also learned that George along with his friend were trying to organize a travel agency. They had so many questions to ask of me, wanting my opinion as an American about the food, service, price, facilities for sports, beaches, etc. I gave them all the information I had in mind.
That evening I joined George and his friend at a Club they belonged to. The entire place was draped in red velvet. When the floor show came on, the dancer was in full costume, head-to-toe red velvet, and she had red hair! It was most interesting.
My stay in Cairo was only two nights and three days so I was soon off to Rome. Before I left, George asked me if I could take something back to his wife in California. I found myself wearing rings, bracelets and stones which I was to send to his wife when I returned home. You don’t pay customs on jewelry if you wear it so it worked out fine for George and for me, as I had a good tour guide.
In Rome, I was met at the airport by the wife of one of the engineers I worked for who was living and working in Rome. It was a good feeling to be there with someone who knew where to go and what to see. We went to the museum in the Vatican where I saw a real mummy. The museum was full of artifacts given to the Popes over many years by kings and emperors. I could have spent days looking at everything, but my time was limited. We did see the catacombs and where St. Peter was entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica. At that time of my life, I never dreamed I would be married in St. Peters Church. It was so large and the mosaic murals on the walls are so old and so beautiful.
My journey took me by train to Berne, Switzerland. The train ran north through the wine vineyards in Northern Italy. It was a beautiful trip. A former roommate, an American Airlines stewardess that I had lived with a few years before while working in Chicago said to me, “If you ever get to Italy, be sure to go to Berne, Switzerland.” And here I was in Berne with lots of snow. I was met at the train station to be taken to the hotel in a horse and sleigh. The facilities were lovely and while I was at breakfast I found one lady and her small daughter who could speak English. The woman had lived in the United States near Washington, D.C. with her husband who was an ambassador. She was in Berne on a short holiday with her daughter.
I tried to get enough nerve up to ski, but I just couldn't seem to make the decision to do it. I enjoyed watching, and it was great to stay snug indoors by the fireplace.
On my return trip to Rome, I met an interesting gentleman who was also returning. He was a photographer by trade and said he would send me pictures of this train trip, which was a welcome thought. He was true to his word and I received a box full of beautiful pictures of the terrain and countryside when I returned from my vacation. He said he understood English so I enjoyed telling him about my wonderful country and the experiences I had been having in a foreign country. I didn't stop talking until we landed in Rome.
Photograph Contributed by Betty Felice
My next stop was Istanbul, Turkey. There was a young girl on board who was not feeling well; a teacher on her way to Tehran. I suggested that she disembark at Istanbul and get some medical help, which she did. We went to my hotel and they were booked up, but we managed to get a place for her to rest in a sitting room off the lobby.
I was not excited about this place and I asked a hotel clerk if we could find an American Embassy person that spoke English to escort us to dinner if we paid for him. This was arranged. As we entered the dining room, I was quite surprised as all the women looked like they were from the United States. They wore makeup and regular dresses, different hairstyles and Frank Sinatra's music was playing.
I wanted to see what the natives did and I asked if we could see a nightclub. He took us down the street a few doors and we entered this room. There were a few people with string instruments sitting halfway up the wall on one side of the floor, but no whirling dervishes or native dancers just a "twang" sound which wasn't pretty to listen to.
Along my journey, I had made it my goal to see how many bodies of water, oceans, seas or gulfs, I could put my foot in. I wanted to go up the Bosporus to the Dead Sea. The Embassy had a mature male that spoke English who had a small sailboat and offered to take me. We arranged the fee and off we went sailing up to the Dead Sea. There wasn't much wind that day so the journey was slow. When we got within sight of the Dead Sea, I noticed it was getting late in the afternoon and I didn't wish to be out in the boat in the dark, so I suggested to Mohammed that we return. On the way back, he suggested we get something to eat so he pulled up to a dock where there was a fast food place. At least that was what I figured it must be due to the size. Since I could not read the menu I told him to order whatever he thought was good. What I ate I shall never know, but it tasted pretty good and it was in a shell. I just prayed I would not get the "bug" from eating this unknown. Luckily I didn't get sick.
I was due back to my job and my vacation came to a close, but I only wish now that I would have kept a better diary of the places, the people, and the events of my journey. The memories linger on.