The Stone of Giza: A Journey of Discovery
Egypt, 1934. The Adventure Continues.
Could there be something with the power to reveal what a person is really like, deep inside, an item whose mere possession would bring out hidden flaws or unsuspected strengths? It might also have other effects on anyone owning it—a potency to heal, or energize and enliven. Perhaps it could be transformative in even deeper ways. Would you want such a thing? Would you seek to keep it away from dangerous people? Such an item is the focus of this story, the official Volume 2 in the series, Walid and the Mysteries of Phi. There are mysteries in our world, along with paradoxes and enigmas. In this book, you’ll encounter many.
Egypt has long been a land of mysteries. And the epicenter of those mysteries may be the area in and around Giza, where the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids are to be found. Legend has it that, long ago, something remarkable was discovered deep in the sand at the feet of the Sphinx, that great stone beast with a lion’s body and the head of a human. And this unique item may have within it the power to show what any of us really is, deep down.
In this book, Walid Shabeezar, the young Prince of Egypt, will face new challenges in his efforts to find his proper place in the world. The story that results will take us deeper into an exploration of what lies behind our ordinary lives and hidden beneath the surface events of our world. It may upend your assumptions, or confirm some of your unspoken suspicions about what’s really going on in this life—whether in Egypt, or anywhere else.
The short book, The Oasis Within, followed a group of men and animals from a small village in west Egypt as they crossed the vast desert headed for Cairo in the summer of 1934. It served as a prologue to the great adventure that was about to begin. The Golden Palace, Volume 1 in the subsequent series, Walid and the Mysteries of Phi, then saw these characters to their destination and the unexpected challenges that awaited them in the ancient city. Now, we can see what comes next.
A Sneak Preview
Egypt: Many years ago.
It was 1934, to be exact. And a vital lesson was about to be learned.
Friendship is a risk. It can pay great rewards. But, there’s no way to chart its trajectory in advance. It’s almost uniquely powerful in the way it opens up a vast range of possibilities for good or bad. Where a friendship goes, and how it develops, is determined ultimately by the character and the actions of each of the friends.
A man’s voice boomed out, “Mafulla! Choke him, now!”
The boy’s hands brought surprising strength to his victim’s neck as he forcefully grabbed it from behind, gripping his throat hard and digging the nails of his fingers into the soft flesh. Walid felt the sudden, tight hold with a jab of sharp pain and a rush of blood to his head. He could barely think inside that swirl of sensation and knew he had to move quickly. He lunged backwards, seeking to find Mafulla’s feet with his own. They were nowhere near a wall or a solid vertical object, so there was no chance of a breath-expelling body slam to break out of the grip. But a hard stomp to the top of a foot could gain his release in an instant. Mafulla, however, had anticipated that and his feet were too wide apart to be reached.
Walid’s hands then missed in the attempt to side-punch backwards, and since he knew he could grow dizzy and even lose consciousness in mere seconds, he did the one remaining thing he knew how to do. He bent his knees deep and pushed or jumped upward as much as he could in order to be able to come crashing down to the floor, legs limp. It was a risky move, but he knew that almost no one could maintain a neck hold using only his hands with arms extended, while the entire weight of the victim’s body suddenly fell down.
The move worked and broke Mafulla’s firm, squeezing grip in a way that took him by surprise.
There was no time for a further reaction from either of them as the large man standing nearby, the one who had barked the order, moved quickly toward the fallen boy. For a fleeting moment, only labored breathing could be heard. Then, Walid spun around and jumped to his feet into a crouching position, facing Mafulla, hands raised, while he still sucked in air.
“Excellent!” Masoon said with a clear tone of pride and nodded his approval as he bent down to check on Walid’s stance, offering him a light tap on the side of his knee. “Your feet could be a bit closer together. And you feel fine, my friend?”
“Yeah, I’m Ok. Thanks.” Walid rose up into a normal standing position, relaxed, and looked over at Masoon. “But it was rougher than I thought.” Then he rubbed his neck and turned to Mafulla.
“That was quite a grip, Maffie. How did you build up so much arm and hand strength?”
“Goat cheese.” Mafulla’s eyebrows bounced twice in punctuation of his answer, as he massaged his arms.
“What?” Walid was half confused, half amused.
“I think lots of goat cheese on crackers has helped. I’m a protein maniac, as you know. It’s making me a slightly thinner version of Hercules. Plus, I’ve been getting even more exercise than Masoon tells us to do. I do it in my room. And it’s working. Sometimes, I don’t realize my own strength, these days.”
“Yeah, I can tell.”
“I’m really sorry if I got too enthusiastic with the hold.”
“No, no, it’s Ok.”
“Yeah. I’m all right.” Walid was still breathing a little harder than normal and massaging his neck. “Your job was to be as realistic as you could. But the good thing for me is that I get to be the bad guy next.”
“Well, not today, I’m afraid,” Masoon interjected.
“Why not?” Walid was totally surprised and disappointed.
“We’re running late already. We’ll have to save the great Walid choke hold until the next session.”
“But you boys have done a very good job today with all the moves. It’s impressive to me how much you’ve both learned so quickly. You may already be my best students ever. And you’re by far the youngest, at least for what will be a full course of training.”
Walid said, “I sure feel stronger, and I can tell that guy is, too.” He pointed over toward his best friend, and then bent his neck back and forth to the side, left and right.
“By the way, boys, as I may have mentioned already, the best choke hold involves the use of the forearm and elbow, with your other hand providing the completion force. That’s the Goodnight Hold. Done right, you can put someone to sleep quickly. But I told you to use just your hands today, Mafulla, because that’s what untrained attackers may attempt to use on you. I wanted you to experience what the opponent would have to do to protect himself in the process, and for Walid to have the experience of breaking that particular hold.”
“It was quite an experience,” Walid replied.
“For me, too,” Mafulla said.
Masoon began picking some things up from the floor and said, “By the way, Mafulla, you did well to evade the foot stomp.”
“Thanks, I knew he’d try that first.”
“Walid, I assume you ran through your mental checklist for any attack from behind?”
“Yeah, absolutely—body slam, foot stomp, sides punch, weight drop.”
“Good. There will come a time when your list is no longer fully conscious and you’ll intuitively gravitate toward whatever is available. Next time, I’ll show you how to go from the drop you did into a leg sweep that will take your opponent down with you. It’s always good to escape a hostile hold, even when you end up on the floor. But it’s much better if, in one smooth motion, you can use the momentum of either your body or your attacker’s to bring down your opponent as well. It’s not otherwise particularly helpful for you to be on the ground when your adversary is still standing up, higher than you, which typically gives him more options.”
The boys had regained their normal breath by now and, like usual, were beginning their end-of-session stretches while they listened intently, as Masoon continued to speak to them.
“There’s also one more important lesson here. Walid, if Mafulla had been successful in rendering you unconscious with his hold, where would your body most immediately have ended up?”
“On the floor.”
“With your successful escape, where did your body most immediately end up?”
“On the floor.”
“Yes. That’s correct. Now, contemplate this for a moment. To escape your opponent’s hold, you gave him something he wanted, but only a part of it. He desired to get your body on the floor, unconscious. You gave him your body on the floor, but conscious.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Walid said.
The boys both stopped their stretching just to listen and take it all in. Masoon continued. “In a successful negotiation, you often have to give the other person a part of what he wants in order to get at least a part of what you want. Most fights are in a sense like negotiations with our bodies. You sometimes have to give a bit in order to win. But, fortunately, if you’re well trained in the art of self defense, it often suffices to give only the appearance of what the opponent wants in order to gain the reality of what you want.”
“That’s pretty interesting.” Mafulla looked impressed.
“Now, think one step deeper. Walid, in order to prevail after your little jump, you went limp. Had you been off-balance and unable to make the jump, you still could have gone limp and fallen and probably have gotten the same result. You would likely have broken your opponent’s hold, or at least you may have rendered him off balance enough to join you on the floor. And then you would have had a new set of options available for securing your freedom or even defeating him.”
“In your collapse and fall, you in a sense appear weak in order to be strong. Falling to the floor or to the ground under an assault, initially, on the surface makes it look like you’ve been defeated, at least in that moment. It’s in that sense a humbling. But, in the humbling is an ennobling. You break free to potential victory. It’s what I call a turnaround.”
“This is really interesting,” Mafulla said.
“Yes, and it shows us something fundamental about the world. Paradox often prevails in life, at least in surface appearances, and sometimes deeper down. For example: You can’t often get what you need unless you first give what you can. There’s rarely a success that doesn’t come in some way from a failure. And many a failure actually eventuates from an initial success. By thinking you’re better than others, you can make yourself worse.”
“Wow. That’s interesting. Are there other examples?”
“Yes. There are many. Little things can often make a big difference. Big things can at times make hardly any difference at all. In strength, there can be weakness. In weakness, strength can be found. From our worst times, our best can emerge. The best leaders are great servants. The best servants are great leaders. High callings require deep values. You get the finest results only by focusing on something other than results. And the list goes on. There are many wonderful paradoxes and turnarounds in life. The more you understand them, the more deeply you can benefit from them.”
Walid said, “In class with Khalid, we just read about the myth of the phoenix, the beautiful bird with gold and purple-red feathers who was said to live for five hundred years.”
“Yes. It’s a great story.”
“On one telling of the myth, he builds a nest where he’s consumed with flames, but from the fire and the ashes, new life and a new version of the bird emerges. That’s sort of like a turnaround.”
Masoon nodded. “Yes, it is. In all life, there’s a seed of death. And in death, there can be a seed of life. Sometimes, only a conflagration and destruction can clear the ground for a new vitality and hope.”
“This is all pretty wild,” Mafulla commented.
“Indeed. And in fact, here’s my favorite turnaround. There may come a time in your life, either of you, when you’re in some way down, or lost, or helpless. You’ll feel in desperate need of help. It happens to the best of us. And that’s a time when you should seek out someone that you can help. If you need help, then give help, and you’ll surely experience a turnaround. It’s universal. It’s the way the world works.”
Masoon was quiet for a moment. The boys had been hanging on his words, taking it all in. It occurred to Walid that this was a lot like his favorite conversations with his uncle Ali, and also like when Masoon once explained to him in the desert The Triple Double strategy for dealing with trouble. His thoughts drifted for a second to several flashbacks from the desert crossing that brought them to Cairo, but then he heard Masoon speak again.
“So, now, back to our immediate topic. In a physical confrontation, sometimes we win through anticipation and a first strike. At other times, we prevail by meeting force with force, at an equal or superior level. And many times, we first allow the adversary’s own power or momentum to work against him. We let unexpected results of his actions undermine him. We bend, we give, we turn, we deflect, we fall, and, before he knows it, he’s been defeated by a move or tactic he never expected. When we’re advanced in these understandings, when they’ve become the way we naturally think, we can operate in a flow that doesn’t require deliberation or calculation. Beyond the chatter of the conscious mind, you’ll feel what to do and it won’t matter if it seems paradoxical to the constraints of normal thought and, in that sense, apparently opposite to what you hope to achieve.”
He turned to the prince. “Walid, you fell in order to rise. Never forget that lesson. Both of you remember it well. In it, there’s great power.”
Walid said, “Thanks, Masoon. These explanations are just as important as your physical demonstrations of what we should do.”
Their teacher nodded. “Yes, and perhaps even more so. Only true understanding can reliably lead to right action. If you just imitated my outward moves, then, confronted by a slightly different situation, you might not have the transferable insight you need in order to adapt and prevail in the proper way. Understanding brings flexibility.”
Mafulla grinned and stretched his arms wide. “I must be a genius, then, because I feel extremely flexible today.”
Masoon smiled and said, “Before you go, Mafulla, please step over here first.”
“I’m going to grab you by the shoulders from the front and hold tightly, though not, of course, with my entire strength. When I do this, break my hold and then the two of you can go.”
Mafulla stepped around to face Masoon, who reached out as he said he would. The boy exploded into a fast move he had been taught, while yelling loudly at his assailant, who instantly released the hold.
Masoon rubbed his left arm where Mafulla had struck it with all his strength and said, “Ouch.”
Mafulla’s mouth fell open. “Really? Really?!!” He did a quick fist pump toward the ground and then another. “All Right! Yes! … Oh! I mean, I’m so sorry!” He was clearly shocked, thrilled, flustered, and pinched by a small twinge of guilt, all at once.
Masoon suddenly flashed a huge smile and said, “Just kidding!”
The look on Mafulla’s face was indescribable.
Masoon, still beaming, lifted his hands, palms up, and shrugged his shoulders as he explained, “I have to make time for a little Mafoolery now and then, just like everyone else.”
Mafulla slapped himself on the forehead and said, “I can’t believe it! You really got me! I thought I was The Man! For at least a second or two I thought I had The Power.” He took a big breath. “Oh, well.”
Walid was just laughing and really enjoying the sight of his friend lifted so high and brought so low, back to earth, in the course of about three seconds. “Great, great turnaround,” he said.
But with a fake mad face, Mafulla pointed a finger at his friend and said, “Hey! At least I broke the hold, Masoon’s firm hold!”
He looked over at the man for support, but what he saw was his teacher with eyebrows raised, head cocked slightly to the side, and a grimace on his face that said, “Actually …”
“Oh, no. Not even that?”
“I’m afraid not.”
With another deep sigh, Mafulla said, “Ok, where’s the goat cheese?” Then he smiled sheepishly at both Masoon and Walid and wagged his index finger in the air, adding, “But, still, I’m telling you: Really skinny bad guys, especially any under the age of twelve, had better watch out, I can assure you. They won’t know what’s coming.”
A palace guard suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Prince Walid, Mafulla—sorry to interrupt, General—but the king needs to see you both in five minutes.”