The most macabre surprise cake I've ever seen... in the Anubis Intervention affair...
As the audience of Egyptologists aboard the cruise boat watched, bearers brought a giant cake into the banqueting room. It was an ancient Egyptian mummy case lying on its back, I saw with surprise.
Sparklers sprinkled shower points of light onto the mummy case. The cake was decorated in the vulture-winged, rishi style, the feathers veined with red, green and blue icing. The bearers carried the confectionery coffin cheerfully around the room, each table of delegates breaking into applause as they passed.
The dancers stopped on the wooden dance floor and stage area at the front of the room. They stood the mummy case on its feet. The spotlight pooled on crystalline features, a round face cutting a keyhole in the enveloping surrounds of a great wig that fell to the chest. Rounded eyes in brilliant orbits gave the audience a soulful stare. The arms were folded across the breast, while on the front of the body a sky goddess enfolded the case with outspread wings. The cake was evidently reinforced, I thought, for it managed to stand on its base.
The Nubian band now struck a pulse-like beat.
The lid was going to open and someone was going to pop out of the cake, in true convention style, I thought. Belly dancing again? The last pair had been Egyptian twin girls who had performed a snaky dance, entwining their bodies and doing gravity defying back bends in the ancient Egyptian manner to the beat of a trio with lute harp and percussion. They seemed to have stepped straight out of the ancient party scene on the screen behind the delegates.
Would this Egyptian dancer inside the coffin cake make a concession to such a specialised audience? I tried to guess. Perhaps she'd pop out dressed as Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. The eager smile on the face of the boat manager Mr Aboud encouraged my suspicion.
Now the drumming died.
The Nubian musicians paused. They waited. Building up the tension, I thought. Their leader slid an anxious glance towards the standing coffin. A hitch in the performance? Mr Aboud cleared his throat. The room grew quiet.
There was a whispered exchange of words between members of the Nubian group. Two of them broke away and went to either side of the cake and their fingers hunted for the edges of a concealed lid. There was amusement in the dining room and then disbelief as the lid came away.
That was when bangs like rolling thunder split the room and an ugly shadow like an eclipse came to take over our lives.