Majed El Shafie’s escape from hell unfolded as though scripted in Hollywood.
Jailed in Cairo’s Abu Zaabel prison – a place so notorious locals refer to it as Hell on Earth – for his outspoken devotion to Christianity, the young Egyptian managed to white-knuckle his way through seven days of torture launched when he refused to reveal names of fellow worshippers. First, his captors stripped him naked and shaved his head, which was doused under boiling and then frigid water; next, they hung the 22-year-old law student upside down and beat him with belts. Then came the cigarettes, which they used to brand his skin with burn marks.
Sitting at the Hotel Cyvadier's best open-air table, Joel Khawly is staring poker-faced at the darkened Bay of Jacmel when his phone rings.
Mr. Khawly does not take calls after 6 p.m., so his wife, Sheila, with jet black hair and the almond eyes of Disney's princess Jasmine, carries an extra cell in her black Chanel to respond to the overflow.
An acquaintance is on the line.
“He wants you to turn the power back on,” Ms. Khawly says. Her husband's eyes glint for a moment before he gives his head a tired shake.
“Tell him to pay his bill.”
The winged gargoyle perched atop the iron gates that control access to a particularly secretive rural property here is an allusion to what awaits beyond.
Passing beneath it triggers a fast slip down a rabbit hole brimming with oddities impossible to forget once you’ve cast eyes on them. There are life-sized gnomes, the world’s largest collection of Tintin miniatures, a vintage slot car track and the pièce de résistance: an eye-popping trove of shiny, winged automotive masterpieces.
A little red rocket roars along the county roads that cut through the sprawling farms outside this southwestern Ontario hamlet. It’s kicking up quite a cloud of dust.
With his grey mane whipping wildly behind the tiny windshield and a sparkle in his eyes – obvious despite dark sunglasses – Rob Myers muscles his 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra into third as it rolls up the base of a highway overpass. The racer digs in and responds with gusto; the needle on its vintage speedometer makes a grin-inducing swing past the 80-mph mark.
“Don’t worry,” Myers shouts over the noise of rushing wind. “I know most of the cops around here.”