We had just been in Beirut during a partial truce in the civil war. Americans traveling without escort found it prudent to make no waves. And, there was a tendency to see something sinister lurking behind every veil and robe.
Thus brainwashed, we boarded a Kuwait Airlines flight in Kuwait City for a trip across Saudi Arabia to Cairo. The airplane was loaded with Arabs in their great flowing robes, headdresses, and, for the women, veils. It was footage for a travel film.
Across the aisle from us were two large, swarthy men with heavy beards. Something about them suggested that they might be officials, perhaps security agents. Knowing how strict some of the Moslems are in their adherence to the teachings of the Koran, we wondered if we had done something to elicit surveillance.
After we took off and reached cruising altitude, the men across the aisle seemed to be casting furtive glances in our direction. Tension mounted until, in one swift motion, one of the men reached under his robe and handed the other a dark object, which he quickly hid under his robe.
Was it a gun or a grenade? No, in the fraction of a second that the object was bared we got a precise fix on it. It was a bottle of Jack Daniels, a rare prize in the dry communities of the Middle East.