Max Neil Joins Army, Fights In WWII, Sees The Pyramids Along The Nile

R&R In World War II – Egypt

A stopover at the Kansas City home of Neil & Irene Ellis generated not only the anticipated food, fellowship, and fun but also the photo atop this post

Found among the artifacts of Max Neil (Max, the fellow second from the left, is Neil’s uncle and the designated character of the family), this shot, taken sometime during World War II, features sightseeing GIs posed astride camels and attended by their guides.

There is something fascinating about seeing soldiers- during wartime – at their leisure. The fez-wearing individual in the middle, for example, would serve admirably as a visual definition of the word, “jaunty.”

I’m most intrigued, however, by the prospect of the existence of similar photos. The numbered card at the lower right (showing “10” in this shot) indicates similar pictures were routinely taken of visitors to this scene.

Other soldiers must have availed themselves of the same opportunity to spend a portion of their down time seeing the pyramids and then commemorating the event such a photo.1 That means that across the country, ensconced in shoe boxes, albums, and envelopes stashed in closets and attics, are multitudes of my generation’s fathers and uncles perched on camels looking into a camera at us from the 1940s while taking a break from making the world safe for democracy.

That is somehow a comforting and heartening thought.

Neil Ellis Photos: Neil is great friend who plays a respectable round of golf, identifies unseen birds by their calls, completes the New York Times Friday Crossword in ink, and snaps a heck of a photo. His photos are featured here at and can be found collected at Neil Ellis Photos.

Note: Originally posted Feb 2, 2010at, a predecessor of


  1. Of course, other, noncombatant tourists also had these photos taken. See this shot of body-builder Ben Weider’s first visit to the Great Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza which appears to have been taken at the same site although he is riding a horse rather than a camel. []

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