In retrospect, Ezzat Mohamed Abdou is delighted with his wife for arguing with him all day Saturday, Oct. 30.

The dispute between the Alexandria couple was over his passport, which his wife of 21 years--Soad--had hidden from him. And she would not yield.

Abdou was scheduled to go to Egypt that night, a fairly routine trip for the local businessman. But his custom of buying lavish gifts for his siblings when he returned to Egypt was busting the family budget. A family with six children living in a small town house could not afford that, his wife argued. Besides, Abdou said she told him, "I have a feeling something's going to happen."

It did. The plane Abdou was scheduled to take--EgyptAir Flight 990--crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 people on board. Thanks to his wife, Abdou was not among them.

Abdou still is quietly stunned about the turn of events. That Saturday though, he was quite angry with his wife. They argued about it all day.

"This is the first time in her life she's done that," he said.

"I thought my mother was acting strange," said daughter Eman, 14.

Soad Abdou could not be reached for her side yesterday, because she was on her way back from Egypt at her husband's expense. Perhaps an odd thank-you gift, but one she insisted upon, Abdou recalled: "She said, 'You need to send me back home. I saved your life.' "

Abdou has the Flight 990 ticket, a thin, red computer-issued rectangle, so familiar, and yet so haunting to look at, as Abdou has many times.

New York to Cairo. October 30. 11 p.m.

Abdou was to catch a flight to New York out of Reagan National Airport earlier that night, but as the time for it drew closer he yielded to his wife.

"I was very angry," he said. "But I feel something, so I don't fight her. I want to go, but I don't want to go."

Beyond that, it seemed like the cancellation of a routine trip for Abdou, who in addition to owning two hot dog carts in downtown Washington has an import-export business out of Egypt.

Of course, EgyptAir was anything but routine that night. To begin with, it took off not at 11 p.m., but at 1:19 a.m. Shortly before 2 a.m., the plane plummeted into the ocean, for reasons that investigators now believe may have had to do with a co-pilot's death wish. It is a theory Abdou and many of his countrymen have not embraced.

"Nobody knows what happened except God," Abdou said.

Word hit the Abdou household about three hours after the crash, when his wife awoke to care for their 3-year-old daughter and turned on the television.

"My mom was coming upstairs screaming," Eman said. "It was so frightening."

"She was crying and shouting," Abdou said, "I think [there's] some fire in the house. I say, 'What happened?' She said, 'The flight's down. I told you I [had] a feeling something [was] going to happen.' "

Mohammad Ismail, a salesman with D.C. Food and Vending, said he and Abdou's other co-workers are relieved.

"Everybody's very happy he [didn't] fly that day," he said.

Soad Abdou left a few days later for Egypt, flying TWA only because EgyptAir had canceled its flight. But when Abdou and his family next travel to Egypt, they will fly their old standby.

"Whenever I go, I go by EgyptAir," he said. "I trust EgyptAir."

CAPTION: "I was very angry . . . but I feel something, so I don't fight her," said Ezzat Mohamed Abdou about his wife's insistence that he miss a flight to Egypt aboard EgyptAir Flight 990.

CAPTION: Abdou holds 3-year-old daughter, Neveen, who has his unused ticket for Flight 990.