After 10 stirring days in the eye of the Middle East hurricane, President Anwar Sadat is exhausted but apparently serene.
He has retired briefly to his tranquil, handsomely landscaped country house here on the shore of Lake Timsah, to sit in the sun and take tea and puff his ever-present pipe and watch the stately convoys of ships whisper by on their way through the Suez Canal.
Staff assistants say he is planning to curtail his heavy official schedule and may drop plans to visit upper Egypt and Sudan next month. They said he was not even planning to go to the airport today to greet visiting Somali president Mohammed Siad Barre.
"Frankly, I am exhausted," the president told me in a conversation on the terrace of his country retreat today. "You cannot believe how much I am exhausted."
Sadat's sense of humor is still with him, however, and he also is invigorated by the sensation he has created and the challenge he has put before himself with his breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy.
"You cannot imagine the emotional and political strain I was under in Jerusalem," he said. "It only began to hit me two days ago. But morally, I am delighted."
He says that he is unconcerned about the angry criticism of him from other Arab countries.After all, he said, he has the full support of the Sudan and "between us we are 60 million people. We are two-thirds of all the Arabs" - only a slight exaggeration.
Sadat, who will be 59 on Christmas Day, said he felt "age creeping up." Nevertheless, he appeared to be in high spirits as he joked with reporters, posed for pictures and denied that he had kissed Golda Meir - "but I would not be ashamed of it it were true," he said.
President Sadat looks thin. There is a gap between his neck and the collar of his specially tailored blue shirt. and he carried a brass-tipped oriental walking stick as he emerged to be interviewed for American television today. He laughed, however, when he was asked if he really needed it and said he would put the questioner "in prison or a concentration camp." It is one of Sadat's proudest claims that he has ended political "concentration camps" in Egypt.
Security is tight around the Presidential compound, but it always is, Sadat said he has "never" been concerner about threats on his life by extremists opposed to his policies.
That has been going on throughout the seven years of his presidency, he said. Recalling with a grin that shortly after he took office, the Americans and the British were saying that "I shall last only four to six weeks."
Sadat continues to see the Western press with amazing frequency for a Middle Eastern leader. Today he jokingly objected as a television director dusted powder on his face, saying that "in my village this is for the women," but he apparently feels that the Western and particularly American media are an asset to his diplomatic campaign.
This has been a tough year for Sadat, with major food price riots in Cairo and a border with with Libya, but hardly anyone is taking him seriously when he says, as he did again today, that the Geneva peace conference he is striving to bring about "will be my last mission. After that I shall be offering my resignation." He has often talked about retiring in the past, but when his fatigue passes, that kind of talks passes with it.