For Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the self-proclaimed king of kings, light of the Aryans, vice regent of God, it was pathetic, even ignoble, send-off.

For the Pahlavi family that had reveled in the late shah of Iran's dynastic illusions, it seemed the end of the dream.

Although lavish by Egyptian standards, the shah's funeral marked a comedown for the once-powerful Pahlavi.

In power, the shah had been courted by the world's leaders. Kings and presidents, dictators and democrats ahd beaten paths to his palace to flatter and praise him amidst the opulence of his court.

Today, an Egyptian Army bugler flubbed his notes as the shah's funeral cortege wound its way through the hot, dusty streets of Cairo. Street rabble shouted "God is great" as they gawked and fought behind police lines, and the Pahlavi family, in its grief, was very much alone.

For those among the mourners who remember, the Pahlavi days of glory in the past, the occasion held a sense of pathos.

It was less than a decade ago that the shah and his family were the toast of the world in an ostentatious -- some would say vulgar -- mutil-million-dollar bash amid the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Persian monarchy of which the shah considered himself the heir.

European royal families had sent their representatives, as had nations from around the globe. The United States sent its vice president, Spiro Agnew, to the event, which the shah staged to link the dynasty started by his military officer father in 1925 to Iran's 2,500 years of monarchy.

The slow roll of drums as the Egyptian honor guards shuffled forward before the coffin today and a desultory crowd of about 1,000 official mourners following limply in a stiffling 97-degree heat seemed to symbolize just how far the Pahlavi fortunes had sunk from those heady days at Persepolis.

The mighty who had flocked to the side of the Pahlavis when they had caviar and oil to offer the world were conspicuous by their absence today as the shah's body, in a simple black coffin draped with the red, white and green imperial Iranian flag, made its final voyage for entombment in Cairo's Al Rifai Mosque.

The only head of state present was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who alone had given the shah and his family refugee when no one else in the world, including the United States, was prepared to risk any further identification with him.

Former president Richard Nixon, one of the shah's many presidential backers, and his son-in-law Edward Cox came in a private visit. But aside from former King Constantine of Greece, another dethroned monarch, and an official representative of Morocco's King Hassan, there was no one else of note -- only a handful of Cairo-based diplomats delegated by the United States, Britain, France, West Germany and Australia for a low-level official representation.

Not even Henry Kissinger or David Rockfeller, so recently the exiled shah's most faithful supporters in the United States, showed up, although their police apologies and condolences had been extended to the family.

Officially, spokesman for the Pahlavis were quick to excuse the poor turnout as a result of the fact that the family had sent not invitations. However, some among the Pahlavi entourage following the coffin through the streets were clearly angry at the spectacle of the shah's final passage through the shabby back alleys of Cairo.

"When the shah was in power, everyone wanted his favors or a chance to see him," commented one former palace official who did not want his name published. "Look at all the so-called friends today? Where are they? The Shah was right to denounce the decadence of Western morality in our era."

Among the mourners there were clearly those who dream that the short-lived Pahlavi dynasty will yet make a comeback.

"Look, as corny as it sounds, the world must understand by not that in Iran there can only be monarchy or a communist dictatorship," said Hossein Amir-Sadeghi, a one-time palace official who heads the London-based monarchists' Front for National United. "Either we reestablish the monarchy, or Iran will end up communist, mark my words."

The hopes of the monarchists in the crowd were clearly riding with the shah's eldest son, 19-year-old Crown Prince Reza, a U.S.-educated fighter pilot trainee, who marched in the funeral cortege on Sadat's right.

"In that boy Reza we have a new king," Amir-Sadeghi said. "We have big plans for him. We are going to build him up.

"Despite what you see here, we'd like to believe that the Pahlavi dynasty will have another day."