CAIRO — Locked in a bitter political feud, the leaders of Egypt and Turkey can’t agree on much these days. But when confronted with the plight of a stricken magician this week, they set aside their differences in a scramble to save his life.
On Sunday an Egyptian cobra bit the Turkish illusionist Aref Ghafouri, who bills himself as the “world’s most extreme magician,” as he prepared for a show in the resort city of Antalya, Turkey.
Mr. Ghafouri, 28, who became famous after appearing on a Turkish version of “America’s Got Talent,” likes dangerous animals. His Instagram page shows him cuddling a lion cub, hugging a crocodile and kissing a cobra.
After the Egyptian cobra, which was part of Mr. Ghafouri’s act, sank its fangs into his right wrist, he tied a cloth around his arm to stanch the flow of blood. At a hospital, doctors started looking for an antivenin to save him from potential paralysis or death.
First they sought help from the Pasteur Institute, the global disease and vaccine research center in France. But the institute informed them it had stopped making the antidote for Egyptian-cobra venom three years earlier, Turkey’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
So the Turks were forced to turn to Egypt — a diplomatically sensitive option.
Once close allies with deep historical ties, Cairo and Istanbul have in recent years fallen on opposing sides of some of the Middle East’s biggest political rifts. Turkey is led by Islamists; Egypt jails them. They support rival factions in Libya and are on opposite sides in the dispute over Qatar. Several leaders of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood reside in Turkey, which infuriates President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
In 2014 Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, slammed Mr. Sisi as a “tyrant” — a moniker that could arguably apply to both men now, given their penchant for crushing dissent and jailing journalists.
On Monday morning, Mr. Ghafouri, who had started to suffer from breathing difficulties and blurred vision, according to one doctor, was transferred to an air ambulance at Antalya airport. He wanted to go to Cairo, fearing his condition would worsen. But he could not take off: As a Turkish citizen of Iranian-Azeri origin, he needed a visa.
For hours, diplomats from both countries wrangled over his fate, according to Turkey’s pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah.
And then sense prevailed. Egyptian officials agreed to issue Mr. Ghafouri a visa on arrival, and by Monday afternoon he was at Cairo’s Qasr el-Aini Hospital, where medics administered multiple vials of the lifesaving antivenin. By Thursday, he was on the mend.
“He’s doing very well,” Dr. Nabil Abdel Maksoud, a professor of clinical toxicology at Cairo University, said in an interview after he administered the final dose of antivenin. “He walks, he talks. I’m waiting for his enzymes and vitals to get back to normal, but he should be 100 percent fit in a couple of days.”
Normally, Mr. Ghafouri cheats death with greater apparent ease. Known for his extreme illusions, he was in 2011 awarded a Merlin, magic’s version of the Oscars, joining luminaries like David Copperfield and Britain’s Paul Daniels.
Three years ago he shared a photo of a cobra on social media, with the caption: “I had never been this close to death.”
He was the first magician to be treated by Dr. Maksoud, whose regular patients include farmers and children bitten by snakes in Egypt’s vast Western Desert or its lush farmland along the Nile. When Dr. Maksoud was contacted by Turkish diplomats seeking urgent help last weekend, the case’s political dimensions never occurred to him.
“He’s a patient and we are doctors, and we have nothing do with politics,” he said. “We are all human beings, and we care for everyone regardless of nationality or religion.”
For analysts, the episode offered a potential model for Egypt and Turkey’s leaders to find some common ground.
“They could find a way to cooperate, at least on technical issues,” said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political-science professor at Cairo University. “For example, European leaders take different positions on immigration, yet they still meet. Ours could keep their political differences while cooperating in other areas, just like they did in this case.”
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