He was sitting at the edge of his seat, with a cigarette barely lit-up between his fingers. The uppermost bottoms of his shirt were unzipped, revealing the fluffy sweat-dampened hair of his chest. His head was tilted at a freakish degree like his neck couldn't hold it upright anymore. His eyes were affixed on the TV across the room.
"SKYNEWS the first in breaking news"
I remember Andrew, a nice American chap in his early twenty. He spent the month of June last summer in Dubai, doing an internship in our office. Since he almost knew no one in Dubai, I volunteered to show him around, driving him around town and to the mall during every lunch-break. We struck a friendship pretty quickly.
However, the last day of his in Dubai was marked with an unpleasant event. We were heading toward downtown for lunch at the early afternoon. His plane was set to depart at 2:00 AM that very night. The radio was tuned to a local FM station, casual songs were playing. Suddenly, the presenter broke the music to make this announcement:
"we are getting reports about major threat to all flights bound to Heathrow or Gatwick airports, all flights in and out these two airports are disrupted. If you are flying today to the UK or the US you better check with your travel agent…."
Of course, the mood of both of us has involuntarily changed. Although I pretended to be calm, I can remember now that at one moment, I feared for my new friend's safety.
We sat at the coffee shop watching BBCNEWS. We both passed on the lunch, since we were supposed to meet one of Andrew's acquaintances for an early dinner. There was one security official after the other giving an update about the situation, a London Metro police officer, a British intelligence officer…even the Whitehouse spokesperson couldn't resist the temptation; the same old blabbering about the impending threat to the transatlantic flights.
Watching TV didn't help but make both of us tense. We checked with the airline and were told that everything was business as usual. At least, there was some good news.
I finally broke the silence and said:
"Andrew, I can't tell whether these threats are real or not. But there one thing that I know; those things are designed to make you and thousands of other holiday makers, they are designed to make you scared…"
He nodded his head….
The acquaintance, a friend of a friend of his mothers, turned out to be the wife of a pilot. She was as calmed and relaxed as can be. I must admit that she did a better job of calming down the young man longing to meet his parents at JFK upon his arrival to New York the next day.
Eventually, Andrew managed to make it to the US unscathed. He told his parents at length how much he enjoyed staying in the middle east, and how the people were friendly and accommodating, an entirely different image to what's reported on the western corporate media.
As far as I can tell, the whole 'liquid threat' thing turned out to be a hoax.
He continued to watch as the blond news anchor appeared on TV after the break. His heart was beating at an exponentially fast pace. He listened carefully as she said:
"We can now confirm that we've got nothing else to tell you"
The 'Good', in the broad meaning of the word, is not popular.
Although I believe that human beings are innately endowed with every thing that is good and positive, however, the relentless process of character transformation that starts with childhood and slackens around adulthood, this process pushes the majority of us to override those initial values, and to replace them with new definitions of reality, ones that console us in our journey through the world, scrambling with billions of other fellow earthlings to get our own share of the planet's resources, be it material or power.
This somehow explains why our holding dear of what is good, lose momentum by time.
Fewer people however, differ in their handling of this matter, as they believe that it is imperative to their livelihood to hold the 'Good' values in their pristine and unscathed manner. Regardless of the inconveniences that such an attitude might bring along the way.
Let's imagine a mining company, where labors are force to work under harsh conditions; lack of safety, lack of hygiene, long working hours, low wages, etcetera ….
Amongst those poor 'pitmen' emerges a group of individuals, who decided to stand up for their rights and those of their colleagues, they go on a strike, demanding that unless the conditions are improved, they are not going back to the underground.
Without a full cooperation from the other labors, how likely do you think it is for their contention to work out?
I would say, quite unlikely.
The late legendary Syrian play writer Sa'ad Allah Wanous, said something in that effect in his renowned play 'Al Feel Ya Malek Al Zaman' (the elephant, oh you king of times), which animates an imaginative event from the Abbasid era. (If my memory is not betraying me)
Apparently, the mischievous elephant, which the king had adopted as a pet, has turned the lives of the residents of the city the king was ruling into a living hell. He goes out from the palace everyday on havocking rampages, un-intercepted, disrupting the markets, the cultivation fields and whatever comes in its way. People have gotten fed up; they decided to protest to the king.
The formation of the people in the demonstration had an interesting pattern to note, those who are courageous and fearless, were leading the way ahead of the masses. Shouting the famous slogan (which is also the title of the play): "Al Feel Ya Malek Al Zaman"
The less courageous, more fearful and hesitant people were walking gingerly in the rear, and as the procession was getting closer to the palace, it was fretting from behind (on the contrary to the quantum physics maxim, that objects on the move usually erode from the front). People were peeling off the mass; taking to the dark empty transversal allies, as if every one of them had a certain distance to go, he can never go further. (Convenience)
People were actually not protesting against the king, they were merely fed up with the elephant, and they thought that it is probable that the king was not aware of his malicious pet. Of course, it was quite likely that the king was well aware of everything, (he had his eyes you know), but they decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
To make a long story short, only one person made it to the 'Hall of The Throne', the guards let in him following an order from the king who was curious to know what was it all about, eventually, the lone valiant man stood in the middle of the hall, surrounded by the king and his entourage, incessantly shouting the slogan: "Al Feel Ya Malek Al Zaman" (the elephant, oh you king of all times)
After few rounds of reprising his keynote, the man of valor stopped shouting and realized that eventually he had to deliver his statement, in order to muster some confidence before spouting the complain to the king, he turned around to the mass of people behind him, he saw no one. His jaws dropped on the floor. But there was no going back now.
"Al Feel Ya Malek Al Zaman", he stuttered.
"What about the elephant?" the king replied, knowing that his was the one in question, since no other elephant lived in the neighborhood.
"The elephant, oh you king of all times"
"Yes I heard you, what about him?"
"The elephant" the voice of the valiant man was getting weaker now. He had to say something after all.
"The elephant, oh you king of all times: it is a pleasure to have him in our town. It's a great entertainment for our kids to watch him walking down our street everyday. I came here today to highlight to you our admiration of the elephant, and our desire to continue to host him in our city…."
Call me submissive, but I incontrovertibly believe that unless an ample number of people are instilled with the 'Good' values of, bravery, justice, equality and empathy, it is a useless endeavor to try to get the elephant off the streets.
I've got some good news today: my friend and co-adventurer has decided to take on the blogging business.
He's calling himself DubaiSalsa, I couldn't think of anything better to describe him rather than his self-chosen nickname.
Despite what he might tell you of not knowing what to write about bla...bla...bla, I know he's got a decent first hand experience in areas that may come in handy for all of you guys, Right! he is such a big womanizer!
So be warned girls, this is the “type of guy old grandma, worried mothers and desperate housewives tell you to stay away from!”*
Come on SalsaGuy ! Rock the Syrian blogsphere with your swaying ass!
One more thing SalsaGuy; don't get turned off by my explicit language, it's just an enticement for you to get you started. Just remember how freshmen are usually received in the boot camp by the seniors!..(a bat on the but and big water bucket on the scalp!!)
______________ *(expression was shamelessly burglarized form Abu Fares)
.... I was sitting alone to the round table next to the coffee shop's entrance, minding my own business. Smoking shisha and fully engrossed between the covers of an American novel. "Mission Compromised" is an interesting story, full of action and suspense. It's nevertheless- as the case with all similar kind of novels- full of American superiority bull shit, and hints of prejudice and hatred toward Arabs and Muslims. Let alone the manipulation of some historical facts. (The author claims it's based on actual accounts and records) In most of the cases, I would be sitting alone. The majority of my friends don't smoke. So I most often than not, end up smoking and reading at the same time. Not knowing which activity is the cover-up for the other one. "Mr. DJ" the coffee shop supervisor interrupted. "May I ask you how I can apply for an internet connection for my coffee shop?" he asked politely, with a courteous apologetic smile for breaking my reading engagement. I then started explaining to him whatever information I had about the subject, and all the different procedures he might need to go through, all to the best of my limited knowledge. My table was the closest one to the inside entrance of the B café, strategically located in a way that makes it easy to watch who's coming in and out. Naturally in such crowded places, disturbance comes in abundance. But being a frequent visitor of the place for the last couple of years, I got used to all kinds of distractions, loud voices, loud laughter, loud TV sport commentary, basically everything that is preceded with the word 'loud'. But mind you, it is a shisha café anyway, it's noisy, and it's ought to be so…. While I was still talking to Tarek (the supervisor) another guy came in and started talking to him without preambles. The new guy was dressed up like bankers. I understood form the quick exchange between him and Tarek (in an entirely different Arab dialect) that he came to pick a take-away order he had made earlier on the phone. In order to draw the least of attention and to avoid unwarranted comments, I always wrap my books up. But for some reason, be it laziness or carelessness, I didn't wrap the cover of this novel, which seemed later on as the most sensible thing to have done. The new guy (whose novelty has started to fade now) looked at the back cover of the book I have in hands, on which a photo of the author was printed. Ironically enough, the author is of a striking resemblance to George w. bush. Without the least regard for etiquette, the new guy interrupted: "Have you read Saddam's new book?" "Did he write one?' I replied. The new guy looked at his watch as if he's trying to tell me that I am late. "feenek min al sube7?' he said jokingly. (Where have you been since the morning?) "I have no interest in Arabic books" I replied, trying to wrap up the awkward conversation, since I failed to wrap up the book from the first place. "Do you know who wrote Iben Katheer?" he asked… "You mean the tafseer? I think it was Iben Katheer himself right?" I again replied. Pretending not to get the point… "But I've already told you the answer" he chuckled. 'What the fuck' I said to myself, 'this guy is an unstoppable radio speaker.' "I just told you my friend; I have no interest in these kinds of books. I read enough of them when I was at school, now I only read for entertainment….OK?" "But this is not the ideal personality to read about" he nodded at the photo. As I had similar comments about it before, I replied instinctively: "My friend, this is not George w. Bush, come look closer, this is an American novelist, his name is Oliver North" "But there is an American flag on the front cover?" he prattled on.. "Probably because it's an American novel?" I replied in a sarcastic tone. "But this is a mistake" he said. By now, there were at least five people listening to us: two guys waiting for their change at the cashier counter, a guy sitting next to a table next to mine, Tarek and his little charcoal boy. It seems that my initial attempt to shut this guy up diplomatically has failed. He went on saying: "You should first finish reading our books and then make a switch to different cultures" Although all the conversation was taking place in Arabic, he did use the English word for 'switch'… "Are you for real my friend? Do you expect me to read all the Books written in Arabic before switching to English? Don't you think that's….errrr…stupid?' He didn't expect the bluntness; he thought that his wit combined with the element of surprise were enough for him to get away with the lousy conversation. Although I was blunt, I tried to keep it cool, and all the while smiling. Only then he realized that he was making a fool of himself. His beaming expressions receded. He looked serious for a bit. Then smiled and said quitely: "I am Saeed by the way; I work at the city bank" Talk about American flag, huh? "oh hi Saeed , nice to meet you bro! I am DJ and I am an architect" I said. "Would you care to join me?" I replied in a counter attack, knowing quite well that he won't. His order was packed and ready. He looked behind as he was being notified about it, patted his butt in search for the wallet. Apparently, it was time for him to pay and leave. "Oh I would love to, but I really need to go" he said before disappearing amongst the crowd of shopper inside the building…. ….. I am all for the outwardly and the gregarious nature of Arab people. Nothing is more vivid and warming than the feeling of hospitality you get at the narrow alleys of any Arab city. Where people, you don't even know, greet you and smile at you, just because you happened to be passing by... I also know that the more we deepen our sense of privacy, the stronger the social barriers are going to get. But this kind of culture that also allows minimal of privacy and individuality, combined with the pressure of the western life style of Dubai, can push your temperament to the limits sometimes. Making such awkward encounters a corollary…