Thursday, June 12, 2003

The king is back; well the “pretender” is here – one of them, I think there are three hopefuls.
"In Baghdad, Having A Good Heir Day"
He is the first of the wannabe-royals to arrive in Baghdad. and boy did he get an interesting reception, It was a mess fit for royalty. You would have already heard that he came in the first civilian chartered airplane, loaded with “humanitarian aid” journalists and his bags. His first stop was the royal cemetery where he was supposed to make a speech and meet “his” people. He got out of the car and immediately he had the traditional lamb-sacrificed-under –your-feet thingy happening to him, after that more sheep got the sacrificial treatment along with a couple of chickens and the meat was being distributed to the “poor”. There was a moment when the crowd gathering to get the meat was bigger than the crowd cheering for him. And there was of course the brave young man who pushed his way thru and snatched a chicken and ran off, everybody was after him “who cares what the king is saying, follow the meat”.
Anyway in he goes and gets instantaneously mobbed by the press, it was a scene to behold. I now have a clear understanding of what a “cluster fuck” looks like. It was hot. The mausoleum is tiny and has no windows and you had those hordes of journalists-gone-mad all wanting to have that special picture. You can see the guy (sorry the Sharrif Ali) muttering: “what the hell am I doing here?” under his breath. Somehow Al-Arabiya got into the burial chamber with him and got a quickie interview right there to the annoyance of the photographers. And then the Arabiya reporter ran out of the room shouting “where is my camera man? Where is my camera man?”. Oooh it was hilarious. Sharrif Ali was supposed to make a speech to the gathered honorables, sheikhs and instant-royalty types who were seated in the garden. The funny thing is that non of them saw him when he came out and stood on the podium. Cameras and reporters had him encircled. I had two people asking me if I could point him out for them.
He was sweating, it was so hot and they had him right there under the scorching sun, he had this smile pasted on his face and a tiny battery operated fan directed at his neck and held by one of his people. Have you ever tried to look dignified while you are wearing a dark suit and under a scorching sun? it doesn’t work, the moment that little bead of sweat start running down the arch of your nose I will start laughing.
After a couple of verses from the Quran and some shouts of welcome, we get to the speech. I was waiting for the moment he opens his mouth and look at people’s faces when they realize that he speaks pretty lousy Arabic. He has this cute accent foreigners have when they speak Arabic. OK not that bad, but he sounds strange, his Arabic sounds forced.
Very uninteresting speech, he even goes so low as to fish for cheers in the most obvious ways: better wages, no gasoline lines bla bla bla. The good thing is that he didn’t get the applause he was hoping for.
Next stop: press conference in a HUGE mansion by the river. More media mobs, more nonsense. There is no flame there to inspire a mouse.

We left the press conference 15 minutes after it started. Right outside the hall where the media was trying to get anything out of the Sharrif ali we saw a huge man shouting at one of his “royal highness’” aides. This is what he was saying:
“look you asked me to drive you people around and I said OK, they promised me lunch so why are they now not letting me in?” he was talking about the banquet that they were preparing. It was a fun day, it really was.
How these guys who were not even capable of organizing a press conference will manage to run a country is anyone’s guess. And I can already see how people will react to the people who will want to be called princes and princesses.