mercredi 10 mai 2017


Recently I have been spending short spurts of time in QATAR, mainly because of my love for flying the world’s best airline, Qatar Airways, managed with incredible efficiency and comfort by HE Akbar al Bakr.
The observations below are those of an anthropologist, just asking WHY as he should, rather than accepting a sociological answer to the situation in the Gulf States and other developing nations such as Malaysia and Singapore, spreading slowly elsewhere but not in the West, with its centuries old understanding of FREEDOM and DIGNITY, however faulty it may seem lately, with elections of demagogue stirring up fear of the imaginary loss of these noble qualities of the West.

(The flight to Egypt was empty, the flight from Egypt was very full: a good metaphor)

Qataris are virtually invisible. Men look so elegant in their traditional dresses, like peacocks whereas the beauty of women is hidden in the all-encompassing black coverings.
Mostly invisible are also the European top management.
Middle management, seem to be completely ASIAN or other unfortunate Arabs, born in their own countries or in Qatar, but treated as if they had just arrived in town, the Asian contingent, from doormen to limousine drivers, and all other itinerant and necessary jobs, seem heavy on the Filipinos, followed by Indians. Bangladeshis seem to occupy the lowest rung. A smattering of Africans could be appropriately seen, from Kenya, Uganda etc.
Everywhere you look, healthy young men, mostly brown in colour, dominate the scenery.
 (in small settlements like this one along the Red Sea, many Jewish traders lived and traded; and there were stories of Jewish traders traveling to Cochin in India from places like the one above)
(The Red Sea from the Air, somewhere near Moses might have passed through?)

A modified version can be seen and experienced in Malaysia and Singapore, where there is a local south Indian population and a large North Indian expatriate, middle management population. Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Nepalese seem to the underdogs and the Filipino presence is heavily feminine. The separation of THEM and US does not seem as blatant as in the Gulf States, with the definite exception of the Sultanate of Oman where I suspect the ambiance to be the best, as Omanis are visible in the society.
Something similar, one can argue, exists in the USA or Europe, but the “indentured” there have rights, and the discrimination is not coded into the law. As Bernard Lewis, the elder statesman historian of Islam has repeatedly stated: Islamic in essence involves the state, whereas Christendom had ceased to exist five hundred years ago at the end of the dark ages (perhaps that is why we called them the dark ages?) and now Christianity is separated from the State and in none of the Christian countries, would an elected Official be sent to prison, despite the prosecutors asking for probation, because he, a Christian, quoted the Quran, the holy book of the majority Muslim population he was governing, in the Islamic Republic of Indonesia. Cartesian philosophy of the Renaissance (there is a reason for calling this period a Renaissance, rebirth) separate the mind and the body, gave the Church authority over the soul and the every day matters were taken care by the civic society. Such a separation is yet to appear in the thriving (Qatar, UAE) Muslim societies, struggling economies (Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt) or failed Muslim states such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya 
I make a point of chatting or extracting the interesting stories behind all these new order indentured workers. An unemployed IT worker from Calicut now drives limousine for a hotel lamented: The salary here in Qatar is good, but life is not enjoyable; but the life in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are enjoyable.
I must say here that I prefer my stopovers to be rather in Doha than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but I am writing down what I can glean from conversations.

I had a chance to visit the Al Safwa First Class Lounge at Hamad International Airport a couple of times recently and it has to be the best airport Lounge in the world, having experienced excellent lounges in Paris, London, Sydney and New York. Mostly young Asians, brown in colour, milled around, attentively serving excellent food and wine. The clientele was predominantly Arab, as this lounge serves customers flying short haul First Class as medium haul (such as the 787 to Brussels or the long haul A350 do not have First Class cabins but only Business Class cabins, despite them being superior to the short haul First Class on AB20). I was on my way to Alexandria, a short flight serviced by an Airbus 320, but I was privileged to experience the Al Safwa lounge.
I cannot come to term with the excellent service, efficiency, distinction of class without discrimination of the workers, or even try and explain it, I enjoy it so much, flying Qatar Airways and the service it offers, which makes the USA and Europe based airlines look like Bullock Carts of last century.
Haraz, a polite Indonesian served me Samak Harra, a Lebanese chili fish dish, brought me a glass of Vueve Cliquot La Grand Dame champagne.
Qatar airways gives you back a disproportionately large amount of returns for your ticket, they are concerned about the passengers welfare unlike the Western Airlines interested in the welfare of their stock holders.
The first class check in is a dedicated, no line set up, where you sit as if in an office attended by two agents, labeling your bags and printing out your boarding pass/es. Coffee and Dates are offered and you go through a dedicated Immigration and Security line, the least painful crossing of the borders if there was one.
The Lounge al safwa is opulent as well as spacious. Multitudes of young men and women attend to your, serving food and drinks.
To solely blame the West for oppression or marginalization in countries which were once their colonies (Don’t forget both Qatar, UAE and Oman were all protected by the British Crown): India by the British, Indonesia by the Dutch, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, West Bank (British and French), does not seem to be fully correct. I will give you an account of what happened when I tried to do a simple transit at the small, chaotic, unsafe airport at Alexandria, Egypt.
The reason for transiting through Casablanca CMN in Morocco or Cairo CAI or Alexandria HBE in Egypt or Colombo CMB is a simple one: Qatar Airways offers excellent business Class fares if you commence your journeys in these Cs Cairo Casablanca Colombo.

Ms. A was the Cabin supervisor and had told her that I was doing a transit at HBE. She informed QR staff Mohammed al Bakr as well as Wael Al Mamlouk of the situation and they were very helpful. But not all people were as knowledgeable or helpful as the two employees of QR. The person who was supposed to walk me through the process of Immigration and Customs, was not that knowledgeable and after clearing the incoming immigration he just pointed out to me the outgoing Immigration and that is when the drama began.
In Egypt the immigration and Customs officers all resemble naval officers in their uniform, the immigration agent, leads me into an office, where an elderly gent, also in naval uniform, sat smoking cigars and chewing on some snacks. Sit down, said a young man in jeans and tee shirt, politely in English.
The older man had his grey hair dyed a deep black and had a look of disenchantment with the world. In fact, he fitted so well into the caricature of a petty official in a developing or poor country, picture perfectly. He wanted to know, he spoke only Arabic and the young man in jeans translated, how was that I was standing in front of him, as my passport had no stamps of entry into Egypt and thus technically I am not in Egypt? Why are you coming to Alexandria this glorious city just for a few minutes? None of them were convinced even after my explanation and they wanted to know where stamps in my passport were from: Brussels, where is that? While they were conducting this conversation in this insane fashion, they would turn to me and say: Don’t worry everything would be all right. I caught a glimpse of Wael al Mamlouk of Qatar Airways; he joined in the friendly verbal fray while assuring me that the aircraft will not leave without me.
This is frightening, not of the present situation I found myself in, but of the mob fury or lack of logic when the general education is so low, and thought of the Governor of Jakarta facing denouncement demanding his head for quoting (not quoting) from Quran.

(The sun is setting over Alexandria airport)
This is the fact that Egypt puts out to the world. The elderly gent tosses my passport with a purposeful dramatic movement and Wael walks me past immigration officers and the security is lax, and as the sun was setting I was able to board the flight to Doha.
I felt a great sense of relief.
Why did the grand civilization, which gave us Pyramids at Giza, Moses end up like this?
(A lesson might be learned from 1492 Spain. By kicking out Jews or other educated people and hard workers out of your country, you can easily and quickly can descend into poverty and backwardness. Something similar is happening in Malaysia, where 1 million of its educated young are working in Singapore).
I started writing this blog about the New World Order, and I conclude with this:
The world is an unequal place, becoming more so, as those few with aptitudes and capacity concentrate themselves in safe and smaller geographical pockets.
I was well attended by Ms. A from Roumanie, and arrived safely to the safety of the Al Mourjan Lounge at Doha 3 hours later.

 (it was time to escape into Al Mourjan Lounge)