A chance meeting.

I finally got through Qatar customs and dutifully surrendered my Resident Permit after being asked if I was leaving the country for good. I went to WH Smith perchance to grab a book for the flight back to Kenya. Nothing caught my fancy, but I was rather shocked with some of the book titles on someone’s favourite book list (maybe the New York Times one). Seems profanity is the name of the game to getting published. Here are some memorable titles: Get Your Sh*t Together the author of The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, or who could forget Every Thing is F*cked (A Book About Hope), not to be outdone by his later work-The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Maybe in order to get published, I should try changing the title of my books to Yemen: Who The F*ck Cares or on another trip Iran: I love F*cking Persia. The whole title profanity thing seems perverse.

At any rate, I struggled with my over the limit carry one and equally heavy laptop shoulder bag with 2 brand new Samsung A-10s for the kinder, my I-phone and a dodgy cheap Nokia. Nothing suspicious except my daughter asked to keep the Samsung in its original box–I just hope Kenyan customs did not enquire about why I was carry so many phones and one in its original packing!

I finally managed to get on the plane after stumbling up the stairs–seems Qatar International airport does not have enough elevated platforms to just walk from the waiting area onto the plane.

I preferred a seat with extra leg room. It was a 2-4-2 seating plane. I noticed that there was another chap, late 50-ish who was already seated at the window seat. Since I seemed to be the first person in the line up, I wondered how he got ahead of me when Zone 4 was called. He just sounded like a North American, so I did not give it another thought and then he politely shifted to the middle section for more room.

One thing led to another and he looked shagged from his earlier flight from Casablanca to Doha (6 +hours). Then he said he was Moroccan, and he seemed to be getting preferential treatment for the stewards: bringing him newspapers and an earlier pre-breakfast snack. In conversation, it turns out he is the Moroccan ambassador to Kenya, Dr. Mokhtar Ghambou, no less but I would not have guessed it from his casual dress. I also wondered why he was in Economy. He then said that on regular diplomatic flights he is First Class but this what out of his own pocket for a flight to visit with family. Thus, explaining his first class service in economy.

I said he sounded American and he said he studied in the US and was a professor at Yale–his Masters and PhD were in post-Colonialism. which prompted me to mention the “father of post-colonialism” Edward Said. To which the ambassador said, “Said was my mentor and advisor”.

I told him I loved Said as an essayist but not being such a big fan of Orientalism book. That’s because I had been called an Orientalist myself mainly for my interest and study of Near Eastern archaeology, anthropology and 20 years living and working in the Middle East.

Then he mentioned that Atlantic Monthly magazine article by Said on Where Did Bernard Lewis Go Wrong. This was a rebuttal to Bernard Lewis’ earlier book–Where Did We Go Wrong. I told my ambassador friend that I howled in the bookstore (the Chapters bookstore in Kelowna, BC) when I saw the cover of this Atlantic Monthly article–it was cheeky, brilliant, and priceless.

He then mentioned that the famous Kenyan author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, was a Visiting Professor from 1989-1992 at Yale as well. I did not catch the author’s name at first and then said Ngugi and his “Decolonising the Mind” book (incidentally the very book amongst my Doha collection that was going to be sent a few days later). We probably would have had a longer conversation on that, but he was knackered and suffering from jet lag so I let him rest. I soon followed suit and passed out.

We deboarded the plane at the same time, but I never saw him after that as he was waiting for his security guys to take him and his diplomatic passport through customs and out to his awaiting limousine.

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