Tag: gun

My Arabic wedding

I couldn’t face going out tonight. I was dying for a shit but couldn’t go. I needed time to contemplate on a proper sitting-up toilet not a hole in ground. You can’t read the newspaper squatting… and it is easy (or it is for me) to miss, making things real messy. Plus, as my hummus belly grows I am finding it more and more painful to squat for long periods. So I haven’t “been” today and would rather stay in but Nizam’s uncle has invited us to a rather special wedding party kicking off at midnight!

We enter the flamboyant affair to see a dance floor filled with grown men dancing together. Holding hands kissing hugging, it was a real camp event in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

We’d left Damascus behind. Nizam’s uncle had invited us to a rich man’s wedding. Set around a swimming pool filmed by a multi-camera crew it was a bizarre scene. A child aged 12 was operating the crane over a dance floor where men, and I mean only men, were dancing. “Where are the women?” I asked Nizam’s uncle, “Next door, they party separate to men”. “Why?” I ask, “Isn’t it boring without women?” “No. Men enjoy their own company”. I’ve only just got used to socialising without drink and now I’m not allowed to see women either! This is the ultimate male dominant society.

I looked around the vast room. Men were holding hands hugging kissing, dancing, eating fruit, drinking coke, smoking water-pipes – they seem to be having fun. I was having fun but couldn’t help thinking a few women and a bottle of scotch would spice things up a bit. Nizam confides later that many of the men enjoy each other company in a more intimate way but it must be kept under wraps here. He also mentions that others are probably nipping round the back to drink alcohol. “Let’s join them!” I plead. Nizam adds that his dad used to keep a glass of whiskey or arak under the table at parties until his uncle caught him. He told him he would never sit with him if he ever drank in his presence again. As we are with his uncle tonight we decide that we had better behave.

I watch Nizam’s uncle dance with his son, I think of his wife and daughters doing the same next door. It’s a funny family event when the family is separated based on their sex. It’s strange that homosexuality isn’t tolerated here yet it feels like such a gay society. I watch a butch man take to the centre of the dance floor shaking his worry beads above his head and wriggling his ass as those around him cheer in excitement.

Later, a man walks on to the stage interrupting the band, he greets the guests by name and they in turn push handfuls of cash into his hands. I ask Nizam what is going on,“The money is for him, he keeps it as he is hosting the party”, Nizam says. A water-pipe boy comes running past, “Hey there’s a fight on the dance floor”, I look over and see the groom fighting someone. Nizam’s uncle quickly gets his son out of the way and I see the 12 year old crane operator making a run for it. Nizam is also in the thick of the action trying to pull the groom away, then I see a silver gun swing in the air, I follow Nizam’s gaze and see another gun pushed into the side of someone, is the groom going to kill someone on his wedding night I wonder to myself?

But I’m not hanging round to find out. I make a run for it grabbing Nizam as I go. “Surely having a few women here would prevent this aggression” I say. “No it would make it worse” Nizam jokes as we run for cover.

Not long after I find myself squatting in the toilet, sweating but selfishly relieved, someone could have died tonight but at least the excitement has cured my constipation.

Gun Rage

Samir came into my hotel room shaken this morning. He was caught up in another bout of road rage, Baghdad style. Despite the new Iraqi Government taking control on the 1st July things are still relatively lawless here. A driver was arguing with another driver both pointing a gun at each other. Samir’s car was sandwiched in, he couldn’t move. The police arrive grab the man’s hand and he starts firing.

The daily perils of living in a country where most households have guns. I remember when I first arrived, it seemed crazy. But now having lived here for over 6 months it makes sense. I would want a gun if I wasn’t living in my well fortified hotel. And when Samir’s neighbour was murdered on her doorstep back in March I took ‘the law’ into my own hands. Fadi, Samir’s 25 year old son had sold the family Kalashnikov thinking things were going to get better. Samir was worried about his son and daughter living in the resistance stronghold neighbourhood with only a hand pistol in the house. So I gave Fadi $120 to buy a Kalashnikov. He got one the very next day. It seemed a sensible thing to do at the time.

But Fadi has temper tantrums. He was involved in a punch up the other week with a driver who cut him up. Thank God he didn’t have his gun with him. There is a hole in the hallway of Samir’s home where he let a round off from the Kalashnikov I bought him. He had been arguing with his sister about the Muslim girl who he hopes to marry. Samir’s family are Christians and he feels it will bring shame on the family if Fadi marries her. He will have to become a Muslim himself in order to marry her. Anyway when the subject was raised, it led to an argument and Fadi grabbed the gun. Samir fought with him trying to pull it off him and a bullets fired into the ceiling. It could have killed either of them. I thought of taking the gun back but then thought about the risks they are living under in this part of Baghdad. In the end I decided to leave him with it hoping that he can marry his Muslim girl without the loss of any life.

I came back to my hotel to find the guard standing proud with a golden plated Kalashnikov. It looked like something out of James Bond. “Where did you get that ?” I asked. “$300 on the street.. it is beautiful isn’t it?” In a funny sort of way it was.