Dubai Consumer Mirror

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Meet Ayman Johar

In case you are wondering I am still around! I didn't go anywhere. :)

There are hopes that phone and Internet at home will be introduced to our building soon. Everyone is in high-anticipation mode. Will keep you posted.

I am in the US these days. Yesterday, I literally had my first day off in weeks. I decided to walk around San Francisco and check it out.

Amazing city; loved everything about it. The houses, the people, the shops. South Beach, North Beach, Market Street, Columbus Street and those amazing Italian restaurants, Fisherman's Wharf.. etc.

Had an interesting encounter though. I walked into a grocery store to pick up a can of diet coke and a packet of napkins. I saw a sign that says "Shawarma, Falafel and Hommus." An Arab looking young fella stood behind the counter. "Arabic food, No?" I asked while pointing toward the sign. "Yes," he said in a typical Ara-english slang. "You Arab?"


"Oh really .. min wain enta?" which means, where from in Arabic.

His face lit up. "Min Falasteen. my name is Ayman Johar."

Like myself, Ayman was raised in Kuwait. His family left the country to the US when he was 10 years old after Saddam's 7 months uninvited visit in 1990.

We talked for a good 10 minutes. We talked about names of schools and streets in Kuwait. Shops and neighbourhood. His family, his life. We talked about how does it feel to be an Muslim Arab living in the US these days. "Are you planning to live here?" he asked. "No, i just work for an American company. I live in Dubai but I come here from time to time."

"Its good you live in Dubai. Its is close to Kuwait. 2 to 3 hours drive and you see your family."

Its a bit further than that really. Also, i can't get into Kuwait that easy. You know, VISAs and stuff.

"Visa?," he asked. "But you are Arab. Why do you need VISA to visit another Arab country?"

I didn't know what to think or say. Should i mock his naivety and his lack of any form of comprehension to Inter-Arab politics, geography or the way the treat each other in their own backyards? Or should I admire his self-sketched picture of Arab nationalism - which happens to be so far away from the "real deal."?

I laughed and said "It must've been a while since your last time in the Middle East." He nodded.

A Chinese woman came in to buy a newspaper. She asked if she can pay him later. He said OK. At that point, i felt i overstayed my welcome and excused myself.

"Stay my brother. Why don't you sit down? Lets have some tea."

I can always tell when someone is inviting me just for the sake of 'common courtesy'. In Egypt they call it "3ozomet Marakbiyah = The invite of a boats man. Remind me to tell you the story behind that anecdote.

Ayman wasn't just being polite. I felt that he really wanted me to stay and hang around. I felt he had many questions he needed answers for. He needed someone who is fresh out of Arabsville. . Not Palestine, nor Kuwait, but from the Arab world.

I walked out of his shop. I walked out with that feeling you get when you go to bed without finishing your homework. When leaving your office without replying to that urgent email you received. That heart-sinking guilt-filled voice saying "you could have stayed for a few minutes."

I decided to walk out.

Its better for him. Let him keep that 10 year old child image of the only thing he feels he belongs to.

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  • Its good that you left, trust me, you would have destroyed his sense of pride and belonging if you would have told him the ugly truth about the Arab state. I know cuz I'v been there.

    By Anonymous Markus, at May 27, 2007 at 6:30 AM  

  • i dunno how you left! I wouldn't be that self-restrained! I would have just opened it all then and there.. coz i've suffered a lot from the way Arabs treat each other so I am happy to "educate" the younger masses about the truth of life back in Arabville.

    Sa7 things are a bit simpler here in the UK but my roots are quite well-established in "al wa6an al 3arabi" like they say.. haha.. sarcasm.

    hope u have a safe trip.. and don't stay too long ok?

    By Blogger BuJ, at May 27, 2007 at 6:37 PM  

  • I think I would have told him the truth. America needs the truth. But I understand why you didn't, it's not easy.

    "7 months uninvited visit"

    I love this ;)

    By Blogger secretdubai, at May 27, 2007 at 9:25 PM  

  • "Visa?," he asked. "But you are Arab. Why do you need VISA to visit another Arab country?"

    Wow, talk about naive. I am surprised he even knows how to still speak arabic.

    By Blogger A Yahya, at May 29, 2007 at 1:22 PM  

  • Hmm, being naive seems refreshing in this cynical world we live in. I reckon I understand why you didn't give him the 411.

    Have a safe journey home.

    By Blogger Shaykhspeara Sha'ira, at May 29, 2007 at 9:24 PM  

  • Whatever you would have told him, he would have toned in down. Arabs are like that, they hear what they want to hear - And everything seems more lovely from afar

    By Blogger Maya, at May 30, 2007 at 10:53 AM  

  • Good to have you back here :-)

    I think you probably did the right thing - let him continue to live in the rosy fantasy world (that probably never really existed anyway).

    I guess most of us are guilty of it - the longer we're away from somewhere the better we think it was.

    By Blogger Seabee, at May 30, 2007 at 4:18 PM  

  • you've done the right thing my friend, we long to the place that is presently no longer the place that resemble the old vivid memory...
    terge3 be al salame..

    By Blogger DUBAI JAZZ, at May 30, 2007 at 7:07 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger kaya, at June 11, 2007 at 4:50 PM  

  • Welllll, I dont know Professore. The level of unawareness in Americans (local or immigrants)about basic things at times is frightening.
    Its like
    Where you from?
    Oh Im from the UAE
    Yeh cool!
    Do you know, where that is?
    errrr No!
    Do you know where Saudia Arabia is?
    Hey isnt that where pakkies and Arabs come from? (sic)

    (excerpts from a conversation in Las Vegas 2 weeks ago, with a top marketing rep - American origin, for a multi national company)

    Yes, but I see the sweetness of your action. Yeh. You big old softy!

    By Blogger kaya, at June 11, 2007 at 4:51 PM  

  • I think you did the right thing, and I know precisely the feeling you're describing. But if you'd stayed and told it like you see it, you might just have found yourself in an argument that just went from bad to worse... :(

    By Blogger Alexander, at June 13, 2007 at 9:42 AM  

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