KHAWAGA'S TALE: To Blair: A quick expat's guide to surviving the mideast

Peter A. Carrigan
6 Min Read

Hooray. Tony Blair may be coming to live in the Middle East and sort out all the region s political problems.

Maybe he will share digs with Robert Fisk in Beirut, rent a beach shack in Sharm El-Sheikh or he may fancy the House of Saud.

Maybe I am biased, but Cairo is the Middle East’s best postal address; or is that North Africa’s best address? Either way, just the fact that it is not Dubai makes it the best place for Blair to set up shop. To assist him in the ambitious endeavour, I have come up with the following expatriates’ guide to help him and the family survive and thrive in the “troubled Middle East.

It is all about the taboo in the Middle East. So do not mention the 1915 Armenian genocide, Lawrence of Arabia’s sexuality or let anyone know that you have a secret blog about one G. Brown, PM.

It is a bit of a fag to actually learn Arabic, so as an expatriate, shouting will usually get you what you want.

If you are not killed or maimed on the roads getting to your beach resort hotel, you probably will be at the breakfast buffet. Best time for any buffet is 6:30 am or pm.

Keep plenty of small change handy, it is worth more than the big notes. Keep plenty of big notes handy, in case you have to get out of town quick.

Keep out of the bar in Aleppo’s Baron Hotel in Syria, if you want to get any work done, that is.

Travel with two passports.

As a former PM, do not hassle the region’s embassies, they are very busy with tourists who suffer from heart attacks, strokes and general issues involved with dying in hotel rooms. Hire your own driver. But maybe steer clear of the tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees who are looking for work, they may have some difficult questions.

Don’t mention the expulsion of the 300,000 Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991.

Remember, Istanbul is not the city that spans east and west. It is a city with very bad traffic congestion and is not a member of the European Union, but it does have very good tea and funny crunchy bread on those Bosporus ferries.

Don’t mention the Pope, cartoons or ethnic Indian authors who are Knights of the realm.

Forget the hype about Jerusalem night clubs, you are a family man after all. Just in case you are out celebrating a Hamas vs Fatah football match, then no more than two Harvey Wall Bangers, you don’t want to end up in some East Jerusalem fountain dancing like you are on the opening scenes of Friends.

Don’t worry about alcohol, it is available in most places. Do save up items such as empty shampoo bottles in case you need to sneak booze into some Emirate. But don’t be tempted by the white lighting or homemade beer brewed up by the local Brits.

It is about time the Messiah arrived. Everyone has been waiting ages; some for the second coming, some for the final judgement and some like me for an opportunity to hike in the Golan Heights.

“So, Mr Blair, if you could make that bit of Syrian real estate your first priority I would be most grateful as the wife and I would like to get there in the spring for a little trekking.

With a mind towards future tourism development, I have first dibs on the Gaza cross border tunnels, which I plan to turn into a tourist attraction like the Vietnamese tunnel network that supplied the North’s fight against the Americans.

Don’t mention the Americans either actually. But do read “The Crusades through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf, which features a very good chapter on Richard the Lion Heart.

Always ask after a person’s family and discuss football whenever you can, but don’t mention Chelsea. You can discuss Israel; everyone likes talking about Israel. Also, please find out why Israel is part of the Eurovision song contest?

As a former rock n roller, don’t forget your Doors, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin vinyl. Seventies rock is all the rage. But you don’t need that advice, as if you would forget your Pink Floyd!

The best advice I was given before moving to Egypt was to bring a mosquito net. Simple and effective. Maybe Blair should heed my advice, book into Aleppo’s Baron Hotel and make friends with the barman. You are going to need a friendly ear to bend.

How is that for simple and effective advice?

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