The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Fake Sheikh" strikes again 

"Work is the Curse of the Blogging Classes". So it is for me as well. Pressure of work and family commitments will mean that posting will be spasmodic over the next five weeks or so. I need to get a better-paying and easier job. I had this idea for selling time-shares in Windsor Castle to gullible tourists.

It's been rather a tragic week, so let's finish with something a bit lighter. And where better to find that in one of the UK tabloids. I always make a point of looking at these comics for grown-ups, because if you keep reading the serious stuff, then there's a whole world that just passes you by. Particularly if you don't watch "Celebrity Big Brother" either.

For example, who would know that rebel MP George Galloway, the ultra-aggressive son of Glasgow who roared at a US Congressional hearing and seemed to stun it into silence, was just a pussy-cat at heart? Here he is, pretending to lick milk out of Rula Lenska's (I know. Celeb? Who?) hand. Or how else would we know that Jennifer is fuming with Brad because he didn't tell her that Angelina is pregnant?

And indeed, who would care? But there is one character in today's tabloids whom we've come across before. Remember the "shaky Sheikh", aka Mazher Mahmood?

As I pointed out in an earlier post, any Saudi will tell you that the "News of the World" undercover reporter is not the real deal. For a start, his trousers are sticking out from underneath his thobe, which makes him start to look like someone in Pakistani national attire. Secondly, he's not whacking his prayer beads back and forth around his wrist, he's holding them gently like Sister Francesca saying her rosary.

However, he's taken lots of people in. For some reason, when some people spot this pseudo-Saudi, they get a bad attack of verbal dysentery, it all comes spilling out, they just can't help it. Perhaps it's the sight of the thobe and ghutra that causes people to relax and reveal their most intimate thoughts. Especially Royals, who are supposed to be ultra-discreet and keep well away from politics. Thus he got Countess Sophie to say of Prime Minister Blair and wife....

He's ignorant of the countryside. His wife is even worse, she hates the countryside. She hates it!

....at the time when politicians were discussing the controversial legislation to ban fox-hunting. He also got Britain's "favorite Royal", Princess Michael of Kent, to share these private thoughts with the "Fake Sheikh", his hidden tape-recorder, and five million readers.

DIANA was a "bitter", "nasty" and "strange" woman by the time she died.
CHARLES was deeply jealous of his first wife's popularity.
CAMILLA WILL be crowned Queen—despite the Royal Family's insistence she'll remain Princess Consort —and Charles will NEVER step aside to let William be King.
SNEERS that Camilla may seem to be nice but adds cattily that "..nice is very easy".
CONFIRMS claims that Diana caught Charles on their honeymoon whispering words of love to Camilla.
SPECULATES on the Queen's mental state as she grows older.
REVEALS that the Queen still finds it difficult to accept Charles' marriage to Camilla.

So by now, you would expect that any British celeb would run a mile whenever they saw a thobe and ghutra bearing down on them. But Mazher Mahmood is no fool. He picked on his latest victim somewhere where he could blend in with the surroundings. In Dubai.

Having said that, if you've never been there, you may find it hard to believe but native Arabs are actually quite rare in Dubai. They have so many expatriates there, including the Police, it looks like a suburb of Bombay. A friend of mine once spent a wasted hour in the central shopping square, trying to find an Arabic speaker in any of the electrical shops. Lots of tourists go there expecting it to be wall-to-wall Arabs, and then discover that to meet them they have to go on a specially-packaged air-conditioned "no-dust no-flies camping trip" ten miles out into the desert, (misleadingly advertised "The Empty Quarter" so they all imagine they are following the footsteps of Wilfred Thesiger but in reality they'd all die if they went out that far), to meet some natives of the "Real Arabia", who are very probably an out-of-work actors from Beirut and Casablanca, just doing a one-month stint holding hawks (which they hate), spitting, singing Egyptian folk-tunes because that's all they know (can you tell the difference?), and generally trying to look villainous and colorful.

However, the latest victim probably didn't realize that. Go to Dubai, you expect to meet Arabs. And he did. The victim was no less than Sven-Goran Eriksson, Manager of the England soccer team.
Sven is actually a very good manager. However he's not one to jump up and down on the touchline, shouting and waving his arms. He's more the quiet "whisper in the ear in the dressing room" sort of motivator. In public he comes across with all the charisma of a Swedish funeral director. Mind you, it's a funny thing about Swedish funeral directors, women go wild for them. Seriously. And always stunningly good-looking and sophisticated women. Sven has probably had more good-looking young women on his arm than Brad Pitt.

Anyway, Sven fell for the "Fake Sheikh" hook, line and sinker. This time he posed as a potential buyer for an English soccer club, Aston Villa. Would Sven be interested in managing it, once the World Cup finished in the summer?

The Swede was quoted as saying he was prepared to leave his current job to work for the Arab businessman, who claimed he could take over the Premiership club.
....Eriksson was quoted as saying: "Aston Villa is for sale. The chairman is an old man today. He's sick."

Moral: never make personal comments about other people when talking to a Saudi who has his trousers sticking out at the bottom. I don't think the Chairman of Aston Villa is the only one feeling sick today.

Sven also started to boast of his relationship with superstar David Beckham.

It is also claimed Eriksson suggested he could persuade David Beckham to join him at Villa.
Eriksson was quoted as saying: "I'll phone Beckham. Beckham and I, we have a relationship like that (he crossed his fingers). We are friends, but a lot of respect. "He will come back tomorrow. And it's up to me to convince him that this is the right place to be."

Yes. Right. He could persuade Beckham to leave Real Madrid and play for Aston Villa. That's like Peyton Manning leaving the Indianapolis Colts to play for the Amsterdam Admirals. Oh what silly things we say when we try to impress Saudis with prayer beads.

I apologize to those who have zero interest in European soccer, but can't you see why I love this man? (Mazher Mahmood, that is, not Sven, I'm not Sven's type). In spite of all the loony Imams and oily Ambassadors and lying Princes, he demonstrates that people still completely trust us, if there's something in it for them. So it's on with the thobe and ghutra, get swinging those beads, I'm off to sell timeshares in Windsor Castle.

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