Zenga-zenga and other things Qaddafi

A Qaddafi potpourri:


Christiane Amanpour travels to Libya and interviews two of Qaddafi’s sons and Moammar Qaddafi.


The shoe-thrower’s index. Amusing view of unrest in the Arab world. The Economist.


Featured on the masthead of al-Jazeera’s online English page is an editorial titled, “Democracy is no panacea“, where we learn, ‘It [democracy]exacerbates cultural conflicts to the point of violence, because it provides a formal opportunity for the majority to force their will on the minority'”. Hahahaha. Could al-Jazeera’s Qatar overlords be getting nervous?

To what extent should a newspaper merely report events as opposed to trying to influence events? I remember when Al-Jazeera was kicked out of Jordan. They reported demonstrations at Jordan University in Amman, long a hotbed of seething Palestinian indignation. (Why was Jordan not using all its resources to wage war on Israel from within its borders? And when I applied for a job there, “we desperately need English teachers”, said one, but her boss said, ‘You’re American, that will never be accepted.”) Al-jazeera seemed to know exactly when and where the demonstrations were going to break out on campus, but they failed to report the buses with demonstrators arriving through the back gate.
During the recent uprising in Egypt, al-Jazeera was again kicked out. Were they again viewed as trying to create unrest rather than report it? And do they only do so only in countries that have treaties with Israel? (Israel has long accused them of slanted coverage favoring Hamas.)


Qaddafi’s Nescafe comment: if true, this would be a refreshing change from the koolaid meme. Qaddafi is supposed to have

claimed that young Libyans “fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs,” were fighting not for their freedom but for Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

I can’t hear it myself, but this is supposed to be the video. It was reported by the NYT.


Zenga-zenga.  A video made from Qaddafi’s speech goes viral. From the NYT:

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic.”…

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a song by the American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. Mr. Alooshe titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Colonel Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway….

Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.

But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”

Here’s the vocabulary from a YouTube comment:

shebr shebr = inch by inch

beit beit  = home by home

dar dar = house by house

zenga zenga = lane by lane

ila al-amam = to forward

thawra = revolution

maee el-malayeen = I have milions (ppl)

dakkat saat al amal = time for work

dakkat saat al zahaf = time for march

dakkat saat al intesaar = time for victory

la rojoo = no retreat


And here’s the Arabic, with some hahahaha’s thrown in at the end:

شبر شبر …..بيت بيت ….دار دار …زنقة زنقة …. فرد فرد

الى الامام الى الامام ..ثورة ثورة

معي الملايين و مش من الداخل .. معي الملاين من الامم الاخرى

انا اوجه نداء الى كل ملايين الصحراء

من الصحراء الى الصحراء حتزحف الملايين و ما حد يقدر يوقفها

دقت ساعة العمل .. دقت ساعة الزحف ..دقت ساعة الانتصار .. لا رجووووع

ههههههههههههههههههههههههههههه ه­هههههههههههههههههههههههههههه

One final matter of curiosity. Qaddafi keeps insisting he has no official position in Libya, he is a mere figurehead. This is also mentioned in the Khadafy biography I just finished reading. At various times Qaddafy has abdicated, but kept his membership in the ruling council, and at other times giving up his membership in the council as well, although it is agreed he always retained de facto power. So he can’t exactly step down, can he?

Posted in Arabs. 1 Comment »

Yearning and Wrath: the weirdness of Saudi protest

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country that does not brook dissent.  Nevertheless, it has not escaped the rash of whatever-it-is that is now sweeping the Middle East.  There was a small protest on Thursday in the town of Awwamiya, near the Shi’ite centre of Qatif, resulting in the release of three shias, one a blogger, from jail. In Riyadh about 40 women staged a protest over jailed dissidents.

And now there is to be either a “revolution of yearning” on Friday, March 11  or a “day of wrath” on Sunday, March 13, (I have yet to see the promised Facebook links. ) I don’t know whether to seethe or sorrow, laugh or cry.

Then there’s this very strange video of protests in Jeddah.  The original video has been taken down and this one with drama music has been put up.  The protesters seem to wander in and out of traffic, blocking cars and shouting Allahu al-akbar (God is great). I can’t understand what else they are saying.

Once again, Jadaliyya has a levelheaded, if slightly dated, piece on the subject.

UPDATE: here is the Facebook page of the  الشعب يريد إصلاح النظام  (“the people want reform of the system”)

And here is a March 20 group. With English.  And a fist. Saudi Revolution 20 March – الثورة السعودية يوم 20 آذار More here.

Posted in Arabs. Comments Off on Yearning and Wrath: the weirdness of Saudi protest

Qaddafi, tents, and tribes

A few days ago, Canehan made the comment:

I think it is very significant that people in Benghazi flew the old flad of King Idriss, a Senussi. Someone will enlighten me but I think there is a tribal thing here, Senussi against the rest. I have just read a book about British operations behind German/Italian lines in Libya during WWII and much of it was in the Benghazi hinterland, where they had strong support from the local tribes.

Since then I have been digging through my bookshelves and have come up with a couple of morsels.  The first is from Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, mostly about guerrilla actions against the Italians prior to WWII. In 1918 Italy was established on Libya’s coast and by 1939 occupied the whole of Libya:

  • “…the appropriation of land by immigrants was important during the period 1918-39.”
  • “…Italian rule had been extended from the Libyan coast into the desert by 1934.”
  • “In Cyrenaica, the eastern part of Libya, there was an official colonization of lands expropriated for the purpose, and with funds supplied by the Italian government.”

And most interesting,

  • “During the Italian conquest of Libya, resistance in the eastern region, Cyrenaica, was led and directed by the head of the Sanusi order.”

The wikipedia piece on Senussi has much detail, and further links.

The second source I found was a book long out of print, a biography by Harry Gregory called simply Khadafy.  It’s not a flattering book.  The first two pages are about why he is called a “mad dog” (Ronald Reagan’s epithet).

On one thread today I saw Khadafy referred to as a “son of a despot”.  Actually he was not from a privileged family.  They were bedouin farmers of the Berber tribe of Ghadaffa and devout Sunni Moslems.  Moammar himself was born in a goatskin tent somewhere in the Libyan desert.

I remember when Qaddafi came to Amman for a summit meeting, c 2000.  He brought his tent, as is his habit, and the king let him have the grounds of one of the palaces for it, while the other Arab leaders stayed in hotels.

Qaddafi’s grandfather was killed fighting Italian invaders in 1911.  His father and brother were in jail for long stretches of time for guerrilla activities against the Italian army.  At that time the resistance activities were coordinated by King Idris, then Emir of Cyrenaica, a Senussi, but Ghadafi’s family fought independently of the Libyan resistance movement.

The Italian army had already been routed, and its soldiers had surrendered virtually en masse.  Great Britain and France filled the void.  King Idris was quick to accommodate them.  His Sanusi force, which had fought side by side with the British at Tobruk and throughout most of the other North African campaign offered no opposition.  Only in the desert regions inhabited by Berber tribesmen like the Khadafys was there a failure to make a distinction between the Italians and  the British and French.  In the desert, all Europeans were viewed the same – with suspicion and hatred.

But King Idris joined Libya to the Arab League in 1953, then in 1956 refused to let the British march troops through Libya on the Suez canal expedition.  Then in 1959 oil was discovered and Libya became rich, too rich to need American aid or rent from American and British bases. By the time the king was deposed by Qaddafy in 1969, the British and Americans had begun to think of him as someone who might give access of oil reserves to Russia, while the bedouins thought of him as a stooge of the west. There was an attempt at a counter-coup on the part of officers from Cyrenaica, the area loyal to King Idris, officers who were for “Libya for the Libyans” and did not buy into Qaddafi’s worship of the Egyptian Nassar, but the plot was foiled by American intelligence.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but a purging of bookstores and libraries was one of Qaddafi’s repressive tactics.  Among the books publicly burned: Sartre, Baudelaire, Ezra Pound, Graham Greene, Henry James, and D.H. Lawrence. Graham Greene? Oh no, not Graham Green. Maybe the guy’s a mad dog after all.

Oh, and the demonstrators in this video from Souq al Jummah in Tripoli on Feb 21, are supposed to be chanting “الروح بالدم نفديك يابنغازي , “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you Benghazi!”

UPDATE 2/23/11: I have now finished Harry Gregory’s biography of Khadafy and gotten curious about the author.  People with two first names tend to make me suspicious. But there is absolutely nothing about him in the blogosphere, and in the book itself, only the notation “Chicago, May 1986” at the end of the last page.  And no footnotes, index, dedication, preface, or credits.  My own article (this one) appears on the first page of a google search, always a bad sign when I’m looking for information.  Oh, plenty of used copies for sale–it seems there was only one edition, printed by the Canadian company Paperjacks in 1986 and bought in droves by libraries, if the number of used library editions is any indicator.  But the author seems to have written just this one book, with the clarity, singleness of purpose, and understatement of one of those anonymous writers of a wikileaks cable, then decided to “fold their tents like the Arabs, and as silently steal away”.

Posted in Arabs. 2 Comments »

Now Libya

ANOTHER UPDATE:  http://www.facebook.com/17022011libya (in Arabic, lots of homegrown videos)


Also,… Letter from Libya: Circle of Fire, The New Yorker, 2006

Some links:

Libya February 17th – breaking news and photos I think from inside the country (Thanks, Emerson.)

ShabbabLibya on Twitter.

Feb17 voices on Twitter.

BBC Live Blog.

Reuters live blog.

Al Jazeera live blog.

Images: Above, the old Libyan flag in London (NYT).

Below: Demonstrators show the old flag at the London embassy

But wait, isn’t it backwards? Maybe they haven’t seen it for a while.  Here it is from wikipedia.  On the left is flag of the Kingdom of Libya, 1951–1969. On the right, the plain green flag of Qaddafi’s Green Revolution.

This might also be a good time for nostalgia over Qaddafi’s army of 200 women, allegedly all virgins and trained in weapons and martial arts, not to mention makeup, nail polish, and heels.    Some 7,000 women were said to have graduated from a women’s military academy in Tripoli between 1979 and 1983, when it closed after students ripped down fences to escape.  Photos here, here, here and here, and even more in this creepy puff piece video.

Just so we don’t become superficial and focus entirely on what the women are wearing – and the blue camo was always a personal favorite of mine – here’s some fashion commentary on the men as well–the dictator chic styles of Ahmadinnejad and Qaddafi.

Posted in Arabs. 3 Comments »

Eye of the beholder

An interesting view of reporting of the Lara Logan assault in Egypt using a word cloud generator.
How We’re Talking About Lara Logan, by Gender

For my part, I hope this story gets wide play and stays long in the news cycle. Whenever there is some rumor about a Muslim woman having her scarf pulled off on a western country, it receives wide coverage in the Arab press, even if it is later discovered not to be true.

But the frequent sexual assaults (both major and minor) of western women in Arab countries is a taboo subject. And Arab women won’t report sexual assaults at all, for fear of being killed (honor killings still happen.)

via The Crawdad Hole

Banned in Gaza

Those who celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned book now have two more books for their reading list.

Hamas banned the sale of two Arab novels and confiscated the copies from a bookstore in Gaza city, sources said Tuesday.

The sources, who preferred their names not to be disclosed, said plainclothes policemen confiscated all the copies of the two novels from a bookstore near Al-Azhar University and showed the owner an order from the interior ministry stipulating the ban on the books.

The order said the two novels, Chicago by Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Asswani and Feast for the Seaweeds by Syrian author Haidar Haidar, “don’t agree with the teachings of Islamic Sharia.”

Alaa Al-Asswani’s Chicago has reviews in the NYT and in the Telegraph. The Amazon reviews are always illuminating too, but no link love for them. Amazon has started inserting really intrusive ads in the middle of my text whenever I link to them. In a nutshell, the reviewers say read his 2002 The Yacoubian Building set in Egypt instead. (But of course now that it’s been banned, that changes everything. :)

Haidar Haidar‘s 1983 A Feast for the Seaweeds or maybe “banquet for Seaweeds” وليمة لأعشاب البحر is a little harder to find, no current reviews, although there seem to be downloads available, especially in Arabic. Apparently it triggered demonstrations against it in Cairo as late as 2002.

…which leads circuitously to this list of authors confiscated from a Cairo book fair:

~Moroccan novelist Mohamed Shoukri’s Al-Khayma (The Tent);
~Joseph Harb’s Al-Sayeda Al-Baydaa dhat Al-Shahwa Al-Kuhliya (The White Woman of the Dark Blue Lust);
~Egyptian writer Yehia Ibrahim’s Hikayat Majnouna (Mad Stories)
~and, hardest-hit with three confiscated titles each, Moroccan feminist Fatma Al-Mernissi’s Al-Harim Al-Siyassi (The Political Harem), Hal Antum Muhassanoun Did Al-Harim? (Are You Fortified against the Harem?) and Al-Khawf min Al-Hadatha (Fear of Modernity)
~and Egyptian feminist Nawal El-Saadawi’s Awraq min Hayati (Pages from my Life), the second part of her autobiography, Al-Hub fi Zaman Al-Naft (Love in the Age of Petrol) and Suqout Al-Imam (The Fall of the Imam).

Mernissi has been a favorite of mine, some perceptive vignettes, I think on loan from the Vatican library in Amman, but I don’t remember the title now.

Posted in Arabs, Books. Comments Off on Banned in Gaza

Jeddah floods

You don’t usually think of Saudi Arabia as a place for high water, but the coastal town of Jeddah is starting to look like Australia.  Three days after the initial flood, water is beginning to recede, and now there are official reports of 11 deaths.

[photo credit: Saudi Gazette.  More photos here. h/t John Burgess]

Some claim the city of Jeddah has no drainage system, but what’s this?  Sure looks like a water truck, but quite a bit larger than the one that pumped water up to the tank on my roof in Amman.  Maybe that’s the sewage system it’s pumping water into.  
That used to be an issue in some of Amman’s suburbs, whether houses had their sewage and rainwater runoff connected to the proper systems.

Amman is built on rock. The water pipes are above ground; you step over them when you walk in the street. On the day when they turn on the water (Wednesday in my neighborhood) the pipes leak onto the street. When you wake up in the morning, you know it’s water day because you can hear the sound of the cars splashing through the water. Heavy rains used to send water cascading down the street at the bottom of Wadi Sacra, 8 stories below my apartment. If I got stuck away from home it was too dangerous to cross the street. I would have to walk some distance up the hill to find a place where the water was not too deep to cross.

I don’t understand how it can flood in the desert. Flash floods, yes, a flash flood in Petra once killed several dozen tourists in the Siq (a canyon) I believe, but these photos are from three days after the rains stopped, if I understand the problem correctly. Why would the water not just flow to the sea, or sink into the sand?

I see Jeddah is surprisingly large, over 3 million people–almost comparable to Chicago in size.

Will there be an independent fact-finding committee to analyze the problem and put it on their website, say, 6 months from now when all this is forgotten, do you suppose, or have the Saudis yet to reach that level of bureaucratic subtlety.

Hmm, looks like Jedda does have an official website, but unlike the Australian websites that show public service information like bridge and road closures, there is nothing, absolutely nothing about the floods. Maybe their Arabic language website does better.

Posted in Arabs. Comments Off on Jeddah floods

WikiRiot or average Friday jihad?

Before I went to Jordan, one of my professors told me jihads always start on a Friday after mosque. So I had to laugh when I saw the lead paragraph in the LA Times:

In an unprecedented development in Jordan, protests similar to those that have rocked Tunisia and Algeria in recent weeks erupted in the Arab kingdom Friday.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Amman, and several other cities to protest rising food prices and unemployment, media reports say.

Aside from complaints, they also pointed rare and stinging criticism toward the Jordanian government, headed by Prime Minister Samir Rifai.

“Down with Rifai’s government,” protestors chanted as they marched through Amman’s city center, according to Agence France-Presse. “Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh. Raise fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions.”

Similar protest marches were held in the cities of Maan, Karak, Slat and Irbid, where demonstrators shouted that Jordan was “too big” for Rifai, the report added. All in all, around 8,000 people turned out for the marches — despite previous measures by the Jordanian government to create more jobs and control rising commodity prices.

According to a report by Egypt’s state-run Al Ahram news agency, tanks surrounded the Arab kingdom’s major cities and checkpoints and barriers had been set up.

The report, headlined “Jordan fears another Tunisia”, claimed that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had set up a special task force in his palace that included military and intelligence officials to try to prevent the unrest from escalating further.

It said the country’s main opposition group — the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — had not participated in Friday’s demonstrations, but the group will reportedly join a sit-in outside parliament Sunday, along with the the country’s 14 trade unions, a move that would probably increase the pressure on the Jordanian authorities.

— Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

The Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t involved? Yeah, sure. “Unprecedented development”? I’ve seen plenty of those demonstrations from my balcony overlooking Wadi Sacra near the al-Husseini mosque, and long ago learned not to make travel plans for Fridays.
Checking back at this week’s story about Algeria from al-Jazeera, there is a similar pattern:

Young people clashed with police in Algiers and several other towns across the country on Friday despite appeals for calm from imams.

In Annaba, 600km west of the capital, rioting broke out after Friday prayers in a poor neighbourhood of the city and continued late into the night.

Are the Tunisia riots different?
They started Dec.17–that would be Friday, Dec.17. but a NYT piece claimed they had been fueled by Wikileaks:

But their new and conspicuous riches, partly exposed in a detailed cable by the American ambassador and made public by WikiLeaks, have fueled an extraordinary extended uprising by Tunisians who blame corruption among the elite for the joblessness afflicting their country.

And one demonstration appeared to have been called by a group on Facebook–on a Thursday.
Some of the controversy was said to center on the wife of the Tunisian leader:

Cables from the United States Embassy in Tunis that were obtained and released by WikiLeaks, including one titled “Corruption in Tunisia: What’s Yours is Mine,” sketch out some of the reasons. Before her marriage to the president in 1992, Ms. Trabelsi had been a hairdresser from a humble family with little formal education. But since then, many in her family, along with the president’s, have ascended to the pinnacle of wealth, owning major stakes in many of Tunisia’s most prominent companies.

“Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage,” the ambassador, Robert F. Godec, wrote in a cable two years ago. “Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family — the Trabelsis — provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians,” he added, noting that he heard frequent “barbs about their lack of education, low social status and conspicuous consumption.”

Nouveau riche. No wonder he went back to Modern Standard Arabic after his predecessor had instituted the use of colloquial forms.

One of the symbolic indications of the political change was the linguistic shift that Ben Ali made in his first Communiqué and in his subsequent public political speeches. While Bourguiba used a constellation of linguistic codes — Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and French, Ben Ali chose to reclaim fuṣħaa as the only official variety of Arabic to use in public political speeches.

But wait, I see here there were riots in Jordan–in Maan, no surprise there–on Tuesday:

Rioters rampaged in a southern Jordanian town on Wednesday in a second day of disturbances aimed at the central government but rooted in deep tribal rivalries. The trouble erupted after two workers were killed, apparently in a clash between tribes, in the conservative southern town of Maan, about 130 miles (200 kilometres) south of the capital of Amman. Police battled demonstrators with tear gas. The riots raged until early Wednesday morning. About 500 protesters set fire to cars, government buildings and smashed shop windows before police managed to restore order.

Oh, my, and riots at the University of Jordan before that:

Last week, police used water cannons to disperse students at the University of Jordan in Amman during riots there. Twelve people were injured and campus facilities were damaged. Students from competing tribes threw sticks and stones at each other over the results of student council elections.

Stones I can believe, but sticks?

Add to that this weeks change in government in Lebanon, and one could almost suspect a full moon.

Posted in Arabs, Jordan. Comments Off on WikiRiot or average Friday jihad?

Folding Hobez

It’s still gardening season, but the rain has driven me indoors today. No matter, here is the perfect breakfast, using the labneh (yogurt spread) I made yesterday and pita bread (hobez) خبز folded the bedouin way, along with a little Italian decaffeinated espresso and heart-healthy evaporated milk instead of cream.

The bread was taken from the freezer and defrosted for 40 seconds in the microwave.  Then a few seconds on the stove over a flame.

For dipping, the bedouin way with bread is to tear off a piece and fold it with one hand–remember that bread and water are sacred and accepted with the right hand only. The end result has ideally three folds and is folded something like an envelope. The children are very good at this, turning and folding simultaneously with the same hand.

Then use it to scoop up some labneh. Yum. Here it’s had a little olive oil dribbled over it, although I’ve only see it eaten plain.

Posted in Arabs, Food. 2 Comments »


It’s been a long time since I made labneh.  If you’ve never eaten it, it’s a spreadable Middle Eastern yogurt.  You tear off a piece of pita bread, use it to scoop up some of the spread, and pop it in your mouth.  It’s very easy to make, and delicious, but a bit time-consuming.

It also is a welcome diversion from staff meetings and the syllabus stuff I’m supposed to be writing.

In Jordan, we made it with a liter of whole milk and a container of yogurt (the kind with live cultures). Here I have a gallon of milk and two yogurts.

First, you heat the milk until a skin forms on the top.  Do not start blogging and forget it is on the stove.

Let it cool a little, then lift the skin off the top.  Check the temperature with your wrist the same way you would check a baby bottle to make sure it’s not too hot, then stir in the yogurt.  Cover it and put it in a warm place overnight.  I covered it with the pan lid;  in Jordan we used blankets.

The next day it will be nice and thick, and it will have a nice yogurt smell.

Spoon it into a bag for draining.

Then hang it up. In Jordan this would go on the balcon for the afternoon and the juice would drip out on to the balcony floor and trickle onto the street below. In the U.S. it can hang over the bathtub.

After eight hours or so, depending on how thick you want it, you can take it out of the bag and store it in the fridge.

This reminds me of the bowls of tzatziki with fresh pita that they bring to your table in Greece when you sit down at a restaurant. It’s made with thick lebna as a base, mixed with garlic and small cubes of cucumbers.

Posted in Arabs, Food. Comments Off on Lebna