INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

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Hanging on Howitzers —معلقة على مدافع هاوتزر

Every year (or decade, as necessary), Lonely Planet and Explorer choose with alacrity the face of many nations, one that is both representative and alluring: Pakistan boasts majestic, snow-topped mountains; Saudi Arabia fronts the angular domes of Medina’s Qoba Mosque as its guide’s cover photo. Kuwait’s good side, in the eyes of both publishers, is the two giant balls of the 32 year-old Kuwait Towers. Both balls are filled with water; the tallest, which reaches 187 meters at the top, also has a restaurant. That’s where we ate our first night, savoring the most authentic and traditional Gulfi fare: the intercontinental buffet.

Most of Kuwait is behind a curtain, only to be lifted on appointment. What Lonely Planet’s latest Kuwait guide (from eleven years ago) leaves out is the necessity of friends of friends to arrange tours and visits when and where you’d like them. One such friend-in-law told me repeatedly, “Four days, it’s not enough!” — and with him in charge, local and well-connected, he was right. In Abu Dhabi, colleagues had a different tone: “Four days in Kuwait? Christ.” They were right, too.

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القوة الناعمة — Soft Power

Sands shift, borders are redrawn, battles fought. But in one theater, there are no winners — only cooperation or sandy balls. The famed beach paddle sport Matkot is one of refined skill and simple, simple rules: hit. For decades, almost always in pairs parallel to the shoreline, Tel Avivians (and other Israeli-inspired Mediterranean beachgoers) have smacked a squash rubber ball. There is no net, there is no score — there is but the betterment of mutual skill, the sound of the waves, and a never-ending supply of onlookers to make fun of the rookies.

With this inspiration, I announce the first ever INGULFED.com Co-Sponsored Initiative for World Peace and Other Endeavors: the First Annual Global International World Matkot Invitational Championship. Now, I’m not positive what year the First Annual will be, but I have every reason to believe that a strong Matkot [MAHT-coat] culture cultivated and encouraged around the Middle East will provide the necessary grassroots support for the resolution of many (if not all) of the regions problems, whatever they may be. I’ve already forgotten, just thinking about Matkot — see?

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