THE SHOE CALENDAR – by Khalid Kishtainy

I don’t watch television very often,

particularly not Arabic channels. I am an audio man and prefer to listen to radio. In old age, one has to be economical in the use of one’s eyes just as Arab politicians are with their brains. The result is an almost total ignorance of TV lingo. A friend mentioned to me something that had happened in the frequently topsy-turvy world of the Middle East.

Being an “audio man”, I asked where and when he had heard his information. He replied: “In the channels.”

“What channels?” I asked. “The water channels? The sewage channels? The money laundering channels?”

Another friend, Sadiqa, intervened to help: “The channels. Haven’t you heard of the channels? The TV channels, like the Baghdadia Channel.”

“The Baghdadia?” I queried. “Is this a new series of some love, marry and divorce story, or some yarn of state robbery?”

“No, no! It is the television station for which Muntazir Al Zaidi works.”

“And who is Muntazir Al Zaidi, if you please?”

“He is the young man who threw his shoes at President Bush.”

“Ah, yes; now I understand.”
That historic incident of throwing a pair of old and, I assume, dirty shoes at George Bush has become a landmark which helps us to relate, remember and understand many events taking place in our little world. That is what happened when I complained to my Arab publisher for not answering my letter.
” Oh, no”, he replied “I did answer you.

I remember it well. I put the letter in the post box on the same day Muntazir Al Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush. I remember it well. How could I forget that?”

It dawned on me that many people date and relate what they were doing or what appointments they made by reference to that mischevious event. You hear them saying: “My cousin Mahmud killed his wayward niece two weeks after Zaydi had thrown his shoes at the American President.” If you ask a street urchin in Cairo how old he is, you might well get the reply,

“Ustath, I was born two years after that lad in Baghdad had hit the President of

America with his shoes.”
You often hear them commenting nowadays: “That Libyan guy, Al Mizrahi, was released from jail 18 months to the day after George Bush was hit by a pair of old shoes in Baghdad.” Even the popular song I crossed the Tigris River for you was sung first by the pop star Kazim Al Sahir fully 20 years before President Bush was hit by Zaydi’s shoes .

You often hear people in the Middle East arguing and shouting at each other about the Israeli massacre of Gaza, did it happen before or after before George Bush was hit by a pair of Baghdadi shoes?

Years from now our children might open their history books to learn that Baghdad was once a big and prosperous city, only to disappear under a seven day sand storm, sent in anger by the Almighty as a punishment for its corruption, a hundred years after the shoe incident. The city had been completely forgotten as so many other corrupt cities that once littered the holy lands of the Middle East, until some American archaeologists rediscovered its site 900 years or more after George Bush was hit by the shoes of one of its citizens known as Al Zaidi.

The old city was found by the side the of a dried up river bed, known to the ancient people of the area as the Tigris. This, history may one day recall, was the name given to it by the local inhabitants, a race that disappeared completely from the face of the earth as a result of their inability to evolve and develop.

Thus a new calendar will replace the present Lunar and Gregorian calendars as the Zaidi Shoe Calendar, named in recognition of the young man who sacrificed the only pair of shoes he had by throwing them in the face of the President of the United States of America.

It is possible that one day in the distant future people will refer to the discovery of Australia as a continent discovered by colonial adventurers more than 200 years before the Zaidi Shoe incident. Students will question when the Arabs lost the beautiful city of Granada while, as legend has it, their Caliph was soundly asleep. Their contemporaries will shrug and respond: “Oh, I really know very little about our history, but I think this must have been some 5,000 years or so before the Zaidi Shoe event.