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The Emirates in 1976 – Dining out

This article follows on from the previous article: The Emirates in 1976 – The trees in the desert

I had always realised that eating in the Middle East could be dangerous if one wandered into the back alleys.  We had to take precautions.  The crew itself was one that allowed versatility.  Tony Mander, the cameraman, could operate the sound equipment and Mike Matthews could operate the camera, so that should any one of them go down with some local bug, we could still operate.  We still had Osman and Siqseq in reserve.

However, to try to avoid such eventualities, I lay down some rules concerning eating. First, there was the question of where to eat.  I insisted that it should be in a main restaurant or in the hotel where one could expect a high standard of hygiene.  Second, there was the question of expenses in terms of outside restaurants.

The plan, that I was to keep for all Middle East locations, was that, on our first night, we should all eat together at a good class restaurant.  We would eat whatever we wanted and then the bill would be divided by our number.  We were seven in number.  Whatever that figure was would become the limit I would agree to pay for any future use of an outside restaurant, by any members of the crew who decided that they wished to eat at a location of their choice.  Meals within the hotel were covered by the hotel bill which was paid for by the Ministry.  In the event we always ate together.

This worked well, in that I never had a member of the crew go down with food poisoning or any food induced bug.  Within the hotel, we ordered large numbers of mixers to be placed in the fridge for our use instead of ice.

The restaurant we chose for the first night was The Mandarin in Abu Dhabi. Being an outside restaurant, there was no alcoholic drink available, but there was always the bar back in the hotel.

Because of our number, we were shown to the large round table with the rotating shelf.  We had eaten in Chinese restaurants before and we had a certain drill.   Each member of the party ordered what they wanted and this was placed on the revolving shelf.  Anyone could choose to have some from each plate and, when a plate was emptied, it would be replaced with a full one so that the person who chose it in the first place could have their full share.

To my right sat Osman and Siqseq, our Islamic team, and a number of the dishes served up contained pork.  I sat there pointing out to Osman, who relayed it to Siqseq, what he could and could not eat .

I said to Osman “Osman, why do Muslims not eat Pork ?”.  He looked at me with a blank face and then replied “The Koran says we cannot”.  I said “Why does the Koran say you cannot ?”.  The look on his face indicated that this was something beyond his understanding.

AD3I continued “Osman, I know the Koran says you cannot, I am asking you why the Koran says you cannot ?”.   “Because that is what Mohammed wrote” he replied.

Talk about “It’s in the book” !!

There must be a reason for not eating Pork”.  Suddenly his eyes brightened.  “Ah”, he said, “I see.  The little …some Arabic – (blood vessels) of the pig are (here he showed me his finger and thumb almost touching) too small and when the pig is killed, all the blood does not come out”. “ it becomes poisonous and can kill you”.

Although I was aware of this, it being the custom of  Jewish people as well, and I had previously enquired of them the reason they did not eat pork,  I wanted to know if he, a Muslim, knew the reason.

How many Catholics knew the reason why, at one time, the faithful were called upon to eat fish on a Friday ?.

Needless to say, Osman and Siqseq had a wonderful meal with me acting as guardian of their faith.

We divided the total cost by seven and then I declared that that was the maximum I could allow for any dinners away from the group.  It was generous.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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