Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dinner at Taha's

Shortly after returning from R&R, 1SG Winchester and Jack invited me to go with them to dinner at the home of Mr. Taha, President of The Taha Group. Mr. Taha's businesses are instrumental in rebuilding Iraq, and he braves a considerable amount of danger by just being here.

He and his employees do a good bit of charity work as well, have donated monies for life-saving surgeries, and have hired a few people at our behest that were looking for work. They are VIPs for our "Econ." team, on which 1SG and Jack serve.

Here's me, a few seconds after the most "scrumptrulescent" meal I've had since arriving in Iraq.

Mr. Taha has an incredible pad here in the IZ, and he had a bunch of us foreigners over for dinner. We sat around on a little manicured and neatly landscaped lawn, Mediterranean style - munching on appetizers and smelling the fragrant, wafting smoke of the well-apportioned hookahs all around. They had these "swamp-coolers" - which look like industrial fans, (a horizontal, wide-diameter cylinder with an exhaust near the bottom). They blow across cool water in a water-hose replenishing reservoir, dampening and cooling the dry, Baghdad summer air as it disperses across the garden.

Here's Jack and I, savoring the moment. This was the first time since arriving at Frankfurt airport that I felt a profound and unimpeachable sense of peace. I suspect its that warm, fuzzy comfort that only civilized life provides. Unfortunately, its muted . . . till you spend some time in a war zone - and you notice its absence. Which makes this doubly ironic - as I was back in what's now being called, "The Battle for Baghdad." But here was an oasis. A redoubt where civilisation has not retreated, and made no apologies for it. What magic and graceful majesty, what potential - in Baghdad.

1SG Joe Winchester, Taha's HR chief Nadia (the most gracious of hostesses), Mr Taha and myself. Mr Taha's a cad, making jokes incessantly. Nadia's vivacious, a pleasure to be around, making everyone feel right at home. Both speak English fluently, and of course Arabic, (plus a few other languages -I'd wager). They are an absolutely deadly business team. Could you imagine saying no to them? I couldn't.

1Sg Winchester and I with the Chef. A man who I'd nominate for the Nobel Prize in culinary salvation for soldiers in war-zone. He was a splendid chap who was too gracious to accept much (well-earned) praise. The man who first taught me what Iraqi Cuisine is - AND ITS Fantabulastic! If Pops, Papa Ed or Bill Blakely are reading this - The food I ate was so good I said to the guy next to me - "Anybody 'at doesn't like this is a summ'bitch, how's yourn?"

For any Russells or Manns or Taters or Wilsons out there - if we brought this guy out on "Rendezvous" - you'd all convert to Islam to eat this good.

We spent a few hours watching the 200 plus channels on offer in the Middle-east (The number of channels was a shock, the themes and the variety - not so much.)

That's when I got my 2 million dollar idea. A 24-hour belly-dance channel!

We thanked the Chef and our gracious hosts profusely, and departed.

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