Currying favour

Body of Lies seems to have become the textbook movie for the Middle East. Starring Leonardo di Caprio and Russell Crowe, it moves between Jordan, Iraq and other countries in this region – rumour has it Egypt, with its notoriously bloody-minded attitude toward movies, which has seen pyramids constructed in Morocco countless times, wrote itself out of the script. In it, one of the main guys is an elite para-military called Hany. Throughout the movie, he’s referred to as Hany Pasha, ‘pasha’ being the old Ottoman term for ‘general’. (Except with the Egyptian accent, it comes out as ‘basha’.) When I was in Khan al-Khalili the other night (see pic, pre-bombing, have yet to go up there since) talking with my jeweller friend Shaggy, the café boy brought his drink and said, sycophantically, ‘Here you are, pasha”. Shaggy looked at the boy and said, ‘I’m not a pasha, I work in the market like you.’There are so many terms like this, ‘bey’ is one below ‘pasha’, which my book translates as a title to apply to a wealthy person, while ‘doctor’ is one who is educated. So when Aya, my cleaning lady, called me doctora (the feminine version of doctor) today I, for once, knew what the hell she was talking about.

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad.

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