Jeffrey Black | Middle East Diaries


A Tale of Two Villages: Bahrain, 22nd April 2008
April 22, 2008, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Persian Gulf

This evening, I met Mhmd. X, one of the more prominent of Bahrain’s ten or so visible human rights activists. He took me in his car for a tour of the villages surrounding the capital, that I might see the difference between the accommodations of the shia, and the palaces of the sunni. Mhmd himself is of the former category, but well enough off. We drove out past the race track, where the richest sport in the world comes to Bahrain once every twelve months, to the village of Karzakan.

Karzakan is an untidy jumble of concrete houses, uneven streets and some fairly erratic-looking plumbing. It’s not actively unpleasant, at least in the warm evening when the people are socialising in the streets under the banners of their beloved religious dead. It even feels vaguely cosmopolitan– there’s a South Asian element certainly on main street. But, Karzakan is a Shia village, and outright, it is poor. It doesn’t look like there are going to be any fantastic investment opportunities opening up here anytime soon. They only happen 20km down the road, in Manama, in its phallicly banal “Financial Harbour” or the dusty-but-high-rise Seef district. Continue reading

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The Ballot Box and the Wormhole: Cairo, 1st April 2008
April 1, 2008, 8:47 am
Filed under: Egypt

wormhole.jpg

Next week, there’s going to be an election in Egypt. It will be another opportunity for the Great Egyptian Public to voice their freely-held preferences, in a vote that will fairly elect 52,000 local councillors around the country.

The only difficulty will be finding someone to mind your place in the bread-queue whilst you go off to get your thumb inked at the local school.

Or, perhaps, in some other reality. Continue reading