Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Royal Treatment

A member of Qatar's ruling family must surely have been spoiled as a lad. Growing up with all that money, palaces and servants, being made to feel ever so special. Possibly even trained to a perception of superiority over the rest of the world, but such is the attitude of the fabulously wealthy.

Recently, one of Qatar's elite was travelling from Milan with a few family members. Perhaps they had taken a short holiday, or perhaps the ladies had a yearning to go shopping for some exquisite little frocks from the Italian designers who make Milan their home base. When one has money to burn, jetting to Italy would be somewhat akin to one of us common folk running out for a pack of ciggies after dinner. When you're out, you get more so that you can indulge in a little illicit pleasure.

Depending on when one buys one's tickets, even in business class, a large group may not be able to sit together. Wait too long, and there'll be a seat here, a pair over there, and four near the bulkhead. When the British Airways flight was ready to take off from Linate Airport, the sheikh from Qatar discovered that a few of his female relations ended up sitting next to men they did not know.

Big feckin' deal, a westerner might say. You buy a seat and you don't know who you're next to and it doesn't matter unless it's some drunken oaf who falls asleep on your shoulder. Pop in the old earbuds on the iPod and you won't even know that there's anyone around you.

Ah, yes, but these particular female relations were Muslim, wouldn't you know, and local Qatar custom dictates that they not be in the same general vicinity as men they are not related to. What's the limit on that exactly? All right for them to be in the same business class section, but not right next to? Can they sit in front of or behind strangers? Across the aisle?

Trying to accomodate one wealthy man's tribal customs that have been disguised as religious teachings, the airline asked other passengers if they would move so that the ladies could avoid breathing the exhalations of strangers with Y chromosomes. Ah, feck off, the passengers must have thought, because no one would move. So there he was, the sheikh, getting no cooperation from the evil infidels. He couldn't have his female relatives insulted or whatever it would be considered should they sit next to strange men. So off he went to complain to the pilot.

Ah, feck off, the pilot declared in some other more polite phrasing. Get off my plane, you and your relations and your servants and your Qatar-ese whinging. Get off and walk home for all we care at British Airways.

Three hours late, the plane took off for London without the Qatar party. Naturally, it arrived late and fifty of the one hundred fifteen passengers missed their connecting flights. Wherever the sheikh landed, he is sure to blame his ill treatment on anti-Muslim sentiment and decry the west. As for the people on the flight that he inconvenienced with his misogynistic practices, they might not have been against Islam before, but they're none too fond of the religion at the moment.

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