Visa Update #5, or It’s Always Good to Know Somebody - 10.17.2005

In my case, I didn’t know anyone with direct influence, but Fayez, the esteemed proprietor of Al Saraya Hotel in downtown Amman always has an answer to your problems. You will find Fayez mentioned in multiple Lonely Planet guides as a good person to know, who’s always quick with a joke.

In my case, I let Fayez know this past weekend about my visa frustrations. I told him that everyday I call the embassy they say “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,” always tomorrow! So Fayez said, “You know, I know Walid Alrawi, he is a good man, and he will just tell you if you aren’t going to get a visa.”

“But you know what you will do?” At this point, I look at Fayez dumb-founded, of course I don’t know. “I will tell you what you will do. On Monday, you will call Mr. Walid Alrawi. Then you will say to him, very nicely mind you, but firm, I need this visa. I have been waiting very patiently for almost two weeks, and I have to do my job. But you have to be very firm with him about this, courteous, but firm, and he will do the right thing.”

Ra’fat, who has been helping me with “fixing” and translation, informed me that Alrawi’s family name is from Al’Qaim and so I can at least count on him being honest and fair, and probably not exceptionally supportive of the Occupation.

So today I spoke to Walid Alrawi and he informed me that no, my visa application had not yet been responded to. I replied in exactly the manner as Fayez informed me, including a veiled threat to come down to the Embassy to speak with him directly. He was hesitant, but after a minute or two he breathed heavily and said “Ok, come on Wednesday, and I will write it for you directly.” I am simultaneously exulted and incredibly frustrated-why did it take so long to come to this?

Thinking quickly I reply to him, “Wal3?” Which in Arabic means “you swear?”(pronounced something like, Well-awh)

And he replied, “Wal3!” or, “I swear.” Now it is important to recognize that, in Arabic culture, when you say “Wal3,” you have made an unbreakable promise. Whether you are trying to pay the bill and are saying “Wal3,” before the other person can protest, or swearing your promise to someone, it makes no difference.

We shall see. Wednesday is two days away. I have reserved a ticket, but its not paid for. If all goes well, I should be in Baghdad by Thursday.

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