July 05, 2004

On the Edge of the Sahara

I am writing on an alien keyboard so I will have to keep this brief. Half the letters are in the wrong place and typing is hard. I may be able to write more easily in a few days when I get back to a large city. Also, you see all these hyperlinks in the text? This computer added those. I did not, and I cannot get rid of them.

I am slightly amazed I can blog at all from where I am. My hotel is 100 feet from the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental, one of the two great sand seas of the Sahara. Out my hotel window are camels and dunes to the horizon. Ohmygod is it HOT here, so hot you have no idea. Of course I knew North Africa would be toasty in July, but this place feels like the blast furnace planet Crematoria in The Chronicles of Riddick.

I have not seen any American tourists, but there are quite a few Europeans who came down here as I did from the capital of Tunis in the north. The difference between the social behavior of Europeans and the social behavior of Arabs is absolutely incredible. Tunisians are without a doubt the kindest, sweetest, most hospitable people I have ever met. It is overwhelming. I can hardly move without being invited to sit down for tea. I have been invited out to dinner, to a Bedouin wedding, and also into the home of an English teacher to watch soccer and practice speaking Arabic. The Europeans, who seem to be mostly French, come down here and turn up the sneer volume to eleven. I am sharing a hotel with them and they refuse even to look at me. I am a ghost to them, I do not exist. They do not know I am American, and it clearly is not personal. They are treating each other this way, too. But it takes great effort to be so antisocial. I do not understand how these people can be in such a warm and friendly place and go for days in a row without looking their fellow human beings in the eye. I watch them in the souk. They are not a fraction as nice to the shopkeepers as I am. One of the merchants actually complained to me about how rude his previous French customers were. I wonder if they ever get invited to sit down for tea.

I feel far more welcome here in the Middle East of Africa than I ever did in Europe. And truth be told, my dear fellow Americans, they are a lot nicer to us when we visit their country than we are to them when they visit ours.

(Oh, and obviously I am not referring to Mr. Mohammad Atta here, but instead to the way the average American treats the averge visiting Arab, and vice versa.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2004 02:07 AM
Comments

What a great post, and nary a typo in sight. Have a great trip, you lucky, lucky bastard!

Posted by: suzanne at July 5, 2004 03:21 AM

Michael:

Have a great time! From what you've written so far there's little doubt.

On the French: perhaps if they didn't expend so much effort on being supercilious they'd have more to build a growing economy, have children, and take care of their elderly.

On European hospitality: you haven't been to the right places. Try Scotland.

On Arab hospitality: it is legendary. It's nice to hear that there's still some truth to the legends.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at July 5, 2004 06:36 AM

The salt makes the sands of the Sahara quite colorful there. It is amazing how the greenest oasis can sprout up around a desert spring.

You should try the dates, you'll never have them as good again.

Look for some rai music CDs, the stuff rocks.

Posted by: John at July 5, 2004 07:14 AM

Are you aware that your article seems to be peppered with HTLM links that lead to nowhere? Perhaps you've been hacked in some way...

Posted by: RSN at July 5, 2004 08:49 AM

great hearing from you.. sounds like a wonderful beginning.. drink lots of water and take lots of pictures.. salaam MARC

Posted by: marc cooper at July 5, 2004 12:51 PM

Oh my, we're all jealous. You're doing fine, that's great. But you really should try Central Europe more; though it's increasingly surface polite only, too. Trying Arabic is FANTASTIC.

Poor people, throughout history, have always been "nicer" than rich people (on average). It's one of the roots of envy hatred anti-rich stuff. The average American is more casually nice, if not toooo hard, than the average European, to any strangers. It's easier to become a more real friend with some Europeans. It's a sad truth that sharing with poor folks has not, historically, been a good average investment. But it's nice to enjoy, on both sides.

Enjoy.

Posted by: Tom Grey at July 5, 2004 01:31 PM

Looks like the Peper Trojan. My computer got it this morning. It adds a whole bunch of useless links to text in your web browser. In any case, it's not your computer, so no worries.

Posted by: Joe Anonymous at July 5, 2004 03:39 PM

People are always inviting if they get the impression that you're actually interested in them. That said, it sounds like you're having fun and are a making a good impression.

Make sure you check out the Roman ruins!

Posted by: Eric Blair at July 6, 2004 05:29 AM

Michael, I hope you can post pictures soon. I am so jealous.

As to Europe, visit Amsterdam or Milan as an antidote to francophonic overexposure. Totally different gestalts, but both are much more civilized than what I exeperienced in Paris and Geneva.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 6, 2004 06:53 AM

Woo-hoo! Kerry picked Edwards!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at July 6, 2004 09:44 AM

Lurch & Opie for president.

Posted by: David at July 6, 2004 11:11 AM

Edwards is the Democratic version of Dan Quale. I think Cheney will handle him with ease.

Posted by: thedragonflies at July 6, 2004 11:17 AM

That's the pot calling the kettle black, now, isn't it? Had enough of vexing Roger Simon, have you?

Posted by: Eric Blair at July 6, 2004 11:36 AM

Michael, Enjoy your vacation and please keep us up to date on your travels, if possible.

Posted by: Bill Roggio at July 6, 2004 12:07 PM

Is there some reason this site is formatted in a single-row table with a zillion columns. It's nearly impossible to read.

Posted by: Mick McMick at July 6, 2004 12:31 PM

Oh, that's better!

Weird. Linked from Roger L. Simon's page, with the URL http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/000443.html this site was unreadable.

But clicking on the home page fixed it.

Sorry for the interruption.

Posted by: Mick McMick at July 6, 2004 12:36 PM

SUSPENDING DISBELIEF

>>>"The Europeans, who seem to be mostly French, come down here and turn up the sneer volume to eleven. I am sharing a hotel with them and they refuse even to look at me."

It's not a French thing.

I think as opposed to mainstream tourists, those who prefer more remote locations, such as the Sahara, also prefer avoiding people who remind them of home, i.e, "the west."

They prefer more remote locations because they don't want an exotic version of "home" (think Cancun), but instead the truly exotic. They fancy themselves like tourists of old when touristing was for the rich and adventurous (think "Sheltering Sky" or "the English Patient); and talking with other westerners pulls them out of their experience and doesn't let them suspend disbelief that they're only an airplane ticket away from their cubicles back home.

Personally, I think it's STUPID, and demonstrates more than anything that they're rank amateurs, and not the worldbeaters they wish they were.

Posted by: David at July 6, 2004 01:33 PM

Enjoy you stay rather than focusing on French. And for your security don’t look at camels as you do with French. French just despise you, camels would spit on you. Oh! No I’m wrong. It is with Peruvian and lamas!

Posted by: Rémi at July 6, 2004 01:46 PM

May your camel spit nothing but dates, and your goat crap on no one but Frenchmen and Robert McClelland.

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at July 6, 2004 03:30 PM

Michael , lovely blog , I got the link from Robert H.( don't know if he wants me to say his name or not) I'm glad you got to experience North African hospitality first hand. If you thought Tunisians were sweet, wait till you get to Libya. Sorry it was not possible this time, but I'm sure that the next time it would be prompter. We Libyans are renowned for our hospitality. And you can blog from there as internet cafes are very modern with quite nice hardware, lease lines,and incredibly cheap rates. You can even call from internet with the net2phone and other such cards.
I just wanted to tell you also that don't worry about the visas, Libyans have gone through a much harsher process to get US visas for the last 20 years or so ( and they never gave up)...and it takes months for them to obtain it and they have to travel all the way to Tunis or Malta. So take heart Michael and don't be afraid we are really very simple and friendly people..you'll see when you come here. I hope to be able to meet you in Tripoli with your wife this fall . As for the French ..forget the experience.. c'est la vie and congratulations on striving to learn Arabic !

Posted by: Highlander at July 6, 2004 04:05 PM

The French are dicks, huh> Quelle suprise.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 6, 2004 09:22 PM

It's sure sad to see that silly anti-americanism has now been matched in volume and extent by paranoid euro-bashing.

Posted by: novakant at July 7, 2004 05:50 AM

novakant --

I wonder why? Most Americans could care less whether the Euros like us (which enrages them even more), but after hearing enough hatred spewed at us, we tend to think they don't like us! If they ratchet down the volume, I'm sure we will go back to ignoring them.

Sound harsh? It is. Europe wants to be relevant, but it doesn't want to pay the cost required to reach that status. It doesn't want pay to costs to build up its armies to have "hard" power, but it criticizes everything we Americans do (whether action or inaction). It doesn't want to sacrifice leisure and its welfare state (absolute necessities) to gain economic power, but it criticizes us as "vulgur" and driven by consumerism.

The only thing left to Europeans is to squall loudly and obstruct the USA in the UN (one of the few places they have any power to exercize), while Europe falls farther behind both economically and militarily. If Europe wants to match American power, it has to make hard choices that it has so far been unwilling to make. One commentator (I forget who), aptly stated that Europe is to weak to lead and too proud to follow. How true.

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2004 07:31 AM

>>>"One commentator (I forget who), aptly stated that Europe is to weak to lead and too proud to follow. How true."

Very well put.

And by the way Novakant, the Europeans have made an art of bashing anything and everything non-European, especially America. It goes back decades and centuries; it must indeed sting you that you are second-class now, and living only on your past memories of grandeur. You are weak, and spoilt, and parasitic. The sooner we leave you to your own devices, the better.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 11:41 AM

David is right. European hatred of America dates back many years. I expect the fact that the USA surpasses Europe in virtually every measure of power and influence today galls them more than anything else. They have no one to blame but themselves, however. They have made their bed and must now sleep in it. I just wish they would follow Lee Iacocca's advice: "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way."

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2004 01:03 PM

Hello my son! It's great that I am able to keep
track of you! Sounds like a marvelous trip! Don't worry too much about the French You ARE
part French you know?....My Dad's (your grandfather)mother's maiden name was La Plante.
Be safe and write me if you can. I'll keep checking your site, and am anxious to see you home
safe. Love to Shelly!

Posted by: Gena Pegg at July 7, 2004 01:06 PM

>>>"Don't worry too much about the French You ARE
part French you know?...."

HAHAHA!!! classic

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 01:32 PM

>>>"Nowadays most are completely poisoned with the jewish supremacist culture."

What are you poisoned with you swine. the Nazi supremacist culture?

Now you're going to tell me you don't hate jews, only "zionists", and "jewish bankers", and etc etc. Fuck off.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 01:34 PM

anti-MJT is the same nazi Michael banned a few months back, who said Jews aren't patriots because few join the army, and who promised he'd post one more time and then never come back. He's back.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 01:38 PM

Wow, feel the love.

Posted by: novakant at July 7, 2004 01:54 PM

Most Americans don't "hate" Arabs, and, I know I'm going out on a limb here, what bad feelings against Arabs do exist just might have something to do with the fact that a certain percentage of Arabs want to kill as many Americans as they can.

My only other response to Anti's drivel is to say that it is almost remarkable that anyone could be that stupid and ill-informed.

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2004 03:03 PM

"But the Jews will not stop at that. They bear destruction and hatred in their hearts. When they've subjugated the Arabs, when they control and own all the oil, then they'll turn on us gentiles."

Anybody get the feeling we're getting our chains yanked?

Anyway, that's what I hope is going on here.

Posted by: Mak Poling at July 7, 2004 03:54 PM

Poling,

he's the real deal. Believe it.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 04:21 PM

The Nazis say we're puppets of Israel, the Lefties say Israel is our puppet.

I wish they'd come to some agreement.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 08:23 PM

Man, when you have enemies like anti-MJT you know you must be doing something right, Michael.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 7, 2004 08:47 PM

Wow this sounds like the behaviour of generations of American tourists in Europe. I think we all know who comes out on top when it comes to sheer vulgarity.

Posted by: Kerry at July 8, 2004 05:17 AM

Kerry,

you must be European. Here in America we don't judge people as "vulgar". We just think you're assholes.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2004 07:03 AM

David - Americans have in fact developed a bad reputation as tourists over many decades. MJT's post simply illustrates that to some degree the pot has been calling the kettle black. Your post (responding to Kerry) simply shows you to be stupid, and vulgar.

Posted by: Markus Rose at July 8, 2004 08:32 AM

David writes:
>>Here in America we don't judge people as "vulgar".

Well, that's pretty obvious isn't it. Is there any level of vulgarity you wouldn't accomodate?

My point is that if you're going to smear an entire country based on the behaviour of some of its nationals overseas I'd say the French should say "bring it on". I've been to Mexican resorts and I know how Americans behave there. It's vile and disgusting and it goes a long way in explaining the immoral and ultimately infantile acts that took place at Abu Ghraib (yet another destination where Americans displayed their unique sense of "cultural sensitivity"). Or watch MTV's "Jackass" in Europe, or "Road Rules" in Morocco for more examples of fine American cultural sensitivity.

MJT writes:

>>One of the merchants actually complained to me >>about how rude his previous French customers >>were. I wonder if they ever get invited to sit >>down for tea.

Really good question MJT, but no, as it turns out no French customer has ever been known to have been asked to stay for tea.

Posted by: Kerry at July 8, 2004 08:49 AM

Markus,

your post shows you to be an asshole, thanks for proving my point.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2004 09:56 AM

>>>"Childish and moronic statements like "Kill Saddam", or "Hang the Saudi royal house", not to speak of "Let's nuke Iran" gave an impression of a nutcase."

Anti-MJT,

you consider "kill all the Jews" as shining examples of European sophistication? The only nutcase and fascist I see on this thread is you.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2004 10:02 AM

Anti,

I'm not a Jew, I'm a christian.

But don't you think a Nazi complaining about "genocide" is a slight bit on the comical side? I laughed out loud.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2004 08:59 PM

Anti, you are the perfect example of the uninformed, paranoid, conspiracy theory driven Arab. "jenocide" in Palestine? Where (go to your dictionary for the definition of the word)? If Israel was anything as half as what you say, the Palestinians - notwithstanding their aim of making the Israelis (at best) dhimmies in their own country* - would have been ethnically cleansed long time ago. Jewish conspiracy? I would be very grateful if you could give me any contact number/email address for their
recruitment agency - I'm one of those bastard Israelis, so I should EASILY get a job with them, $150000 per year first salary, the Porsche 911 company car and Judith the sexy secretary to boot. No? I did not think so - it's all in your head, you goat shagger. Now fuck off and die (in a pig's skin, hopefully, so no 72 virgins. Or raisins. Whatever).
The (unemployed) Israeli conspitor
* There is no such thing as a "Palestinian nation". Most of the people who call themselves Palestinians descend from immigrants from Syria ("Halabi"), Egypt ("Massarwe") or other neighbouring country. You know that as well as I do; the only claim you have to Israel is that your predecessors conquered it in 600 and hence it's a part of "Dar Al-Islam". Forever (This is the level of argumentation one would expect from a 14 year old, but then you Arabs refuse to grow up).

Posted by: Israelli Conspirator at July 9, 2004 01:56 AM

Please do not feed the trolls!

Oh well, still waiting for MJT snacks; really hope all is well.

I suggest trying to download Skype for free PC to PC phone calls, with appropriate headset (phones & mic).

Posted by: Tom Grey at July 9, 2004 03:40 AM

Anti,

that's a lovely theory, though hateful, and I've heard it before, and done research on it. Unfortunately for you, aside from one book by a whack job historian, and a few websites, it's completely unsubstantiated in fact. Yes, your Khazar kingdom was real, but there's no archaeological evidence to support your Askenazi connection; it myth and legend only. And what of the Sephardic Jews? They don't count in this mythical world of yours? They just dissapear for the few moments it takes you to expound on your Khazar fable? The Sephardim have been in the immediate region of palestine for millenia, many of them in Israel itself. What of them?

And by the way, your description of "typical Jewish features" with big hooked noses sounds like the average middle easterner to me.

Posted by: David at July 9, 2004 07:55 AM

Anti,

I also don't feel like debating this here and now, but suffice it to say, there's a damn good reason why Jews decided they needed a homeland of their own, and it's people like you who are that reason. The Bible says that we reap what we sow, and Europe has sown anti-semitism for centuries, and reaped the modern state of Israel. If I was a Jew, I would have done the same.

Posted by: David at July 9, 2004 11:55 AM

I'm glad to hear that ordinary Arabs can be so nice to ordinary American visitors, but beyond revealing that some Arab countries can still be pleasant vacation spots, I don't take much comfort in it. The fact that Arabs are quick to believe the most idiotic anti-American conspiracy theories, plus the way they think nothing of demonizing Jews, make them problematic enough for me to avoid visiting places like Tunisia, however attractive they may be on a touristic level.

The French may be obnoxious and insufferable at times (though I didn't have a problem with them when I visited France for a month in 1991), but I don't worry much that a Frenchman is going to go out of his way to murder thousands of Americans in terrorist attacks. So on balance, I'd rather visit France than Tunisia. Count me as a Chirac-hater, but not a Francophobe overall.

P.S. - Please don't tell me that a guy like Zacarias Moussaoui is a Frenchman. He isn't. He's an Arab with a French passport.

Posted by: abdul7591 at July 9, 2004 02:50 PM

Anti,
Just for curiousity's sake: are you an old style Nazi or a member of the anty-globalisation, deep-earth enviros left? Or are you one of the new breed of idiotarians whose views are comprised of an inconsistent mish-mash of ideologies?
1. The $40,000 every Israeli is owed by the govt', reparations from Germany and all that: First, let me come clean and admit that I am not at all happy about this money coming into "our" hands. Not because of your reasons, but simply because it made Israel a satelite nation - unlike your Alice-in-wonderland view of things, Israel does not control the US; it is the other way round. Sometimes things are better (Bush junior) sometimes not (Carter, Bush senior). Think harder: if we were as invincible as you make us to be, how come we have not ethnically cleansed the Palestinians (could be done in 10 days)why have they been offered a state? Oh, and the Israeli govt' cheats its own citizens. So what have we got here? Jews cheating other Jews? What, good Jews (oppressed) and bad ones (oppressors)? I thought we were all united in our conspiracy. Shows how much you know about Jews (or Israel, for that matter).
2. The origins of the Israelis, Palestinians etc: my family has been in what was then the province of Palestine (under Turkish rule) since 1840, if not earlier. Most so-called Palestinians (or, rather, their predecessors)were not even around that time, they came later, attrected by work prospects, when the returnee Jews started developing the land towards the end of the 19th century. In general, the place was deserted since the (very real)exile (never a complete one, there were ALWAYS Jews in Israel). Read Mark Twain's account. You are too stupid for words if your'e going to tell me HE was a Zionist 40 years before Herzel (there are other, similar accounts from sources hardly friendly to the Jewish cause).
The contradictions in your theory are so large I could let an elephant through the holes.
The Israely Conspirator

Posted by: Conspirator at July 10, 2004 01:50 AM

>>>"Or are you one of the new breed of idiotarians whose views are comprised of an inconsistent mish-mash of ideologies?"

he's a sophisticated european, not a vulgarian and boor like we Americans.

Posted by: David at July 10, 2004 06:59 AM

>>>"Without that money your country would develop on the level and along the lines of your neighbors. Forget the orange plantations. Think desert, camels and sheep instead."

Anti,

I hightly doubt that. All the oil money in the world hasn't brought the arabs out of their dessert nomad ways. They're still miserable. I'm sure the Jews could make their country flourish without the aid they get, which constitutes about 1% of their GNP.

>>>"David here said that there was a damn good reason Jews wanted a state of their own. There was no good reason at all."

The Holocaust was no reason at all, right. That's a good one braniac. Hertzl may have been another trendy nationalist, but Jewish migration to palestine was negligible before the Holocaust, and it was YOU'RE anti-semitic forefathers that gave Jews a reason to take Hertzl up on his offer. My only question at all is why some jews choose to remain at all on the European continent given what your ancestors have done, and still do apparently from the content of your posts.

>>>"We are force-fed jewish ideas about the beauty of homosexual marriages, multiculturalism (whatever that is) and the evil of wishing someone a merry Christmas."

It's all because of the joooooooos!!!!

You can blame Leftists for this, not Jews. Jews are just as divided amongst themselves over the controversial issues of the day.

>>>"Many of us feel that our countries, which were built by our forefathers, have been stolen from us."

I agree. It was stolen by the Left, not "joooos".

>>>"Your ancestors in Europe have betrayed every single country they've inhabited. Therefore they were expelled from some 250 various kingdoms, republics and principalities in the course of history."

It's clear you don't want Jews in your midst. But you don't want them to have their own homeland either. Curious. What else does that leave? Another Final Solution? But you still claim the Holocaust didn't happen. Funny. Your own words are confirmation that the Holocaust happened.

>>>"The most remarkable thing is that the countries in which the Jews lived best were those that the Jews betrayed the most."

Actually, the opposite is true. Where Jews are present, countries prosper. The U.S. is a perfect example. Europe was a good example, before you killed or expelled all your Jews. Now you are second class. We like our Jews just fine thank you.

Your beef is with the Left, not Jews.

Posted by: David at July 10, 2004 01:21 PM

Everyone that responded to anti-MJT... what did you accomplish? You can argue with ignorance, but not with depravity. Ignore him.

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at July 10, 2004 05:03 PM

Anti,

to say that I'm deluded is to say 99% of historians are also deluded, and that YOU and a few whack jobs are the only ones privy to the truth. What are the odds of that do you think? Quite small. Are the world's historians also deceived, or are they all jooos too?

And I'm curious. If claims of Nazi genocide are false, why do you refuse to be labeled Nazi? Apparently they did no wrong. So why do you shrink from the label when it's so appropriate to you? How does your ideology differ?

Also, interestingly, why is it that so many people who claim the Holocaust never happened will say in the next breath that Hitler should have finished the job? The irony is very revealing isn't it?

Re human lapshades, it wasn't too hard to find. Tell me what you think about this:

http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Buchenwald/Atrocities.html

Posted by: David at July 10, 2004 07:35 PM

David: I think he's yanking your chain. Nobody is that insane.

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at July 11, 2004 06:35 PM

enjoy. hope you'll keep on posting.

Posted by: Sabat at July 11, 2004 09:35 PM

>>>"It looked like translucent skin, approximately one-quarter of an inch thick, and was adorned with a tattoo somewhat fuzzy in outline, not at all like the distinct tattooed figures I was familiar with."

Anti,

so you have seen with your very own eyes the human lampshades? That's more proof than I could ever offer you, as I live in Texas and can offer you only websites, and you and I both know how easily fabricated those are.

The "fuzzy" tattoo is proof to you that the lampshade is fraudulent, whilst to another it would be proof that it is legitimate. I've seen many a tattoo that has lost it's clear definition, particularly in older men. I've seen tattoos that are virtually unrecognizable from the smudging over time, on living persons. So you see, what to you is proof of fraud, to me is further confirmation of the truth.

We could play this game all day long for months on end, but I've found from experience that even if I offered you proof unassailable on its merits (which I don't claim to have done), you would simply call it a "fabrication" and further proof of the conspiracy. I've played this game with fellows such as yourself. I have tried to convince them that the illuminati doesn't control the world, to no avail. My proof is "fabricated" whenever they can't defeat it on the merits.

Therefore, I'll go with 99% of historians over a few website wackjobs any day re the Holocaust, and I'll go with common sense re the Illuminati.

ps. human lampshades as proof of the Holocaust, that is but a drop in the bucket in comparison to the mountains of other evidence that the Holocaust happened. The roomfulls of photographic evidence to start with.

Posted by: David at July 12, 2004 07:36 AM

David, I would suggest stop wasting your time.
Anti: I have been away, came back and read your latest postings. You are either pulling our legs or thoroughly insane. I see no point in having any further discussion with you.
Bye
Israeli conspirator

Posted by: Conspirator at July 14, 2004 06:37 AM
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