Sunday, May 13, 2007



I had been asked to do a presentation on Massar to the Expatriates Conference, a gathering of some 1000 expatriate Syrians in a hotel complex south of Damascus. The affair was organised by the Ministry of Expatriates, and the words piss-up and brewery come instantly to mind. I was one of four speakers in the morning first session today, and start time came and went as people wandered in, chatted, wandered out again. So we started about 15 minutes late. Then one of the speakers, Ali Za'tari the UNDP Coordinator, went on at enormous length. I was passed a note saying could I please cut my talk to 12 minutes. The speaker went on for yet longer. He was passed notes saying please stop. He went on some more, while the Minister for Expatriates got increasingly restless and iritated in the front row. As I finally went up to speak I was asked by an aide to make it five minutes only! I probably spoke for eight minutes or so, the best I could do as I had 26 slides prepared. I was complimented afterwards for giving a talk that was brief and to the point - if only by comparison...


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