Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Ups and downs
Then we had the architects over to present the latest version of the design for the park and the building to Mrs Assad. It went extremely well, she loved the scheme, and by all accounts so did the President when she showed it to him later. So we were all on something of a high, which continued when we presented the scheme to the Governor and his committee. I had expected him to baulk at the costs for the landscaping, but he was quite easy about them.
On the crest of this wave I got a call from Mrs Assad, asking if (as the architects had now left town) if we could present the architectural scheme to the Prime Minister. It seemed that the PM had been given the nod to enable the project to receive government funds, and the questions were to be about funding practicalities. We duly set this up, while getting daily calls telling us that yet more Ministers were going to be at the meeting. On the evening I did an almost word-for-word presentation of the scheme with Martyn Best from Cultural Innovations. The response was unfortunate - a lot of politicians who had not in fact been briefed in advance, and who felt with some reason that we were bringing a bid for government funding to them, which they should interrogate from its basics. So there were lots of questions about Massar in general, few of them answerable in brief. And lots of questions about the building, most of them very stupid. Apart from the Minister of Educations, who is a strong ally, there was no support from members of our Steering Committee who were present. And one Minister in particular asked some of the stupidest questions imaginable - how on earth did he get his job? In the end I had to say that it would be good to have confirmation of any government funding assumptions from the PM, so that we could know what it was we were supposed to be defending.
So this meeting was something of a disaster. We have regrouped of course and now have some different briefings to give later this week and next. I will also be talking to a large gathering of expatriates on the 13th, who are in town for a conference. It all makes for an emotional roller-coaster, and there have been many times recently when I have thought about jacking it in and going home. The scheme is so extraordinarily marvellous, so far beyond where Syria is at the moment, so truly world-class, that it is dispiriting to find new obstacles round every turn. However, as we have got where we are largely by still being there when everyone else has become tired or bored, sticking it out still seems the best strategy.
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