Nabil Shawkat

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Latest by Nabil Shawkat


Present and Tense: The making of a king – lesson one

Frankly, I didn’t know where to begin. Ahmad Rashad, future king of the Greater Middle East, was sitting on my sofa watching television and waiting for his education to commence. He’d just eaten 12 eggs, nine sausages, and 14 pancakes for breakfast and was now munching on popcorn and growing half an inch per hour, …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: A king in waiting

I’ve had it with the leftists. All this mumbo jumbo about human rights, empowering women, and the rights of the Islamists to run for office is not only bad for the nation, it’s bad for business, bad for our cholesterol, disruptive, and generally not nice. “Take away their right to vote, or at least their …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: World's supply of small feet held in readiness

I have small feet, 136,000 of them to be exact. The first time feet came up in conversation was during the Lockerbie crisis. An international investigator, who wasn’t working for me yet, wanted to know if the Libyans had feet. “I was in Libya only two or three times, back when I was putting together …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Black crows

My phone was ringing off the hook. Marissa from the European Union, Kevin from the Foreign Office, and Shokomoga from the Council for the Defence of Minorities all requested my immediate attention. I was on a yacht in the Pacific, trying to put the final touches on my spring collection and stop my wife from …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Spoils of peace

During his life, Shant Baklawi was a controversial figure. The international wheeler-dealer peddled cloaks and daggers – literally – all the way from the former Soviet republics to the African Sub Sahara. But the man who funded coups d’etat in Kirgizia, Thailand, and the Ivory Coast, to name just a few, is remembered in his …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Immortal no more

This week, Nabil Shawkat is a know-it-all arms dealer with a fiendish, yet meticulous, interest in the world of fashion. The scene of the crash looked almost idyllic. A nearly intact fuselage, the twisted metal of the passenger cabin, and pieces of luggage were strewn across a 200-yard radius in the fields just north of …

Nabil Shawkat

PRESENT AND TENSE: A sensational fashion statement

This week, Nabil Shawkat is a know-it-all arms dealer with a fiendish, yet meticulous, interest in the world of fashion. CAIRO: I have been in the fashion business for two or three decades now, mostly offering my clients collections that are usually sensible but imaginative, things you can wear in the office or for casual …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Holy munch

Did Ishlam shpread by the shword or tzhrough tza power of pershuatsion? This was the question that divided planet Eartzh 30,000 light years ago or so. We’re just starting to receive reports of the dispute that once ripped out the heart of that distant planet. William Claxton of the Sydney Observatory gave me several manuscripts …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: The second row

I was asked to join the Democratic Coalition of All People (DECAP), a newly-formed, broad-based alliance of intellectuals who want to end corruption, help the poor, scare Israel, and generally do good stuff for the nation. “Why do you want me to join? I asked Mostafa, their point man. “People think we don’t have a …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Coffee beans

The Iranians finally came back with a contract. I had promised them a medium-size empire, lasting maybe two or three generations, and they loved the idea. I mentioned to the Iranian negotiator that I would demand a medium-size country for my efforts. No problem, Ahmed Tabatabani said. “We know you want Tunisia, but why don’t …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Inspect this!

Welcome back to the Martha Wood Show. Even after a costly and devastating war, the threat to Israel’s security from its neighbours remains as real as ever. Israel says it will have to fight again unless Hezbollah cedes all its weapons, including its arsenal of kitchen appliances. With me here is Mark Bernstein from the …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense

The morning show Welcome to the Martha Wood Show. For the next 60 minutes we’ll bring you news and commentary from all around the world. Experts in the cosmetic industry say that the Iranian nuclear programme is not what it claims to be. Is it true that heavy water can be used commercially as a …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: The D-Model

President Bush and I don’t get to spend much quality time together. I go to Camp David for the occasional peace talks, but it’s always work and no play. You give me Lebanon’s south I give you Iraq’s north, you reconstruct Beirut I wreck Basra then we switch – that sort of thing. But I …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Nellie's secret

Dan was back from Beirut’s southern suburb, where he was taking care of routine business. A little war always lifts his spirits, but he looked a bit preoccupied. “I don’t know how to break the news to you, he said. I knew immediately what was coming. Only two weeks ago, he told me that his …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Foot massage

Mike Buchanan was thrilled with my presentation. It’s been only two days since we met at Camp David, and already the director of BATS (Board for Air Traffic Safety) was a big fan. “Your ideas will revolutionize modern travel for a long time to come, he said as we took a stroll around the golf …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Bomb me!

CAIRO: The Americans are trying to bomb me. Out of courtesy, they warned me first. “Look, we’ve known each other for years, and I really feel bad about it, but the decision comes from higher up. You know too much, you sell weapons to the wrong people, and with your constant peace plans, you’ve become …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: A regional omelet, a recipe for disaster

CAIRO: Since my recent lecture in Vienna, many have written to ask about my regional omelet theory. Let me start by saying that I am not out to discredit the views of Prime Minister Blair or Secretary Condoleezza Rice. I find their recipes for a new Middle East both refreshing and tantalizing. But as you …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Creative chaos

I was still in my bathrobe when the doorbell rang. Usually it rings once and someone leaves the newspaper on the mat. This time it kept ringing. Through the peephole, I saw a man holding a newspaper. Look at that, I thought to myself. How many people get their newspapers delivered by the UN secretary …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Wrong number

The call came on my private line, which is only known to a handful of world leaders whom I trust to call at a decent hour and keep it short. It was 2 a.m. and I couldn’t think why on earth Kofi Annan was calling. “Sorry to be calling at such a late hour, but …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Recycled pasta

Carlita Mikalovic, the NUN deputy secretary general, called me for the third time in one week. “Talk to your friends, we cannot allow this war to continue. I couldn’t agree more. When the NUN (New United Nations) was created seven years ago, it made its message clear to all member states. Global resources were under …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: The Circassian quatrain

Many of you don’t know that this country is on the verge of a legal reform unmatched since Hammurabi went up the mountain and brought back the Magna Carta. The judges and journalists would have you think otherwise. How many times have I told them to stop the melodrama? How many times have I said …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Holy water

It isn’t everyday that a former criminal is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and I am grateful to have lived long enough for my day to come. I wish I could be with you today, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this unexpected honor, but my doctors don’t think that I …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Truth hats

CAIRO: I worked hard all last spring, putting together an orphanage in Namibia, arming insurgents in Somalia and arranging arrests in Cairo. It was a work of love and it paid off. You should hear what the critics said about my Santa Fe fashion collection. “The combat gear evokes rugged sensuality while the business casual …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: My Guantanamo

I envy Frankie, and not just because of the rustic mansion he’s bought in a sleepy island in the Bahamas. I envy the simplicity of his lifestyle. It’s all about setting up boundaries and enforcing order. You cross the boundaries and he sends his lieutenants to sort you out. A Mafioso from the Bronx has …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: We've got company

We were cruising at a leisurely nine knots off the west coast of Nassau, Franki and I, the usual bodyguards, and a few models from my last fashion show in Santa Fe, quality time at last. In a day or two, we’d be at Frankie’s newly-acquired home in Cockburn Town, the mansion he bought three …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Pink warriors

My loyalties have been put to the test once again. Amnesty International has called me to corroborate the recent arrests of bloggers and the alleged sexual abuse of at least one activist. A half hour later, Ahmad from the interior ministry was on the phone asking me to refute what he called “gross misrepresentation of …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: A blow to justice

I was offered the job of a justice minister in a hurry and almost took it. But Sophie, my therapist in Vienna, advised me against it. “With your design firm in Milan, a pending court case in Palermo and your frequent trips to Mogadishu, do you really think you have the time? I took her …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Donuts anyone?

For years I thought I could have it all. Selling arms in the morning and acting as an undercover power broker at night; helping former dictators pick up the pieces of their sad lives then encouraging civil society to step into the foray and set things right. Even those two weeks I say I go …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: King of puppies

The Americans have been trying to redraw the map of the Middle East, a tedious and costly process as it turned out. One of my close friends is part of that endeavor. You may remember him, Dan, the three-star general who couldn’t find Saddam’s cache of weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t his fault, we …

Nabil Shawkat

Present and Tense: Mixed messages

“Orabi had to secure the train connections near Zagazig. He dug a sequence of trenches and waited for the Highland Brigade advancing from the north. Intelligence had told him the Black Watch Battalion would arrive at dawn . I was dictating a biased account of the 1882 British campaign to a young man who was …

Nabil Shawkat