We’ll wave the flag, bring out the braai and have a boerie roll on Mzansi

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

QATAR cel­e­brates its National Day to­mor­row and the buzz­words in the build-up have been all about “pride”, “legacy” and “iden­tity”. But there’s been no talk of that quintessen­tially SA way of cel­e­brat­ing her­itage – the braai.

Ev­ery­where I look there are pa­tri­otic par­ents and kids decked out in national colours and cars sport­ing Qatari flags, “I love Qatar” bumper stick­ers and posters of Sheikh Ha­mad bin Khal­ifa Al Thani, the rul­ing emir, and his heir-ap­par­ent son, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani. Even party packs have gone pa­tri­otic – Aqeel came back from a birth­day bash yes­ter­day with his sweets in a bag adorned with the Qatar national em­blem.

Qataris make up less than 300 000 of the roughly 1.8 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, so I’m not sure if those wear­ing Qatari scarves are pa­tri­ots, en­thu­si­as­tic tourists or ex­pats buy­ing into their adopted home’s cul­ture and tra­di­tion. But it has brought back mem­o­ries of the way South Africans and the rest of the globe em­braced the 2010 World Cup. How­ever, there are some SA ten­den­cies I have re­alised I need to put aside.

Yes­ter­day, while wait­ing for the traf­fic light (sorry, ro­bot) to change, I stuck my hand out the win­dow and fu­ri­ously tried to ward off the man ap­proach­ing the car. The last thing I wanted was to have my win­dows cleaned with dirty water. But my fury quickly turned to em­bar­rass­ment when it turned out he was merely dish­ing out national flags.

Yep, pa­tri­o­tism runs high in the lead-up to National Day. I mean, we Saf­fas are proudly South African, for sure. But I can’t imag­ine any of us driv­ing around in cars fes­tooned with im­ages of Msholozi. Madiba, maybe, and the great man would be the first to en­cour­age the cel­e­bra­tion of dif­fer­ent cul­tures which took place at Aqeel’s school this week.

Aqeel ar­rived home ex­cited about the Cul­tural Aware­ness Day he had taken part in.

But while Shi­haam and I are grate­ful that he is learn­ing about Qatari, and other, cul­tures, we’re keen for him to main­tain his SA iden­tity.

“Aqeel, it sounds like you had a won­der­ful time find­ing out about all the coun­tries in the world, but what do you think about when you close your eyes and think of SA?” I ask him.

He scrunches up his face in a look of deep con­cen­tra­tion, then replies: “Mak­ing a braai with you, Dad. I love sausage.”

OK, good an­swer. Sec­ond ques­tion in the Proudly SA test: “Aqeel, do you know who Nel­son Man­dela is?”

“Um, Nel­son Man­dela?” He keeps quiet for a few sec­onds, and I tell my­self that I shouldn’t ex­pect too much of him – he’s only four.

“Um, he’s the king,” smiles Aqeel. I sim­ply smile back – you can’t re­ally ar­gue with that an­swer, can you?

Heart­ened by his re­sponses now, I go for the tri­fecta. “Who is your favourite South African, my boy?”

This time there is no hes­i­ta­tion – he hits it for six. “Hashim Amla,” he replies con­fi­dently. “He’s our best player.”

Braai­ing, Madiba and Hashim Amla. That’s plenty proudly South African, I reckon, and a great ad for our Rain­bow Na­tion to boot.

But Qatar is where we’ve put down roots (for now) and Shi­haam and I are en­joy­ing life in this pow­er­house of the Mid­dle East.

Petrol is cheap, the weather is great (now that we’ve sweated through the 45ºc-plus peak sum­mer pe­riod) and we’re con­ve­niently sit­u­ated for travel to al­most any other in­ter­na­tional desti­na­tion.

So we’ll take the day off with the rest of the coun­try to­mor­row (re­mem­ber, Sun­day is usu­ally a work­ing day in the Gulf) and wave a flag with Aqeel and his sis­ter, Saabi­rah, to get into the spirit.

But come early evening, just as the sun starts to set, I know I won’t be able to re­sist pulling out my braai grid, hav­ing a boerie roll on Mzansi, and en­joy­ing a taste of life back home.

On Twit­ter – @rid­waan­bawa

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