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