Hotel poses challenge for tribal tradition in Iraq

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A room of the Rose Plaza Hotel is pictured in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province on October 3, 2018. (AFP)
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A room in the Rose Plaza Hotel is pictured in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province on October 3, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Hotel poses challenge for tribal tradition in Iraq

  • A sense of hospitality is paramount, with any outsiders being invited to eat a hearty meal and stay overnight in a resident’s home

RAMADI, Iraq: The opening of a new hotel is posing a challenge to tribal customs in western Iraq’s Anbar province, where locals traditionally welcome outsiders into their homes.
In the heart of Ramadi, the provincial capital, a tall building is lit up with neon lights. “Rose Plaza Hotel” reads a bright sign in Arabic and English.
The 80-bed hotel, built by a young Iraqi businessman, has caused a stir in Anbar, the vast desert province to the west of Baghdad that extends to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Wearing a suit and with his hair slicked back, hotelier Mohammed Kassar stands ready to defend his project.
“We are the province of generosity and hospitality,” said the 29-year-old.
“But it’s a joke that a province which covers a third of Iraq, looks out onto three countries and is a commercial hub, doesn’t have a hotel.”
Anbar has come far.
A longtime bastion of the anti-US insurgency, it was later overran by the Islamic State (IS) group and became off-limits to tourists or investors on business trips.
But since Ramadi was retaken by Iraqi authorities in 2016, reconstruction, new housing and commercial projects have sprung up, attracting entrepreneurs from across Iraq.
Louai Rafe, an Iraqi businessman, was happy to have found Rose Plaza.
He thought he could finish some administrative work in Anbar and return the same day to the capital Baghdad, 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.
But the work took longer than he expected and he decided to book into the new hotel.
“Whenever I came here, I used to sleep at a friend’s house, and I was embarrassed to bother him again,” said Rafe.
“This hotel is really welcome, it makes everyone’s life easier.”

But in Anbar, life is governed by the region’s tribes and their ancestral customs.
A sense of hospitality is paramount, with any outsiders being invited to eat a hearty meal and stay overnight in a resident’s home.
Houses are even built with such a welcome in mind, as the diwaniya or reception hall must be the largest and most impressive room.
This remains true even if it means cutting down on space for the family.
The only previous attempt to open a hotel in Ramadi was a failure, evident from the unfinished and abandoned building in the city center.
The Turkish firm behind the hotel was forced to abandon the project in 2014, when IS overran the city. Residents jest that even the jihadists stayed away from the building.
But some Anbar residents are keen to take advantage of the new hotel, such as 28-year-old Mohammed Ahmed who has reserved a room for his honeymoon.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go and the hotel is a good alternative,” said Ahmed, his beard neatly trimmed and wearing a crisp white shirt.
The owner also aims to attract business clients, holding out hope to welcome delegates for reconstruction conferences and summits on Iraq’s post-IS future.
But for some residents, the arrival of the hotel remains a threat to the region’s customs.
“These hotels never exited in the traditions of our fathers and our grandfathers,” said Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil Al-Hamed, a 52-year-old tribal dignitary.
Hamed, wearing a white bedouin scarf and black robe, said the tribes have always been known for welcoming visitors.
“These hotels destroy our reputation,” he said.


’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

Updated 16 January 2019
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’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

  • The family have been involved in a string of incidents in the country, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior
  • "They're worse than pigs and I'd like to see them out of the country," Auckland mayor said

WELLINGTON: Members of a British family have been branded “worse than pigs” and face deportation from New Zealand after a spree of bad behavior that left normally easygoing Kiwis outraged.
The family have been involved in a string of incidents in and around Auckland and Hamilton, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff led national outcry at the tourists’ antics, demanding the police take action. “These guys are trash. They are leeches,” he told a local radio station.
“If you say one time ‘I found a hair or an ant in my meal’ you’d believe it but they find it every meal that they have as a way of evading payment. That’s a criminal activity.
“They’re worse than pigs and I’d like to see them out of the country.”
New Zealand’s assistant general manager of immigration, Peter Devoy, said the family had been issued with a deportation notice on the grounds of “matters relating to character.”
One 26-year-old member of the family on Wednesday pleaded guilty to stealing NZ$55 ($37) worth of goods from a petrol station.
The family attracted extensive media coverage in New Zealand after a video showed them leaving beer boxes, bottles and other rubbish strewn on a popular beach.
When a woman asked them to clean up their litter, a child in the group can be seen on video threatening he would “knock your brains out.”
Stuff Media reported that one family member hit a journalist with her shoe after being approached for comment.
A member of the family told the New Zealand Herald they have now decided to cut short their holiday and will return home this week.
John Johnson insisted his family were of good stock, claimed his grandfather was the “10th richest man in England” and said he was made to feel “very unwelcome” in New Zealand.