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.


Rare footage of Brazil tribe threatened by loggers: activists

Grab of a video shot by Midia India on August 2018 and released by Survival International activits of a purportedly uncontacted member of a Brazilian indigenous tribe hunting in the Amazon rainforest near Sao Luis, Maranhao, Brazil. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Rare footage of Brazil tribe threatened by loggers: activists

  • Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples in order to benefit loggers, miners and farmers who helped get him elected

RIO DE JANEIRO: Rare footage of purportedly uncontacted members of a Brazilian indigenous tribe hunting in the Amazon rainforest was released Monday by activists who warn the group could be wiped out by logging.
The 58-second clip filmed in the northern state of Maranhao shows members of the Awa tribe, which Survival International says has been frequently attacked by loggers who have been emboldened by pro-business President Jair Bolsonaro.
“Only a global outcry stands between them and genocide,” said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which published the video that had been shot by a member of neighboring indigenous tribe Guajajara. The footage was shot in August, the NGO said.
“Loggers have already killed many of their relatives and forced others out of the forest.
“President Bolsonaro and his friends in the logging industry would like nothing more than for those who still survive to be eliminated.”
In the footage, a young man holding a machete in the rainforest appears to sniff the blade before he looks toward the person filming him. Seconds later he and other members of the tribe carrying spears run away.
“We didn’t have the Awa’s permission to film, but we know that it’s important to use these images because if we don’t show them around the world, the Awa will be killed by loggers,” said Erisvan Guajajara of Midia India, an indigenous film-making association.
Members of the Guajajara tribe belong to the Guardians of the Amazon group, which aims to protect isolated indigenous people.
While most Awa have been contacted, some are known to still live uncontacted in an area of rainforest that is being “rapidly destroyed,” Survival International said.
Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples in order to benefit loggers, miners and farmers who helped get him elected.
Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric has included a pledge to end “Shiite ecologist activism,” has questioned the latest official figures showing deforestation increased 88 percent in June compared with the same period last year.
He uses the word “Shiite” as a synonym for radicalism rather than denoting a branch of Islam.
“We are experiencing a real environmental psychosis,” Bolsonaro said Sunday.
Bolsonaro also accused foreign journalists Friday of wanting Brazil’s estimated 800,000 indigenous people to remain in a “prehistoric state, without access to technology, science and the thousand wonders of modernity.”