Muntazer Al-Zaidi as known by the people of Hamra, Beirut



 
MENASSAT pays a visit to the restaurant in Beirut where shoe-throwing Muntazer Al-Zaidi was a frequent guest before he became an international celebrity.
 
By HANI NAIM
 
mountazer in hamra
Muntazer Al-Zaidi (2nd from the right) at Beirut's Aa Zaw'ak restaurant. R.R.

BEIRUT, December 18, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Muntazer Al-Zaidi threw a shoe at the former American President George Bush at a conference in Baghdad, declaring the beginning of a new kind of resistance.

The Turkish media said he bought his shoes from Beirut. Others spoke about his family and friends. Zaidi was apparently a regular at Aa Zaw'ak restaurant in a small street in Hamra, a popular neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon.
 
In a small side street in Hamra stands Aa Zaw'ak restaurant, which opened its doors to fans of Arabic music and Lebanese food about five months ago.

Mazen Shreim, the manager, a friendly character, welcomed me warmly when he heard I wanted to know about Muntazer al-Zaidi.

According to Shreim, Zaidi visited Lebanon regularly. 

He said that the "shoe-throwing journalist" visited the restaurant daily during his last visit to Beirut two weeks ago, sometimes to rest, but most of the time to enjoy the laid back atmosphere at night.

Shreim also said that the journalist used to participate in the Oud parties the restaurant organizes every Friday night. "Muntazer was very calm and respectful," he said.



Muntazer Al-Zaidi (left) with Beirut restaurant manager Mazen Shreim.
"I felt so much pride when i heard the news," says Shreim.




Shreim and Muntazer talked about the situation in Iraq and Lebanon on numerous occasions and the journalist's views were clearly against the American occupation. 

The two men grew closer, to the extent that the journalist invited the restaurant manager to visit him in Baghdad. Shreim was preparing for the trip, which he was hoping to be on at the beginning of 2009.

Shreim wasn't too surprised with his friend's act. When he heard the news and found out Muntazer was the one who threw the shoe, he says he felt "so much pride."

Today, he is waiting eagerly for Muntazer's release, "so I can ask him for one of his shoes."

Every time Muntazer arrived at the restaurant, he ordered one cup of tea with an Narguile. Sometimes, he drank chamomile and herbs.

He also likes Lebanese apples, in addition to the Lebanese mezzes, according to the waiters who had a good relation with the regular customer.

One waiter, Ribal, told MENASSAT, "Muntazer was very polite in dealing with us."

After repeated visits, Ribal asked about his nationality. Muntazer answered, "I'm Iraqi and I'm proud of my country."

When they found out that Zaidi is a journalist working as a reporter for al-Baghdadiya Channel, which is known for its opposition to the US occupation, many questions arose in Ribal's head concerning Iraq and the situation there. Muntazer's answers reflected his utter rejection of the occupation and the civil clashes.

After the SOFA security agreement was signed between the Iraqi government and the American troops, Yehya Shreim, another waiter at the restaurant asked Zaidi about his opinion. The journalist answered that he completely rejected it, calling it "a legalization of the occupation."

To show support for Muntazer, the management of the restaurant is planning to hang a huge poster at the entrance of the restaurant featuring the owner alongside Muntazer, with the caption, "We are proud of such a customer," as well as "Freedom to Muntazer al-Zaidi."

The restaurant crew are all waiting for him to come back after the beginning of the new year, as he promised.

As for the mysterious origin of the shoes, the search is still on for the shop where Muntazer bought his shoes, if we believe the Turkish media. Until now, we think the lucky store must be Eldorado or the shoe store next to Aa Zaw'ak. Only time will tell.
 

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