tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Somali Pirates prefer microwave dinners to Cordon Bleu

From the current issue of Vanity Fair, an article on the anatomy of the Somali Pirate hijacking of the French cruise boat Le Ponant, authored by Tuque Souq favourite William Langewiesche.* In 2008 a handful of Somali pirates seized Le Ponant and held the boat and its crew of 30 French men and women for ransom. The article, long and wonderfully thorough, is called: "The Pirate Latitudes":
Soon afterward [Captain] Marchesseau’s hopes for the pirates’ imminent departure were dashed when additional gunmen arrived carrying large quantities of cigarettes and supplies, which they began unloading onto the marina platform. The food was crude but not beneath comment by the French. It included disgusting soft drinks, disgusting cooking oils, and cartons of disgusting spaghetti, which spilled onto the deck from a box that split. A bucket contained a full sheep’s worth of disgusting sun-dried meat. It was upsetting. Surely these Somalis realized that a ship like the Ponant would have plenty of its own supplies, and that in terms of cuisine it was not just some average prize.

As if in punishment for this stupidity, one of the pirates then slipped off the marina platform and fell into the wake. He immediately disappeared. Ahmed [the pirate leader] came rushing up the stairs and demanded that Marchesseau maneuver the ship to search for him. The search lasted 15 minutes, until Ahmed called it off. He said the dead man was a hero, and his family would be paid $100,000 for his sacrifice. That sum was probably a brag, but the promise of a payment indicated a level of organization that turned out to be real...

[The Captain] asked, “What do you want?” Ahmed answered, “Money.” It seemed easy enough. These people were not political. They were not terrorists. They were perhaps Muslims, but probably not devout. They were pirates, plain and simple.
[The sun never sets on the pirates at the Tuque Souq Somali Piracy Watch bureau.]

* - I noticed that Langewiesche's bio on the VF site is not only out of date (the Atomic Bazaar book came out a year ago), but it fails to mention his best book (and I've read them all): Sahara Unveiled, in which the author narrates his journey across the desert.

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