Last week, Libya’s Gheddafi caused a big stir – not least for his Bedouin tent he set up on the backside of the Vatican as a ‘camp’. Taking his cue from the former Pope (Innocent X) whose family once owned that very Pamphilj park, he received you on your own turf; not the other way around. But the biggest flap was that, obviously stricken by being so close to an Infidel H.Q., he became caught up in prayers – so rapt, he kept an entire auditorium of people at the Foreign Ministry waiting for 2 hours before they said, Amen or Inshallah and went home without hearing what Gheddafi – in his first formal visit in decades – had to say.
This story is incredible for 2 reasons:
1) A man who owns dozens of palaces replete with your standard fare concubines, pools, and surely hammams (I don’t know this for sure, but I reference Saddam Hussein) has the audacity to camp out when visiting your land? I know Italy has some pretty spurious hotels, but really…The Cavalieri Hilton is that bad?
In fact, if he really wanted to show some chutzpah – having the Bedouin chief drop a few petrol dollars on expensive hotels, restaurants, limos and girls well…that would have spoken volumes over his Lawrence of Arabia farce.
2) The Italians actually waited for 2 full hours to receive their guest? I would have lasted about 22 minutes myself. But, this, in retrospect, is the least preposterous. After all, there isn’t a city clerk, official or politician who shows up on time. It’s some weird throwback to the days when they didn’t have watches, and sundials had yet to be fine tuned. Or, in the very least, when Princes and Kings would receive you in their bedrooms, so you could make your case while they dressed – never mind rushing off to a proper meeting.
But these aren’t the two reasons I truly had in mind. After all in Italy, no meeting, committee, concert, or even play starts when they say it will. Guests of honor barely make an appearance once they show up 40 minutes behind schedule -- lest they appear as though they have nothing else to do. I once begged a meeting on the parks nearby to just begin without the City Official, after all, he didn’t know squat about what the experts present knew anyway. After 50 minutes and obvious restlessness on the part of the participants, they started without him. I left after another 40mins later and he still hadn’t shown up.
So, really, not waiting for Gheddafi was unbelievable, not because of the obvious int’l faux pas both by host and guest alike (although I applaud Fini's response), but really, the fact that they a) waited so long in the first place (if you’re non-Italian) and b) the fact that they didn’t just keep sitting there (if you’re Italian).
Nonetheless, the applause when announcing the closure of the event was, I’m sure, cathartic for all concerned. Maybe now the politicians will think twice before keeping us waiting for their entrance.