Saturday, December 4, 2010

To Saleh Mukamal z'l - December 4th, 2010


Sometimes a word in one language will reach up and take you by the throat and surprise you with all kinds of associations from another language.

Saleh was the name Seth and Richard Mukamal’s father. Seth and Richard and I went to High School together back in the ice-cube (Canada). Mr. Mukamal always amazed me. He cut a larger-than-life figure in my imagination.

He was the epitome of exoticism. Born in Iraq, he traveled around the world, building empires and never giving up, no matter how hard things got.

He kept an ancient bottle of French wine in a closet and gave Seth a superb briar pipe.

But the thing that always impressed me about Mr. Mukamal was his perfect Hebrew. The first time I heard him speak it was when some Russians came from Israel and they needed kosher plates for Passover. I had never before heard the guttural kufs and ayins.

Later I learnt that Mr. Mukamal was instrumental in smuggling date palms out of Babylon back to Palestine so that Jewish pioneers there could build up an autonomous agricultural base.

The man has always cast a giant shadow for me.

Now Mr. Mukamal is right here. Sala in Lao is a garden house. All my life I have dreamt of having a gazebo and now I am finally going to get one!

You may find that the leap from Saleh Mukamal to my garden Sala is kind of like going from the sublime to the ridiculous (to quote my Uncle Lou), but every time I sit in my gazebo, sipping on a gin and tonic and watching the haze settle over the city after another hot tropical day, listening to the clicking of petanque balls down the dirt path, my thoughts will turn to Mr. Mukamal and I will toast his memory and achievements.

The pavillon itself is made of hardwood and sits on stilts to protect it during the monsoon. Our gardener, Vandi, did what he could by himself and called in reinforcements when he needed extra hands. The thatched roof came in segments.

Last week I ran electricity in from the house to power a fan and lights.

L’Haim, Ya Naïm!

PS. Today the weather here was sublime: 25C, a slight breeze off the Mekong, not a cloud in the sky. Happy Hannouka, everybody!


  1. and a happy Nannouka to you too.

  2. Wow simply garden nipa hut. Look nicely.

    Just like to share with you a quote...

    "Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I'll give you a stock clerk." - J.C. Penney

    You can get more quotes at

  3. You keep a EQ map on your blog.. why?
    I like to know why people do that, because i also do that on my iGoogle page I like to know when the earth moves. I always feel EQ. even if far away.