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Hawala.

so what is it?

its like the old school western union or old school watani online.

ok let me explain it better: its a method of transfering money from one place to another, like a wire transfer,…. but without a wire and nothing actually moves. its largely based on trust and honour much like your regular international bank.

so one day one of my associates outside the country says ” i’ll transfer the funds to you first thing in the morning”

i go “cool, i’ll let you know when i get it in a few days”,…. thinking it’ll be a bank transfer ,… and bank transfers normally take atleast 3-5 days to clear.
but the next evening i get a call.

“hello? mr skunk? yes we have your money.”

“who is this?”

“this is mr hawala. you can come and get it at our office in the city.”

^ roughly translated from my broken arabic and his egyptian arabic of course.

the next day i head down to the address in the city, which turns out to be the local currency exchange place near the baladiya gardens.

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as you can see from the little blue car,….. even tho its a parking lot, you can still park just about anywhere you want. even right outside the booth where you pay to exit.

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its a whole street of exchange companies. and officially atleast thats what they do.

unofficially they also do hawala where you can send as much as you want to just about anywhere, provided they have contacts in that country.

so i go in give them my name and my mobile number.

they take a photocopy of my ID, or passport if you dont have an ID.

then they ask you to sign a reciept.

the guy at the desk yells out how much cash you should recieve.

the guy in the back yells it back to confirm.

then the guy in the back throws, and i mean over arm throws the bundle of cash at the guy in front.

but it was early, so the guy in front wasnt fully awake,….

so he missed the flying wad of cash coming at him.

and i looked on in amazement as the roll of US$100 bills hits the glass in front of my nose and ricochets back under the desk.

a minute later i’m saying my thank yous and goodbyes  and walking back to my car with the the warm feeling of a bundle of cash in my coat pocket 😀

one mywway to the car i could help but take a picture up close. nothing makes a hardened capitalist’s heart soften as much as a scene like:

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apparently, the 12 hours between my associate transfering and me getting the call is  not even classed as express delivery. a friend actually sent a couple of grand to his mum in india in the time it took him to finish his tea at the hawala shop.

the story goes like this:

he needed to get cash to his mum quick. his teaboy mentions the hawala service to him. he doesnt believe it’ll be that quick, or safe but the dude is desperate and decides to try it out.

he shows up at the office, the guy in the shop assures him that everything will be cool, especially since his mum lives in a busy metropolitan area in india.

but guaging my friend’s reluctance, he says ” ok you keep your money, i will make a call, then my man will make the delivery and you can speak with your mother to confirm you recieved it,…. now how do you take your tea?”

not 30 minutes and some small talk later, the shop recieves a call which gets patched thru to the guy behind the desk. he then hands it over to my friend who is surprised to hear his mother’s voice on the other end saying that she recieved the money in cash.

satisfied, my friend pays for the transaction and leaves.

which just goes to show,….

even progress and technology and flashy lights cant beat something that just works, no mater how old it may be.

😛

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9 Comments

  1. booth, wad of cash, ricochets, gauging, reluctance?

    Now you have to translate Baladiyah!

    Interesting, how come I never heard of this?

    Those pictures are amazingly good. Taken with your new phone right?

  2. booth like a cubicle
    wad of cash, i think i explained this before,… a bunch of money in a rubber band.
    ricochets – bounceing off
    gauging – you should know 😛
    reluctance – not wanting to

    baladiyah – like the county council

    dunno why you havent heard of it but apparently it quite common.

    yup pretty good phone pictures and theyre actually shrunk down.

  3. At first I read Halawa not Hawala (side effect of all the dust and coughing LOL)

    Technology is a bless huh?

  4. lol yeah the dust has been just loverly hasnt it?

  5. It’s a true bliss to have it at your hand, specially when you need to wire money to some remote places where no western union branches exists and exchange companies have no correspondents at Kuwait.

    Got to admit, it feels awkward and seems like a potential fraud, but it works amazingly.

    A simple phone call and voilla your money delivered with your room service 🙂

  6. I smell detergent 😉

  7. touche: indeed, its shockingly effective, no wonder al qaeda use it all the time 😛

    kinano: hehe yeah i thought i heard a spin cycle in the background 😛

  8. Dont’cha love it! Fast, based on trust, it works . . .

  9. that it does 😛


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