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Feature Story October 4, 2001
Arabian Psycho
By Makhmoud Al-Lis Easton Browse author

A Beachside Cafe in Opa-Locka

"You should match your ghitra to your kandura," Waleed Alsheri tells Abdulaziz Alomari, who's listening intently, stirring his yogurt on the rocks with a swizzle stick.

"Who says?" Abdulaziz asks.

"Now, listen," Alsheri patiently explains. He's drinking a glass of apricot nectar and eating rice wrapped in grape leaves with goat sausage and, incongruously, French fries. "If you wear a white ghitra, you wear a white kandura. It's as simple as that."

"But wait," I interrupt. "What if his bischt is black?"

"For God's sake, Ali-Hamoud," Alsheri moans. "I wasn't talking about dressing for a fucking wedding. What's wrong with you?"

"The bischt isn't only for formal occasions anymore," I shoot back. "Sure, the older, thicker bischts, the ones made of heavy wool or cotton material, are used exclusively for ceremonial occasions. But the lighter version, the semi-see-thru bischt made of thin linen, is often worn now as an everyday alternative to formal business wear. As professional attire, it has a playful but regal quality, but it is also the garment of a good Muslim."

Alomari nods as though he's taking this in, but I know that he knows this already, and it irritates me that he's pretending. "Okay," he says. "I get it. But what about the color? Fine, black, beige, and brown, but what about the gold trim? Isn't the use of gold trim restricted anyway depending on the social status of the wearer?"

"Fuck you, Abdul," I hiss. "You know as well as I do that it's the material, not the color, that signifies social status. Is that your Taurus double-parked out there?"

He peers under the table canopy toward the street, seeming crestfallen all of the sudden. A pair of ripped jogger-faggots wearing sweat-drenched Florida State t-shirts trots by. "No," he whispers, shaking his head sadly. "No, that's not mine. I don't have a Taurus."

The three of us, Abdulaziz Alomari, Waleed Alsheri, and I are sitting at Easy Earl's beachside cafe in Opa-Locka, and it's a little after four. Alsheri is wearing a beige ankle-length dishdara with flared bushti and red micro-piping, a matching gahfiyya and gold-encrusted agal made of tightly-wrapped spider silk, all by Fahad, and black Mecca sandals with camelskin toe-straps that I mistakenly think at first are Nila Rafiq but which are actually, Alsheri tells me later, handmade. Alomari is wearing an understated sleeveless Elham Abbas kandura, a red-and-white patterned El Mouf ghtira, and a pair of tan Armani poplin shorts to help fight of the hot Florida weather (we're allowed to wear shorts with a kandura). Our table is on a raised oak deck overlooking the ocean. I'm wearing a Joseph Abboud solid red silk dishdara that comes with a matching exercise bag and, like Alomari, a red-and-white patterned ghtira-gahfiyya arrangement, although mine is Elham Abbas and much more expensive. Alomari and Alsheri finished their flight classes early for facials somewhere and their tans look good. The O'Reilly Report today was about the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic states.

"Guys, guys," I say. "Who's sitting with Karim Koubriti over there? Is that Ahmed Hannan?"

"Negative," Alsheri grunts. "That's Nabil Al-Marabh. You can tell by the crop-duster glasses."

There's a short but uncomfortable silence at the table. "No," says Alomari quietly. "That's not Al-Marabh."

"Are you sure?" I ask.

He nods, and you can see it all of the sudden: he's never been more sure of anything in his life. "It's not Al-Marabh," he says. "It's... Atta."

The infidel hardbody waitress, definitely an FSU cheerleader type (or maybe Georgia Tech), blond, huge tits, snake-pattern tattoo encircling the left bicep, sleeveless cutoff T-shirt, denim jeans, friendly face, comes over to ask if we want a new drink. We've been coming here every day for four weeks and she's always asking us questions, trying to make conversation and get to know us. "Where y'all fellas from?" she asked Koumbari and me yesterday. "Howdaya like Opa-Locka?" "Opa-what?" I answered. "Opa-Locka," she said. "Our town." "I know it's the fucking town," I growled, and after that she didn't ask us any more questions. Now she's trying to smile but is definitely keeping her distance as she steps around Alsheri's dishdara to pick up his plate.

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