This morning at work I get an SMS from my husband - informing me that a relative of his will be contacting me on business. What business? Which relative? Where? Here or overseas?
I tried to call my husband for further clarification but he couldn't be reached. Oh well, I thought. I'd find out soon enough.
Just after lunch, I receive the call.
Him: Asalamu 3laikum.
Me : 3laikum alsalam.
Him: K howa illy 2ali akalimik(K told me to call you). Inti meen ba2a?(So who are you?)
Now how do I introduce myself to a relative of my husband who might also be a business contact? Name, job title, company? Or just hi I'm LouLou K's wife?
I decided to keep things formal. So I did the business introduction thing. Nothing about marriage.
Him: Ahlan beeki yafandim. (Nice to meet you)
Me : Ya hala. (Same here.)
Him: Ma3laish momkin a3raf bas howa 7adritik wi K konto zomala feen bilzabt? (Can I ask where you and K used to work together?)
Which is a polite way of asking how I know K. So K didn't tell him.
Me : Abadan (No). Mafi zamala (We never worked together). Wala 7ata nafs elmajal(We're in very different fields).
I know it was cruel. I should have put the poor guy out of his misery. He was clearly dying to know how K knows me. But I guess my husband and I share the same twisted sense of humor.
There was a short silence.
Him: Mafish moshkila (Ok no problem). 3al3omoom nitkalim shwya filshogl?(Shall we talk business?)
Me : Itfadal. (Be my guest.)
So he explains that he basically just arrived in town to take over management of a small but growing business with offices in Jebel Ali and they are now looking for a reputable IT partner with substantial local experience and representation blah blah blah etc....It seemed like a good business opportunity actually.
In response, I launched into my sales pitch - explaining how wonderful we are and what magic we do etc....
He seemed impressed. Then indicated that I should be discussing the details with their IT Division Head and that he would have the guy contact me. In an effort to show just how good our service is, I offered to call the guy myself if he would give me the contacts.
So he gives me a name and a couple of phone numbers.
Me: Ok, I will call asap. And I may tell Mr.F that I was referred by you?
Him: Ah kalimeeh maho a23id odami aho(Yeah call him now he's sitting infront of me). 3ayiz asma3 elmokalma(I want to listen in).
Which nearly cracked me up but I held on to the serious business demeanour. I call the guy. We have a brief discussion during which we set up a meeting next Sunday in Jebel Ali.
We hang up. I try to reach my husband again. No luck.
About an hour later, the first guy calls me back:
Him: Ana asif gidan ya madam(I'm very sorry). Ma kontish a3raf wallahi in i7na 2arayib(I didn't realize that we are family).
Me : La 7asal khair.(It's ok no problem.)
Him: Bas ama ashoofo. (Just wait until I see him(K).)
Me : Ma3laish howa sa3at yinsa lama yikoon mashgool.(Please excuse him. Sometimes he forgets. Especially when he's very busy.)
Him: Yinsa eh? Yinsa ino mitgawiz? (He forgets what?That he is married?)
Me(laughing) : Ya3ni.(Sort of)
Him: 3omooman alf mabrook(Anyway congrats). Ana 3ala fikra ab2a ibn 3amo(I am his cousin). I7na itkalimna mara zaman filtelephone.(We spoke on the phone once - quite a while back.)
Me : Sa7i7 fi3lan(Yes I remember). (Even though I didn't have a clue. Before and just after the wedding, we received telephone congratulations from dozens of his relatives. People I'd never seen before or since. How could I possibly remember or tell them apart?)
Him(continuing): Bas lazim ba2a neegi nzorkom 3ashan nibarik wi nit3araf 3laiki waghan liwagh.(He's saying that he should come visit us to congratulate us properly and get to know me in person.)
I replied with the usual we'd-be-honored, anytime and our-humble-abode-will-be-illuminated-by-your-presence etc....Arabic expressions of welcome.
Then I remembered to ask him something.
Me: Ma3laish bas elakh F.(the IT Manager guy he'd made me speak to) illy kalamni ma 7adid li makan elmaktab fain fi Jebel Ali.(Sorry but the guy I spoke with didn't tell me where to find your offices in Jebel Ali.)
Him: goozik 3arif. (Your husband knows)
Me (laughing): 7adir basa'alo. (Ok I'll ask him.)
Him: Winti 3ayza ti3rafi leh? (Why do you want to know?)
Me: 3ashan elmeeting yom ela7ad ISA.(Because of the meeting on Sunday.)
Him: Meeting eh?(What meeting?) Howa bas 3ashan ma yi3rafsh in inti 2aribti. (My colleague just didn't know that we are related). Wana yikhalasni bardo in inti tit3abi wi teegi hina min Abu Dhabi?(Do you think I would put you to the trouble of travelling from Jebel Ali to Abu Dhabi?) Elmeeting ISA yib2a 3andokom filmaktab (The meeting will be in your offices). Wi kol meeting ba3d kida(And every meeting after that). Law ay 7ad 2alik 7aga ghair kida, kalimini.(If anyone tells you different, just call me.)
Great. I know he was trying to be nice but this is not really a workable arrangement - telling his staff that they should never ask me to visit. There are things I will need to see on site.
But you have to give the guy credit for nerve. You're related to me so of course you get special treatment even if we ARE in a business situation. No ifs and no buts. In your face.But before I realized you were related to me I could have cared less if you had to do the Abu Dhabi-Dubai both ways 3 times a day.
What can I say? Arabs!