Sunday, June 11, 2006

Monarchs and Viceroys

The Monarch butterfly (and, presumably, caterpiller) is poisonous. Not deadly poisonous, but (so I've been told) anyone (or any thing) eating one will fervently wish that it were deadly. Momma birds teach their children, 'Don't you dare go eating those Monarch butterflies.' Of course, some young birds are naughty and deliberatly disobey, but only once.

The Viceroy butterfly, on the other hand, is delicious. To paraphrase Al Capp, 'roasted it tastes like beef, fried it tastes like chicken,' and barbequeued it tastes like, well barbeque. Not that I've ever actually tasted it. As I did when my host happily announced that locusts had eaten all his rice and wheat, so, instead of boring rice and bread we'd be having meat in the form of fried locusts, I respectfully declined my share.

There is one problem with eating Viceroy butterflies: they look exactly like Monarchs, and the only way to tell them apart is by taking a bite, something most creatures are, understandably, reluctant to do.

Here in Dubai, Citizens are a tiny minority with the usual rights of citizens. Actually, Dubai is not unlike ancient Athens or Sparta, with most of us here as helots.

For example, I once knew a Citizen who had a mistress, whom he visited perhaps once a week, always on the same night of the week. When he dropped by on a different night of the week, he found her in bed with an ex-pat. He had both his mistress and her lover gaoled and deported for adultery.

I think of Citizens as Monarch butterflies.

But some ex-pats dress exactly like Citizens. To be convincing, the ex-pat must be an Arab or the sort of polyglot who can sound like a native speaker of Arabic. I think of these ex-pats as Viceroys.

The Viceroys dress in the same kandouras as high ranking Citizens, but their Rolexes only cost €20, unlike the Citizen's Rolexes, which are real.

There are very few Citizens in Dubai, and they have the resources that they can afford to stay out of sight if they wish, so, seeing a kandoura-clad man wandering the streets, the odds are that he is an ex-pat Viceroy, not a Citizen Monarch.

I watched as a Viceroy was looking for a parking space (always a problem in Dubai) and demanded to be allowed to park in a space reserved for members of the Ruler's entourage. This Viceroy has a neatly trimmed greying beard and the full kandoura with the white head covering held in place by the double black ring called an agal. After a lot of screaming, the nervous guard, afraid that the Viceroy really was a member of the Ruler's entourage, let him park in one of the reserved parking spaces.

But this doesn't always work. A young Viceroy pulled into a 'No Parking' zone at Madinat Jumairah. The security guard asked him to move. He refused. The security guard called the police, and the young Viceroy was awarded a stay at what we ex-pat residents call the 'Muraqabat Hotel.' (I learned about the young Viceroy's fate because I had a meeting with him, but was informed that the meeting would have to be delayed for 90 days.) I didn't see how the young Viceroy was dressed, but it obviously didn't convice the security guard or the police. (Once the matter goes to court, the judge knows his fellow Citizens, so the Viceroy is in big trouble. The trick is to scare the security guard by screaming that, if the police are called, it will be the security guard who goes to gaol.)

For the clueless ex-pat, it is, of course, safest to treat any kandoura-clad Arabic speaker as a Monarch. Unless a real Monarch comes along, furious at whatever the Viceroy has tricked the clueless ex-pat into doing.

And, while Monarchs are too rich to need to steal from ex-pats, Viceroys are not, so one should always keep close watch on one's wallet, just in case.


Blogger nzm said...

Great analogy!

9:23 am  
Blogger Axonsax said...

BRAVO.....! and true as always.

11:41 am  

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