The Al Rahiri Dinner had been discussed at length. This was hardly a surprise as the Al Rahiris themselves were often discussed at great length. They had arrived in the District, direct from Arabi about eighteen months previously. The wife had spoken very little common then and even though there was no ‘Aberddu’ way as such, it was very obvious to the other residents of the Merchants Quarter that whichever way the Al Rahiris did things it was most definitely not the Aberddu way. It wasn’t that people were openly hostile to them, they were in general very polite and helpful but it was clear that whilst they had come from a great range of Western nations that lived in the same climates and had the same kinds of clothing and diet they were strangely uncomfortable in the presence of people of equal wealth and standing who were so very far from home.
The wife didn’t wear a corset. In fact both of them dressed in loose-fitting silks dyed opulently. They had food specially imported for them. In the summer – at first at least- they had no worn shoes. Having arrived in August, when the sun beat down on the city the building held the warmth well and they were comfortable. Some of the more ample matrons had suggested, not exactly unkindly, that when they were first met with the western winter they would return to Arabi on the first caravan going East. None of their husbands bothered listening to them, or they would have discovered that getting a caravan back East would have been both easy and pointless as Mr Al Rahiri pretty much had the monopoly on East-West import into Aberddu and out across the sea to Aragon and Nortrol.
It was a strange kind of polite ignorance that kept the Al Rahiris at arm’s length. No one knew what they ate or what kind of hours they kept. No one was even sure that they’d be able to get the wife to understand them. Whilst they were highly intrigued by the couple, they were not prepared to accept them into their homes with undue haste as more than anything they feared it may lead to nothing more than an uncomfortable and embarrassed silence.
It had taken six months for what Mulligan had started to think of as the Metcalfe Gang to invite them anywhere, and it was Metcalfe herself that plucked up the courage after running into Mrs Al Rahiri, whose name it turn out was Jali, at the Weavers and Dyers Guild perusing the same newly arrived batch of muslins and silks. After that, when Metcalfe had discovered that in fact Jali, and her husband Kaseem drank tea and were prepared to keep local hours and ate normal food, they were invited more freely to social events, although they were by no means part of the ‘usual crowd’ as Maurice Fortescue had swiftly become.