I enthusiastically shove hearty forkfuls of biryani and sips of blackberry Fanta into my mouth while the conversation around me flows between three dialects of Arabic, English, and Swahili.
People who could pass as Pakistani, Indian, Somali, Eritrean, khaleeji, and any combination of these identities – but all still Kenyan – wander past the window. Women in abayas, hijabs, shalwar kameez, skirts, pants, and dresses float by tugging their children behind them.
Chaiwalas, samosawalas, biryaniwalas, pastrywalas and juicewalas line the road leading to Mombasa’s port; except they’re not really walas because the owners are as diverse as the parade past the biryani restaurant.
The Yemeni-Omani owner of our biryani shop grew up in Kenya, but speaks English with an American accent. Five generations ago, his ancestors wound up here, and a few years ago, economic opportunity drove him to Dubai.
He found a job working as security for the Honeywell CEO and earned the man’s trust over time. So much so, that when the CEO had to move back to LA, where he was neighbors with Diana Ross, he offered to take his biryani-shop-owning-security-guard friend with him. In sunny LA, the CEO promised to buy him a mansion, a new car, and his first golfset, so they could play golf everyday. Americans really are very friendly.
A dutiful husband, our biryani-shop-owner-friend asked his wife her opinion of the move.
Her response was less than enthusiastic. “If you move, he will get you a girlfriend, too. This makes me uncomfortable. I do not want you to go.”
“So I did not go. My wife is my queen.”
Focusing on us, he instills his wisdom, “When you girls get married, remember, you are the queen.”
Embellished story or not, he’s got a solid a philosophy.