A Guide to the Budayeen

by George Alec Effinger

A matte painting of a bustling Arabic slum.Source: Craig Mullins

Dramatis Personae

A photo of the author.Photo of George Alec Effinger
—O'Neill de Noux

Marîd Audran is somewhere in his early 30s, average in size (five feet nine inches, 150 pounds), clean shaven, with short, reddish-brown hair. Marîd is half Berber and half French, and his skin is a few shades darker than the average European. He has lived on the streets by his wits most of his life, but now he's the protégé of Friedlander Bey, and he's beginning to earn a little money and live a little better.

He has a moddy plug protruding from the crown of his head, but it's often hidden when he wears a keffiya, the white knitted skullcap of his homeland. He rarely wares the gallebeya, the long robe many Arabs wear throughout the Middle East. Marîd is proud of his Western heritage, and usually dresses in jeans, boots, a work shirt, and the keffiya (plain white). He is not very religious, and he has an addictive personality.

He has special daddies that control hypothalamic functions, so he can tune out fatigue, fear, hunger, thirst, and pain, and can boost sensory input.

Abdul-Hassan is a slender young American boy who was formerly the slave of Hassan the Shiite (in When Gravity Fails)—he minded Hassan's shop, sitting on a high stool in the bare store. Abdul-Hassan speaks no Arabic, although he has a moddy implant and several language daddies. His name is actually an ironic nickname, indicating that he was Hassan's in every respect except, perhaps, genetically. The rumor is that Abdul-Hassan was not born a boy. Now, he has been inherited by Saied the Half-Hajj, and he still sits on a stool in the empty shop, which now belongs to Mahmoud.

Arissa, a new girl on the club circuit, works for Chiriga. She is rather quiet and seems reluctant to build up a steady customer base. Chiri has warned Arissa that she won't last long on the circuit, and has suggested she get wired to loosen up some.

Bill the Taxi Driver has long, wild, sandy-colored hair which he hasn't cut in years, and a tangled beard that's rapidly turning gray. Bill is permanently fried on RPM, a frighteningly powerful hallucinogenic drug. Bill has occasional moments of lucidity, but he's learned to ignore them—or at least to keep functioning until they go away and he's seeing purple lizards again. He swears that RPM has opened his eyes to the hidden nature of the real world; he can see fire demons, after all, and his passengers can't.

Bill is almost Marîd's size, but more muscular. His arms are covered with blue-green tattoos, so old that they're blurred and indistinct. His skin, where it's exposed to the sun as he drives around the city, is burned a bright read. From out of his red face, his pale blue eyes stare with an insane intensity. He watches the people passing by on the sidewalk with patience, love, curiosity, and cold fear. Bill's driving is as crazy as he is.

Blanca is a dancer on the club circuit, a sexchange who used to dance at Frenchy Benoit's club. Marîd knows her well enough to say hello, but not much better.

Chiriga, better known as Chiri, owns Chiriga's, a nightclub in the Budayeen, and works behind the bar. She's a good friend of Marîd, whom she sometimes calls Bwana Marîd. Her eyes are shrewd and black, and her cheeks are patterned. She's a tall, lean, formidable woman, her black skin tattooed in the geometric designs of raised scars worn by her distant ancestors. When she smiles—which she doesn't do very often—her teeth flash disturbingly white, because she's had her canines filed to sharp points, in the manner of cannibals.

Chiri's a moddy, but she thinks of herself as a smart moddy. At work, she's always herself; she chips in her fantasies at home, where she won't bother anyone else. She doesn't have much patience with the crowd she caters to in her bar. Her philosophy is that somebody has to sell the other moddies liquor and drugs, but that doesn't mean she has to socialize with them. She drinks tende, a terrible-tasting East African liquor. She is about 40.

Fanya is a red-haired, hatchet-faced dancer on the club circuit. Her style of "dancing" has earned her the nickname Floor-Show Fanya, since she's more often horizontal than vertical. She drinks to excess, and sometimes she throws up on customers. She works at the Red Light Lounge.

Greed lessens what is gathered
—Arab proverb

Fatima and Nassir own the Red Light Lounge. Nothing but trouble ever happens there.

Signor Ferrari owns the Blue Parrot. He wears a white suit and a red fez.

Frenchy Benoit owns the club on the Street where Yasmin dances—he fines her fifty kiam each day she comes in late, which is just about every day. Frenchy is a big man, about the size of two Marseilles enforcers, with a bushy black beard and black eyes. He spits into a cup. He doesn't drink because he has a bad stomach.

Friedlander Bey, often called Papa, is about five feet two inches tall, but weighs almost 200 pounds. He wears plain white cotton short-sleeved shirts, gray trousers, and slippers. He wears no jewelry. He has a few wisps of white hair brushed straight back on his head. Papa is very religious, and he expects others to be respectful of religion in his presence. The powerful boss of the Budayeen and the city, he's an old-timer—more than 175 years old. He dispenses favors and punishments like someone's ancient idea of God. He owns many of the clubs, cookshops, and other establishments in the Budayeen, but he doesn't discourage competition. As they say in the Budayeen, Papa doesn't just have connections; he is connections.

Sometimes it seems as though vice and corruption and Friedlander Bey's main business in life, but the money that comes from vice is just pocket change to Papa. It counts for maybe five percent of his annual income. He has a much bigger concern; he sells order. Half the countries in the world have split up and recombined again, so that it's almost impossible to know who owns what and who lives where and who owes what taxes to whom. Friedlander Bey knows that there's got to be somebody who stays on top of it all, keeping the records straight—and that whoever does that will have the real power, because all the little states will need his help to keep from collapsing.

Fuad is a tall, scrawny, spindly-legged Arab who hangs around the clubs. No one likes Fuad very much, but they use him to run and fetch. He has long, dirty hair piled in a greasy pompadour on his head, and his arms are so thin that his elbows stick out like apples on a stick. He's not very bright, and he's often robbed and swindled. Marîd feels sorry for him. Everyone else calls him il-Manhous, which means "the chronically unlucky."

Monsieur Gargotier is the owner of the Café de la Fée Blanche.

Hajjar is the police lieutenant in charge of the affairs of the Budayeen. He's a Jordanian who had a lengthy arrest record of his own before he came to the city. Ten years ago, he was an athlete, but he hasn't stayed in shape. He's about two years younger than Marîd, somewhere around 30. He has thinning brown hair, and lately he's tried to grow a beard. It looks terrible, like the skin of a kiwi fruit. He looks like a mother's bad dream of a drug dealer, which is what he was in former times—when he wasn't administering the affairs of the nearby walled quarter. That's probably why he was considered untrustworthy—he was suspected of smuggling drugs and money to prisoners.

For some time Hajjar was in Friedlander Bey's pocket, even though he liked to pretend he was still his own man. Since he's been promoted and given command, though, Hajjar has gone through some startling changes. He's begun to take his work seriously, and he's cut back on his intrigues and profiteering schemes. It's not that he's suddenly discovered a sense of honor; he's just realized that he'll have to work his tail off to keep from getting fired as a crook and an incompetent. He's still not above taking a bribe or pushing a few pills if he thinks he can get away with it. Marîd hates cops, and Hajjar is just the kind of cop he hates worst.

Heidi is a barmaid at the Silver Palm. She is a young German girl, very pretty, with blue eyes and blonde bangs.

Honey Pilar, the most desirable woman in the world, is the most famous of the sex-moddy stars. She's a blonde Spaniard with a voluptuous body and heavy-lidded, liquid green eyes. Her face seems to have a fragile innocence. She's 45, but looks 18.

Indihar is Egyptian, a dancer, a real girl with a real personality—one of the few people in the Budayeen who doesn't have her skull wired. Marîd has known her for years. She used to work for Frenchy Benoit, but now she's in Chiri's club. When she's at work, she wears a pale peach-colored shawl that has little success in concealing her sensual body. By her own standards, Indihar is a good Muslim woman. She doesn't drink alcohol. Instead, Shiri serves her Sharâb, a soft drink.

A clever man's mistake is equal to the mistakes of a thousand fools.
—Arab proverb

Jacques, Marîd's Moroccan friend, is the token Christian in the crowd. He likes to tell people that he's three-quarters European. Jacques is strictly heterosexual, and smug about it. Nobody likes him much.

Jamila, a deb who works for Chiri, is a "pre-operation" transsexual who never intends to get the operation.

Janelle is a real black girl and a dancer on the club circuit. She works for Chiri. She has a famine-thin, unmodified body, is always chipped in, flounces when she dances, and sings along with the keypad track of the music. The other girls don't like her because she steals from the other dancers and cuts in on their customers.

Jo-Mama is a club owner whose bar caters to Greek seamen. She's a huge European woman, nearly six feet tall, somewhere between 300 and 400 pounds, with hair that changes color regularly—blonde, redhead, brunette, midnight black, and then a dull brown will grow out. She's a tough, strong woman, and no one causes trouble in her bar. She has no scruples about pulling out her needle gun or dagger and creating general peace all around her. She speaks in a loud, fast-talking, distracted way.

Kandy, a pre-op deb, is a dancer on the club circuit who works for Chiri on the night shift.

Laila is a scrawny, toothless, black hag with a shrill voice. She's always chipped in to some moddy, and she never stops whining. She has dry black skin as wrinkled as a raisin's and straggly, dirty, thin white hair and yellowed eyes. Laila's not somebody you like to spend a lot of time with, but she knows her moddies. She knows more about the old, out-of-print moddies than anyone else.

Laila must have had one of the world's first experimental implants, because her brain has never worked quite right since. And the way she still abuses the technology, she should have burnt out her last gray cell years ago—she's withstood cerebral torture that would have turned anyone else into a drooling zombie.

Lily is another dancer on the club circuit, a rather pretty sexchange. She works for Chiri on the night shift.

Mahmoud, Marîd's Arab friend, is a sexchange, formerly a slim-hipped, doe eyed dancing girl in the clubs on the Street. Now he's short, broad, and mean, like an evil djinn. These days, he runs the organized prostitution in the Budayeen for Friedlander Bey, working out of Hassan's Tourist Paradise.

Old Ibrihim is a tall, nervous, thin, white-bearded Arab who runs the Café Solace and doesn't trust Marîd or his friends. He wishes they'd go somewhere else.

Pualani is a new girl working in Chiri's. Her name means "Heavenly Flower." She's Polynesian, very pretty, and her body is perfect, small, and lithe. She has flawless skin. Her cheekbones have been emphasized with silicone, her nose straightened and made smaller, her square jaw shaved down to a cute rounded point. She has oversized breast implants and silicone rounding out her behind. Her brain is wired for daddies but not moddies. She works the early shift for Chiri.

Saied the Half-Hajj is Marîd's best friend, although he's a natural-born liar. He's tall and well-built, with a carefully trimmed mustache, rich, and strictly homosexual. His favorite moddy is of a heavy-duty, steel-belted, mean mother of a tough guy. Saied thinks its beneath him to earn money. He likes to sit in the cafés with Marîd and Mahmoud and Jacques, all day and all evening. His teenage boyfriend, the American kid everybody calls Abdul-Hassan, goes out with older men and brings home the rent money. Saied likes to sneer a lot and wear his gallebeya cinched with a wide, black leather belt decorated with shiny chrome-steel strips and studs. The Half-Hajj is always careful of his appearance. He can make people like him whenever he wants; that talent is programmed into an add-on chip snapped into his bad-guy moddy. He's rough and dangerous, but also charming. He drinks Wild Turkey or Johnny Walker.

The Stones That Speak are Friedlander Bey's bodyguards, huge, muscular, taciturn, and imposing. Their names are Habib and Labib, and the only way you can tell them apart is that if you call one of them names, maybe one will blink. If not, it doesn't really make any difference.

Fortune is with you for an hour, and against you for ten.
—Arab proverb

Yasmin is Marîd's former girlfriend. Although she's a sexchange, Yasmin is fully modified, inside and out. She has a perfect body, but her long, straight, black hair is natural, and her best asset. She has big hands and feet. She's famous for being late for just about everything. Not that she's lazy—she just loves to sleep

Youssef, Friedlander Bey's butler, is an old Arab.

A matte painting of a street packed with abandoned cars, people in robes, and palm trees.Source: Craig Mullins

A Glossary of Slang and Common Expressions

"Come to prayer. Come to prayer. Prayer is better than sleep. Allah is Most Great!" This is the morning call to prayer of the muezzin.

"I am unable to express my thanks" is a frequent Arab expression of gratitude. Often answered by "No thanks are needed when one performs a duty," which is a frequent Arab substitute for "You're welcome."

"Ahlan wa sahlan" is Arabic for "Welcome"

"Allah is Most Great" is a frequent Islamic interjection, usually used at the end of some speech or negotiation.

"Allah yisallimak" is an Arabic reply to "Salaamtak," meaning "God keep you in peace."

"As-salaam alaykum" is Arabic for farewell, "Peace be with you."

Baksheesh is Arabic for gratuity, tip or bribe.

Baraka is the almost magical presence possessed by certain great men. Friedlander Bey has baraka in great quantity.

Beauties is Street slang for Butaqualide HC1, powerful sleeping pills that are very illegal.

Bingara is a liquor Marîd likes mixed with gin and a little Rose's lime juice.

"Bismillah" is Arabic for "In the name of God."

Blue triangles is the street term for Tri-phets, a powerful amphetamine.

Boulevard il Jameel is the major north-south street running past the eastern gate of the Budayeen.

The Budayeen is the walled quarter of the city where crime is tolerated. "The Budayeen hides from the light."

"Business is business, action is action" is the motto of the Budayeen.

Bwana is Swahili for mister.

Chipping in is using a moddy or daddy.

Choo is Swahili for excrement.

Cory plug. See moddy plug.

Corymbic socket is a socket at the crown of the skull into which moddies or daddies may be chipped. They are less common than the protruding plug variety of implants, but growing in popularity.

Daddy is an add-on chip that gives the wearer temporary knowledge. It is smaller than a moddy, and usually just chips into a socket on the side of a moddy or directly onto the cory plug in your skull.

Deb is the name on the Street for the pre-operation (pre-op) transvestite.

Fellahin is Arabic for peasants.

Fîq is a copper coin of small value.

"Himmar oo ibn-himmar" is an Arabic insult meaning "Donkey and son of a donkey!"

"Ibn wushka!" is an Arabic insult meaning "Son of an unclean woman!"

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" is a frequent Islamic interjection.

Two men at a table in a shady bar, one lies dead with a bullet through their chest, the other stands triumphant as they stare off in the distance.Source: Craig Mullins

"Inshallah" is Arabic for "If God wills," a frequent Islamic interjection.

Jam means to mess up, hurt, or have sex with.

"Jambo" is Swahili for "Hello."

Kiam is the monetary unit of the Budayeen and city.

"Kwa heri" is Swahili for "Goodbye" (spoken to one person).

"Kwa herini ya kuonana" is Swahili for "Goodbye until we see each other again" (spoken to more than one person).

Laqbi is a wine made from date palm, drunk in poor neighborhoods.

"il-Mahroosa" is Arabic for "the guarded one," meaning a daughter or young woman.

"Marhaba" is Arabic for "Hello," often used to inferiors.

Moddy is a personality module, or a person wearing a personality module. A moddy is much bigger than a daddy.

Moddy and daddy bar—Chiri's is one.

Moddy plug—also cory plug—is the hardware protruding from the skull onto which a moddy or daddy is snapped.

"Mush hayk?" is Arabic for "Is it not?"

Narjîlah is the bubbling water pipe in which tobacco and other substances are smoked.

Needle gun is a small handgun that fires flechettes, which look like they could strip the meat from the bones of an adult rhinoceros. It can alternate three sedative barbs, three iced with nerve toxin, and three explosive darts.

Paxium, a mild Valium-like tranquilizer, comes in small lavender or yellow tablets.

Qûr'an is the sacred book of Islam. The Noble Qûr'an is also called the Wise Mention of God.

RPM is the hallucinogen used by Bill the Tax-driver. The real name of the drug is 1-ribopropylmethionine.

Sahtayn is an Arabic toast, equivalent to "Cheers!"

"Salaamtak" is a common Arabic farewell meaning "Peace be with you." The reply is "Allah yisallimak."

Sharâb is a non-alcoholic soft drink served to devout Muslim dancers like Indihar. It looks like champagne.

"Shukran" is Arabic for "Thank you."

Static pistol is a sidearm that disrupts the functioning of the nerves and muscles.

The Street is the main avenue of the Budayeen, running from the eastern gate to the cemetery. Vehicular traffic is forbidden except for police cars.

Sunnies is Street slang for Sonneine, a powerful opiate painkiller. They are chalky yellow tablets.

Tende is an East African liquor, kept under the bar as private stock by Chiri. It is a truly loathsome African liquor from the Sudan or the Congo or someplace, made, Marîd suspects, from fermented yams and spadefoot toads.

Transpex is a game that lets two people with corymbic implants sit across from each other and chip into the machine's CPU. The first player imagines a bizarre scenario in detail, and it becomes a wholly realistic environment for the second player, who's scored on how well he adapts—or survives. Then the second player does the same for the first.

Tri-phets is slang for Tri-phetamines, futuristic amphetamines shaped like blue triangles.

Walid al-Akbar Street is perpendicular to the Boulevard il Jameel, across from the Budayeen. The police station is located here.

"Where you at?" is a common greeting in the Budayeen, sometimes shortened to "Where y'at?"

"Yas salaam!" is an Arabic exclamation of delight or dismay, roughly equivalent to "Oh, my God!"

"Tomorrow, with the apricots" is an Arabic phrase equivalent to "When pigs fly!"