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I am sitting here wearing my new thobe, which is white and flowing and loose, just as Allah decreed, and am once again the cutting edge of sartorial splendor. “What is a thobe?” you ask as one. “You mean robe, no doubt. Do you lisp?” No, I slur on occasion after several toasts to the regiment, but that’s another story. I am referring to a replacement for your bib overalls and, as usual, I have found a way for us to make a fortune. You have seen countless thobes, only you probably didn’t know what you were seeing. A thobe, sometimes pronounced thawb, is that loose-fitting robe that Arab men wear to remain cool in the desert climes, look comfortable and, on occasion, hide satchel charges. Thobes are older than pants, older than the Bible, and today are worn by a couple hundred million men throughout the Middle East. (Stick with me and we shall eventually learn everything about everything.) Thobes are white in the summer, but in winter can be darker, perhaps worn with a woolen vest. Always long sleeved, they have side pockets and a chest pocket to hold cigarettes. Arab men are never without their cigarettes, usually American, along with dark coffee and U.S.-made SUVs. (Arabs are hugely pro-American culture. It’s our government they can’t stand.) The Koran declares that a man should be judged by his deeds, not on his appearance, so the thobe expresses equality – everyone wears pretty much the same model, from cab drivers to sheiks. This new number was purchased by one of my sons who just came back from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. (He wrote, “Dubai is the ugliest city I’ve ever visited.” But Abu Dhabi was fine). Before he left, I said, “Once you have brought peace to the Middle East and pushed oil back to $35 a barrel, buy me a thobe.” He returned with one for every member of the family. The other two pursuits are a work in progress. Maybe the price of oil is going up, because these replacement garments are much nicer than the ones I bought a few years ago. Well, more accurately, a long time ago – the Dead Sea was only sick. I went to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to cover the Second Coming. OK, OK, my info was bad. In Dhahran, my hotel room had a laundry list. It looked like any other such list in any other hotel room until I read: “trousers, tie, shirt, thobe….” Huh? I had seen men walking around in cool, flowing robes while I, the Ugly American, was sweating in my tux. So I went shopping. I bought my thobe in the souk, or marketplace, in the town of Hofuf which is out in the Arabian desert. Walking through the dimly lit warrens of shops, with the smell of camel sweat and the noise of a mob stoning an adulteress, I fully expected someone in a fake beard to grab me and say, “The Fat Man is yellow at noon,” then fall dead with a dagger in his back. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that there were many merchants selling articles of clothing. The sellers had the thobes hanging out, but most were in packages. I decided to buy them for my family, but the size markings were no help. They’d read 40, 46, 50 and the like. That could mean anything from millimeters to miles to Mecca. So I held up smallish thobes alongside every passing child to get the right size. The mothers were patient with my bumbling attempts at shopping, while the fathers muttered something in Arabic about what the Koran says to do with pedophiles. Back home, when we were all dressed the same way, we looked either like a Christmas pageant or a Klan rally. I wore mine around the house and it was the coolest thobe in town, figuratively and literally. It was easy to wash, didn’t need ironing, and I could keep four cigars in the top pocket. But I discovered the thobe, being a loose-fitting garment, should not be worn while mowing the lawn or working with chain saws. Over the years the thobe held up quite well but was getting a little transparent. Incidentally, this brings up the question of what to wear under a thobe. I would no more ask an Arab man that than I would question a Scot on what he wears under his kilt. Now here is where you come in. If we work it right, thobes will be the newest fad in wearing apparel. Hey, if Americans will buy Nehru coats, leisure suits and bell-bottom slacks, they will buy anything. Some of you Nervous Nelleys might wonder if this is a good time to dress like Al-Qaeda. But we bought Mao jackets, Russian vodka and caviar in the height of The Cold War. Need I say more? We need enough thobes to open a shop. So we get someone in the Middle East to send us a bunch. Just have them hop down to the local souk and make the purchase. Perhaps you know people who are doing business in that part of the world, working for Exxon, Halliburton or the First Marine Division. This brings us to the next situation. My focus groups show that terrorists have a bad image overall. Every time the panel sees pictures of Osama bin-Laden in a thobe, their electronic monitoring bracelets go negative. Prejudice is a terrible thing, so in order to make our fortune on this latest fad, we must neutralize the downside. I suggest we declare victory in Iraq, and have our troops march out of Baghdad with bands playing and thobes flowing. What a photo op! There is Gen. David Petraeus, swathed in cotton, waving to the cheering crowds like Lawrence of Arabia. So remember, sheik is chic. Get your just deserts. Don’t be sands thobe. Ashby is a heart thobe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..