A backward glance at three pictures I will carry in my mind for a good while:
A late afternoon in Aquaba, after sipping Arabic coffee in a café, a friend and I set off on foot through the city center to find some of the open-air markets (I did not really find them till the next day). As we meandered in the fading light we entered a small run-down square with shops on all sides and, in the center, a little raised patch of dirt with one or two bedraggled skinny trees. In the dust and detritus beneath the trees my attention was caught by a pair of quiet eyes staring up at me. I had not known to expect a long-tailed monkey on the streets of Jordan! The mystery was quickly solved, however, when across the square to my right I saw a pet shop and its owner taking his ease on a chair on the sidewalk. Above his head, in the front window, a motley chorus of glittering parrots as he inquired politely, in English, if he could help us find something.
Also in Aquaba, mid-day on the beach. Families enjoying the mild temperatures (air and sea) on a holiday weekend; a few big tankers out in the deep water. I walked out on a wooden pier and was immediately hailed by three boys (probably aged 10-12) swimming off the pier in the clear green water. They smiled, shouted questions in English about where I was from and, when I answered “America,” held fingers up in the “V” sign.
Late morning on my last day in Jordan, at the water line of the Dead Sea. I was dipping my hands in the bowl-shaped hole in the damp sand, scooping up soothing dark green mud, the better to swathe my pale Wasp body before entering the sea for a good float. Also scooping and swathing at this hole was a distinguished olive-skinned man who appeared to be in his early 80s. He was trim in his conservative bathing trunks, with curly salt-and-pepper hair and large dark eyes; he appeared to suffer from a partial palsey of some kind because his left hand was held awkwardly at his side. He smiled at me and asked, in a monosyllable of some language, if I was French. (There were several French people at that hotel at that time.) I smiled, said “No. American – USA,” and asked in English where he was from. This was our conversation:
– “Syria.” – “I am so sorry for what is happening in your country.” – “It is our way of asking for democracy,” he gently said. There was no need for either of us to say anything more.
And here are a few miscellaneous photographs; my favorite is the one of the women in traditional dress, warming their bread at the beach.