Learning from a Jordanian taxi-driver

So I checked out of the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa this morning, deciding to head for Tel Aviv, Isra*l via the King Hussein border crossing.

My driver, Amar, another friendly Jordanian, pulls away from the hotel parking lot and we begin talking. He says he leads a simple life and is happy. He asks where I’m from. “Canada”, I say, “but I live in Abu Dhabi”. I’m sometimes shy to admit this, since I’ve lived there two and a half year and speak barely any Arabic. Amar tells me he’s been to Qatar (his cousin lives there) and has visited Kuwait and Dubai as well. He says he doesn’t like it. “Why?”, I ask, “is it because they are not “really Arab”?”. I’d heard this expression from another Jordanian I’ve met here. “No”, he says explaining that he doesn’t care whether they’re Arab or not. “They’re all so fake these countries. It’s all about money and business. I don’t want to worry about those things. I have a good wife, and three kids: Khaled – 11yrs, Youmna – 13 yrs, Massa – 4 maybe 5 years old – this is all I need.” I ask him if he’ll have another. “Maybe”, he says with a laugh, “we’ll see.”

Amar holds a pharmacist diploma but is unable to find a job in his field so he has spent the last eight years working as a driver for Hertz Rent a Car. He says its a “not bad job”. Although he finds it difficult to scrape together the funds to put his children through school he still manages to do it – he understands the value of education. It is really the most critical foundational element for development, for without it, a country’s citizens and industry inevitable become less competitive against other countries.

As we drive through the countryside, stray donkeys wander along the shoulder of the highway, flatbed trucks chug along, piled high with fruits and vegetables from the country’s farms. Tomatoes, lemons, olives, eggplant, this is how the rural communities make a living, irrigating their crops from underground aquifers, and using huge tent-like structures to cover their fields, presumably to protect from the elements and create a greenhouse effect. Jordan is one the most water-scarce countries in the world and of course, water is an integral part of the conflict in the Middle East.

Occasionally I see someone on the side of the road with a herd of sheep or goats or camels. “They’re the rich ones”, Amar explains, ” the ones with the animals can produce milk and meat”. I tell him about the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda and how they were divided up generations ago on the basis of how many cows one had. Those with ten or more were a Tutsi and the rest were Hutu.

He points out gypsy camps in otherwise-empty fields and says they are from Turkey. “They beg and steal and we don’t like them”, he says. “They stay in the countryside during the winter and return to Amman in the summertime.” I see them everywhere….

This is the Jordan I really came to see… and when we finally arrive at the border crossing and discover it is closed for the rest of the day, I am not disappointed to return to Amman and enjoy the opportunity to see the city I missed the first time around…

And here I am now, in Amman’s City Centre eating another delicious beef shawarma meal and wandering the streets..

Thankfully I have a better hotel lined up for this evening… The Firas Palace Hotel at 30 dinars a night and working heating system.
Until next time….

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