I wonder why humans are this way!

My impressions of the people I met in Jordan

When we announced our plans of visiting Jordan some were worried! The fear of being a victim of violence is now real anywhere in the world, it is a pity but tragically true. I suppose we were lucky as we returned with a better understanding and feelings about people with whom we had no previous interaction. A few days visit and conversations with a couple of locals cannot be counted as an expertise. While it is true that we spoke to people who depended on tourists for a living, I feel that there was simplicity and frankness in our dealings.

The airport at Amman was reminiscent of a bigger Bangalore airport, very basic. After Tara and I handed over our passports at the immigration booth, we were asked to wait. They said there was a problem. Strange as Sethu and Madhu had just got past the immigration with similar Visas as ours, all issued in Bangkok, from an other queue. Stranger still as friends in our queue joining us at Bahrain and were also asked to wait. We were taken over by another Immigration official. Soon the Bahrain residents were cleared but not us. The passports were now sent into an inner office. The whole process took about twenty minutes and we were finally given our passports back. It seems the problem was that a consulate and not an embassy issued our visa! While we did not panic we were a little worried when the passports went out of our sight! It seems that the official at the booth being new had just passed the buck.

I am used to irritants at immigrations. I was the only one to be stopped by a very rude Spanish customs official. Its memory still rankles me, but later the charm of our Spanish host more than compensated. Most annoying was this supercilious officer in London who had this routine question whether I had planned to stay back, illegally was implicit in his tone. I asked him very politely ‘why should I’ and I think it stumped him as he had no more questions and his expressions changed for the better. Tara and I had to contend with a very blunt US immigration official making very derogatory and racial remarks about us, intriguing as our colors almost matched. I remember a Canadian woman officer telling me to take my hands out of my pocket for her safety! It was winter and very cold! Anyway, we are well advised to keep calm whatever the experience. It is certain that things will get worse before, hopefully, they get better.

Compared to these experiences, the Amman officials were actually nice. I think the systems are different and it appears the boss is consulted more often than we are used to seeing. I do not recall any other unpleasant experience! Except some misunderstanding about the rules at the Petra tourist office, an official insisted we hire horses, as we were a group of more than ten. We finally had to give in. Rather odd as the distance covered was less than a kilometer! I presume it is a way of providing income to the locals.

Jordanians are tourist friendly and our guide from Amman had charisma and could have been a sales or public relations manager if he had the right opportunities. He said it was more difficult than before to make ends meet as tourism was badly hit after the bombings. He was also witness, like me, to many changes. He said women had more freedom and dressed more boldly now. He could not imagine talking to a girl across the street in his younger days. In their time they married girls chosen for them. It could have been me talking similarly about present-day urban India! His reaction to my question about how they felt about not having oil was interesting! He answered with a question 'Did you see how fat those with oil wealth have become?'. He added 'Look at me, I work hard and I am fit and strong and I am happy with what I have'. Others I spoke to were different, they hoped that soon they would find oil and benefit from it.

The young owner of the Desert camp at Wadirum took me back to my youth in independent India! He said he had to deal with a number of western tourists and the cultural gap between him, a Nomadic Bedouin, and the tourists (We know most tourists are rarely ambassadors of the country they come from) was something he had learnt to tolerate to make a living. He wished we could talk in either in my or his language. I know the feeling, as I had also to learn to be polite to a ‘White’ boss in a joint venture I worked with. He was not what I imagined a Technical director should be, his contribution to the company was insignificant. I assume the parent company had just passed on some deadwood to us. I used to wonder why we needed to suffer such obvious imcompetents and at such costs. That was the time when we wanted to do everything by ourselves and we were now an independent India! I feel more charitable now and told him that we both benefited in many ways by the rule of the west. He was not so sure as he felt that we were still dictated by the west. He was not really angry, but more disappointed. I think we could have been very good friends!

I recall the manager of a very huge gift and curio shop in Amman. He said that because of one Jordanian, tourism had dropped to half and many suffered. It was easy to sympathise with him. We all know that real prosperity comes with peace. But we are all loaded with so much animosity and hatred again due to very complex reasons that it seems there is no solution at all, unless there is a miracle!

I also remember the lovely dinner we had with Sahar and Lamees, well-educated, modern Jordanians. During our conversation they said in some context, I forget which, that they were hundred percent Jordanians. It dawned on me then that they were from a minority religion and it struck a chord in me as many times I had this feeling of being stateless in India, a Tamil(dialect) speaking man from Karnataka working in Maharashtra!

As we travelled in the reigion we did not feel any tension, actually we were relaxed and at ease. I still recall the joy we felt on the last day of our trip as we watched happy children sing and dance in Jerash and thought why can't it be like this all over, especially in the east.

I wonder why we humans are made the way we are, unable to grasp that it is these simple joys in life that are the most important.


PVR RAO said…
Dear Srinidhi,
Your blog on Jordan gave us a "FreeTrip"to Jordan.It is really interesting to note that people are generally friendly and welcome interaction with tourists.
We enjoyed the article.
PVR and Sarla
vatsraghu said…
Thanx for yr Jordan impressions.
You haven't mentioned about the real villians - Israelites who are holding the world to ransom. If you are excusing them I would believe that yr trips to God's Own Country have had their effect

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