When Myriam Met Suheir!
I recently finished writing my second book, “Worlds Apart,” in which part of the story takes place in the Middle East, more specifically Jordan and Iraq. I did a significant amount to reading and researching before creating my story, but still felt I owed to myself (and my readers) to walk on that rich and fascinating land.
What resulted from that, was an extraordinary human experience. I had the great advantage of seeing the country with my Iraqi friend, Suheir, who has been living in Amman since she and her family escaped the violence in Bagdad more than a decade ago.
Despite knowing that Jordan is a peaceful and welcoming nation, open to all foreigners and respectful of women’s rights, I must confess that I was nervous about what I would find after landing.
But fear had never stopped me before, and it wouldn’t start now. So, I embarked on this new adventure, one of many in my life, as I always do; with an open heart and open soul.
My friend was waiting for me and took me to her beautiful apartment in Amman, where she lives with her husband and three children. The following week, we spent every day exploring and discovering Jordan in ways that were even new to her, a long-time resident.
My first stop was Jesus Baptismal Site, on the Jordan River, which represents the natural border between Israel and Jordan and has been witness of the conflict between neighbors. High on the hills, lay the shadows of Jerusalem. The proximity and intensity of it all made my heart skip a bit.
A born Catholic, I grew up going to Sunday Mass and went to a Catholic school. I heard the bible stories all my life, but living them, walking on the that dry soil, elevated everything I thought I knew and believed to a spiritual place that amazed me. “Every time I visit this place, what moves me the most is to think about the man who was baptized here and how he changed the history of humanity,” said my Muslim friend’s husband, Ahmed.
It is after all, our humanity what unites us and makes us connect in a deep and undeniable level.
Next, was the magnificent archeological site of Petra. Every step, every corner, every stone took my breath away. I bought a traditional Jordanian scarf at a shop before entering the site, and the owner of the shop showed me “the Jordanian way” to wear it on my head. Happy to be protected from the sun, I continued walking for a few minutes until a teenage boy stopped me and offered to show me how to wear the scarf “the Bedouin way”. He fixed the scarf, and off I went.
Once a finished my three-hour walk and made some friends along the way -a lively group of teenage girls taking selfies- I arrived at our car to continue the journey. Our driver, a friendly Palestinian man called Aman, complimented my scarf and politely asked if he could fix it “the Palestinian way”. Three styles in one day! I wore my scarf proudly until we returned to Amman.
Link to a wonderful travel article: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/nov/24/highlights-jordan-petra-wadi-rum-dead-sea-amman