Jordan 1996

‘Man’ I said to the bearded stranger. ‘Pardon?’ he asked in Arabic. ‘Man’ I repeated in English.

He, his wife and his wife’s parents were resting in a shaded corner, having lunch. I had seen their hired car parked outside the entrance and had come to see whether they wanted a guide or a souvenir. Its not a big building but its an important part of Jordan’s heritage and I am proud of it. Its name is Qasr al-Kharaneh, and its called a desert castle. Its outer walls and decorated gateway are intact (renovated in the 1900s) as are most of the two floors of rooms built around a central courtyard. I told them it may have been a fort, it may have been a caravanserai, where passing merchants stopped in the middle of the desert: no-one really knew. But the graffiti told us it was earlier than 8th century.

Qasr el-Kharaneh

Qasr el-Kharaneh

They stayed indoors while the heat made it uncomfortable to be moving around. They batted away the insects, they ate ful (beans) and corned beef from cans with fresh bread, they chatted away in English. I was going to offer them my kuffiyeh, my headscarf, but noticed they were already using one as a tablecloth.

It was as they left that I pointed at the stranger’s wife, who was very pregnant, and said ‘Man’. I don’t know many words in English but I do know how to make a man proud, for every man wants a son.

[An inspired prediction? See the following story -England 2015- for an update on this tale.]