Syria 1983

As a passport official I deal with lots of nationalities. It is my job to ensure that every person who enters Jordan at this border post is allowed to do so. Most of the people I see on a normal day are Syrians or Jordanians. But, as I looked along the queue, I did see some foreigners towards the back.  When they finally reached me I could see the bearded stranger’s British passport in his hand. This would be fine: I could guess he’d be going from Damascus to Amman by taxi. I looked at the papers of the other foreigner, in front of him in the queue. He had documents saying he was driving a lorry to Saudi Arabia but I didn’t feel inclined to let him through: his passport was highly dubious.

After studying it closely I pushed it back to him and said ‘no’. He looked astonished but had nothing to say. He spoke no English and no Arabic. He talked to the bearded one who addressed me in Arabic. “It’s a legal passport, sir.” Eventually I agreed to go into the back room. I checked my list of UN countries and it wasn’t there. I looked at a world map but couldn’t find it. The stranger said: “It is a real place. It has a royal ruler, just like the UK – and like Jordan, sir.” Royalty is good. The queue was getting impatient. I stamped the man’s passport. And now I have heard of Liechtenstein.