The Royal Jordanian Airlines flight had touched down at Amman International Airport with as little fuss as possible. No hand-clapping nor a mad rush to vacate the aircraft. I passed through passport control without holding my breath.
<feature photo Amman, Jordan by atlas tours.net
Although it wasn’t a modern air terminal my baggage cart didn’t squeal. An easily identifiable baggage claim conveyor belt deposited my luggage near me. A stewardess smiled. Had I gotten on the wrong flight? Was this Tel Aviv?
The driver held up a placard with my name properly spelled. It was about nine a.m. I felt refreshed.
I liked Amman at first sight. The old and the new didn’t compete with each other. Amman was well maintained and clean. The driver glided down a palm tree lined avenue. This is what I had imaged Israel to be like (I would have to wait until early next year to find out about Israel).
I had figuring out that embassy drivers were a lot like taxi drivers who drove their customers way out of the way to increase their fares. But the embassy drivers weren’t on a meter (I think they just enjoyed showing newcomers their city). I said to the driver, “Is it possible to drive by King Hussein’s palace?”
“Al-Maquar,” he said, like the genie was out of the bottle.
If I had a second wish it would have been, “Can I pop in the Al-Maquar palace and have a cup of tea with King Hussein?” (and the Genie would say, “As you wish.”).
The driver caught my eye in the rearview, smiled and shook his head. Although I had hoped I would get a glimpse of the palace, I understood.
Every taxi we passed in Amman seemed to be a well-kept white Mercedes Benz. Of all the Arab cities I had been to so far Amman was the most westernized. I saw gorgeous Jordanian girls strut down the avenue in very tight jeans accompanied with black high heels and usually a white blouse (the fashion).
I asked the embassy Jordanian driver, who spoke good English, to stop at my hotel, across the street from the Intercontinental Hotel. Instead of the scowl I had received from the taxi driver in Athens I saw a respectful nod. The guesthouse came highly recommended from my cohort Al and the Crypto techs. It was a short walk across the street to the Amman Intercontinental Hotel.
A good-natured Brit ran the well-maintained guesthouse. After checking in I stowed my luggage in the simple, comfortable room and continued my journey to the American embassy.
Less than eight months ago I supported King Hussein of Jordan’s visit to Disney World and Cyprus Gardens in Florida (King Hussein of Jordan tag). Today I’m visiting King Hussein’s city, Amman. I wondered what the king was doing now. Riding a motorcycle? Taxiing his jet airliner on the tarmac? Or maybe just HAM’ing it up on his amateur radio gear.
I did some research back at the State Department. King Hussein had been in power in Jordan since 1952 (when he was seventeen years old). From the material I had read I came to the conclusion that King Hussein was a master diplomat who had successfully balanced pressures from Arab nationalists, Western countries, and Israel, while transforming Jordan into a stable modern state.
King Hussein of Jordan was a Hashemite, the ruling kingdom of Jordan and past rulers of Syria and Iraq. The Hashemite dynasty traces back to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam. King Hussein was a 40th-generation direct descendant of Muhammad.
Jordan fought three wars with Israel under Hussein, including the 1967 Six Day War, which ended in Jordan’s loss of the West Bank.
In 1970 King Hussein expelled Palestinian fighters (Fedayeen) based in Jordan after they had threatened Jordan’s security in what became known as Black September. The Fedayeen would play a major role in the Lebanese civil war that destroyed much of Beirut. Although King Hussein wasn’t always a U.S. ally our leaders respected him. Surely if other Arab leaders had King Hussein’s sensibility the Middle East would likely be less volatile.
“The American embassy,” the driver announced as we pulled up to the security check point at the entrance to the motor pool of the older building.
One glance and I had this eerie feeling that I had been here before…