Amman, Jordan, October 1998. Young refugees gathering at a “Iraki” spot in front of the Roman theater. Jeunes réfugiés irakiens.

There was an Iraqi woman in our small hotel waiting to meet her U.S. husband-to-be, there was an Iraqi tailor next door making dishdashes, local for djellabahs, there was even an Iraqi restaurant where the Christian head waiter asked us for help to get a European visa, and there were these Iraqi children, in the park right outside the Roman theater, en route to Abu Dhabi. Were it not for all these “foreigners,” the Jordanian capital would have been very boring, without even a decent souq or an old mosque.


Aqaba, Jordan, October 1998. Puffing on a narghile in one of many cafeteria-movie theatres.

He accompanied us for five days from his handicraft stall inside Petra through Wadi Rum to the Sinai-bound ferry in Aqaba. He was a pure Bedouin by the name of Mohannad, two “n” he specified, “You know, in Arabic, means big knife, how do you call it?”, a sword, but we called him Charlot because he had a moustache and was small and funny.


Tayyibeh, Jordan, October 1998. Our new friend Mohannad’s family. La famille de notre nouvel ami Mohannad.

He showed us how to get into Petra’s huge site through the back door — a unique experience climbing down through a lunar landscape … and you avoid the exorbitant $28 per person entry fee –, he showed us how to use an expired telephone card — you scribble with a pencil on the magnetic chip then put it in the freezer –, he showed us his sense of humor by calling my companion “donkey” and threatening to turn us to the “bulis” for Arabic does not have “p”s nor “o”s, most important, he showed us his tribe’s hospitality by taking us to his family in Tayyibeh.


Petra, Jordan, October 1998. The free, back door to the wonderful site. L’entrée des artistes, par où l’on ne paie pas.


Aqaba, Jordan, October 1998. Pizzas on the Red Sea… some 70 years after Lawrence of Arabia’s tumultuous visit. Pizzas dans le port sur la Mer Rouge.

In Aqaba, we ate baby-pizzas, Middle-East style in a tiny restaurant, and puffed on a narghile with apple-flavored tobacco in one of the many cafeteria-movie theatres where rows of metal seats are welded together in front of TV sets, “There are many Egyptians here, and in Arabia, and the Arab Emirates, and in Libya, even across the Mediterranean in Greece. There are 70 million people in Egypt. When they are out of their country, they like to watch Egyptian movies.” Cairo is the Arabic equivalent of Bombay and Hollywood.