I’m feeling a little reminiscent today, so I decided to write about a sweet moment that happened during the time that I lived in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.
It was a lovely hot Wednesday in May. I was set to leave Jordan within the following two weeks so I wanted to make the most of every remaining moment.
In true creative style, I searched the Internet to find their list of places to visit in Amman – I wanted to make sure that I had visited as many sites as possible!
As I was looking, I found the Amman train station and Hijaz Railway line.
I absolutely loved learning about the Hijaz Railway and the life of Lawrence of Arabia whilst at university, so I did not need much convincing – I ran out immediately to get a taxi.
It sounds so simple, right?
The first step was to prove to the taxi driver that the railway station actually existed. He seemed very concerned that we would get lost and that I would be dissapointed. He was finally convinced to start the journey when I showed him a YouTube video of the station from over ten years ago!
After a long detour of Amman and quite a jolly conversation with the friendly taxi driver, I arrived outside two large iron gates.
I walked through the gateway and I was greeted by a guard; I spoke to him in arabic and could not help but notice the puzzled expression on his face.
The guard’s puzzled expression only continued to grow when I started to talk about my interest in the Hijaz railway. I began to wonder if I was in the right place.
After just under one minute I found myself booked in for a free VIP guided tour of the compound. My guide Musa was lovely and took it upon himself to explain everything in Arabic, as I apparently needed to work on my pronunciation.
“If you are studying Arabic in Jordan then I will not let you speak a word of English!”
I followed him into a little room filled with old faded documents. There were train tickets, timetables, and route plans.
Musa was faithful in explaining every detail.
I can’t describe how it felt to hold different faded, brown tickets from the late 1800s between my fingers. The room was filled to the brim with information, pictures, articles and even an old suit that a conductor would have worn in the early 1900s. As you can imagine, I stayed in that room for a while.
After some time Musa looked at me in quite a curious manner and asked me if I was hungry.
Before I could answer I was ushered into a room of over fifteen men. There were train drivers, policemen, mechanics and even a cleaner or two. I stuck out like a sore thumb!
I was invited to sit in quite literally the center of the room and as I did I became fully aware of the unusual nature of this situation.
I was questioned for a while about everything, after all it is not every day that a strange visitor joins the staff for their lunch hour.
The questioning lasted for just over half an hour and I became so aware of everyone’s kindness and generosity.
Within a short time we were fully engaged in a lovely conversation that covered quite a lot of subjects. We spoke about marriage and about Islam. We spoke about career choices and the Arabic Language. I had already explained to them that I was a languages student; after some discussion they advised me to begin a Masters degree in engineering – I did not have the heart to tell them how terrible my science qualifications were, so I continued to smile awkwardly.
At one point, I found myself giving a grammar lesson under the request of two train drivers. A few members of staff were taking notes on scraps of paper.
When lunch drew to a close, I was invited to meet each of the train drivers in person. Each one gave me a firm handshake and a warm welcome. I was allowed to explore the various carriages and stand in the train driver’s spot – the whole experience was fascinating!
One of the sweetest memories from the day was hearing my name called from a distance, I could only just hear it over the booming engine sounds.
“Goodbye Sarah, study hard for your exams!” a train driver called as the big steam train was pulling out of Amman.
Everyone began to return to work and I also knew that I had to leave.
After saying goodbye to each and every member of staff, I walked outside to call a taxi.
It took thirty miniutes for a taxi to arrive, but somehow it all seemed worth it. I was tired but the day had been so wonderful!
For the final twenty minuites of my outing, I was serenaded home by a very angry taxi driver who was arguing with his son in law over the phone.
By the tone of the driver’s voice, it was very obvious that the driver wanted to curse and swear. However, due to the circumstances, he opted for a slightly more tame approach.
” ibn sarsoora” he screamed at the top of his voice, which translates to “son of a cockroach”.
As we arrived outside my apartment, the taxi driver turned around and apologized to me for shouting. We spoke for a few minutes and he ended our encounter by adding his welcome to those of the thousands of other taxi drivers that I had met along the way.
“Welcome to Jordan and enjoy your time here!”
I don’t think that I shall ever forget the day that I chose to journey to the train station in Amman! If you ever find yourself staying in Amman, I would certainly recommend that you pay the train station a visit.