We met Omar on our second midnight round tour of Kerak – that is to say when we were dead lost with a hotel reservation in a town two hours away.
Not only did this smiling, laughing man guide us to the right highway, but also invited us to eat at his place. Funny, but after ten minutes of broken English with him, we knew he was the kind of guy we could trust.
Anyway, on our way back North the next evening, we called him up. He was on his way to the mosque (prayers 5 times a day!), but came to get us right after.
We were welcomed into this exquisite appartment: lush carpets, fluffy sofa, columns – seriously beautiful. Little children – his brothers from his father’s second wife (you can have up to 4) – came to greet us. A friend arrived, who spoke English, and we sat down on the carpet to eat.
The food was absolutely delicious and the conversation went in interesting directions; Omar holds a PhD in religious studies (the Koran) and studied in Baghdad in1995, when it was still the cultural/artist center of the Arabic World – think Paris, Rome…
He works as a teacher and runs the family business in gold on the side. He told us he has problems with the government because he “likes the poor too much.” Two weeks ago he led a rally of teachers demanding higher pay – right now they get about 300 dollars a month. Hopefully the reaction of the government won’t be too harsh.
The conversation often went to religion, to family, what life is like in France and Canada. At one point I was invited to the second half of the house to meet his mother and sister, who had cooked the meal we were eating. (The house was doubled with 2 living rooms – one for guests and one for the women and family.) They both were kind and funny. Neither work. His father’s wife greeted me veiled but promptly removed it to reveal a t-shirt. We had nice broken-english/sign-language conversations over Turkish coffee.
On reflection, what I feel most is a stunned gratitude to be so quickly and warmly welcomed into someone’s home. As Omar would say Alhamdulillah