“Ahlan Wa Salan (I Welcome You)”

“You can tell a man’s nationality in this part of the world by the color and design of their kufiya,” said the man seated in 6A.

“???”

“We Jordanians prefer the red and white. Palestinians like theirs with black and white checkers. The Emiratis like white,” he remarked. “I thought you would like to know.”

I thanked him for his information (I had no idea of the sophisticated nuances behind Muslim headwear), but also corrected him on his assumption. I wasn’t staring at the attire of the passengers seated in front of us. I was simply trying to grab the attention of the stewardess down the aisle for her attention. I wanted a glass of water before taking off.

He let out a hearty laugh and apologized for jumping to such a conclusion.  And so began a fascinating two-hour conversation with Odai, the import/export businessman from Amman. Our exchange touched on everything I wanted to know about Jordan: where to find the best baklava, how to order shisha like a local, the situation of Palestinians in Jordan, directions for onward travel to the West Bank.

By the end, I couldn’t help but be suspicious; why was Odai being so incredibly welcoming to a complete stranger.

“There is a saying we have here in Jordan,” he answered. “A guest is a guest of god.”

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