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Jordan 1974 part 6 – returning home

This is the sixth and final part in a series of articles about my trip to Jordan in 1974 to advise Jordan Television on production techniques.

We were to take a short holiday in Aqaba and I thought that might give my wife Janet time to make as full recovery.  We were driven down by chauffeur from Amman.  This followed the route of the old rail line that went from Damascus in Syria to Medina in Saudi Arabia.

It is called The Hejaz Railway and was originally intended to extend as far as Mecca.  It was built by the Turks when the area was part of the Ottoman Empire.  The line stopped at Medina because local tribesmen caused disruption to the workforce and finally, the outbreak of the Great War stopped any further progress.

Zarqa from a train on the Hejaz Railway

Zarqa from a train on the Hejaz Railway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was fascinating, from time to time, was to see from the road the rail lines only a hundred or so yards away.  What was astonishing was that we were able to see locomotives and trains de-railed and lying on their sides just as Lawrence and the Arab Revolt had left them sixty years before.

Having seen “Lawrence of Arabia”, I was keen to see the approach to Aqaba.  In fact, the resemblance of the film location to the actual was quite amazing.

We were driven to a seashore hotel which consisted of small bungalows and forty yards from the sea.  We were installed in one of those and told to enjoy ourselves for few days.

From the veranda, we could see the resorts of Eilat in Israel, which seemed only a half a mile away and the Egyptian seaside resort of Ras el Masri across the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba.

It was hot.  It was so hot, that we had to put shoes on to walk to the water’s edge, the sand was scorching.

We had an enjoyable few days there although we could have done with a more temperate climate.

Before we left, Mansour, and sometimes his wife, had been taken us around various places of interest.  They said that we should go to a night club in Amman.  He picked us up in his own car, a large new Mercedes.  I did not get much chance to see it at the Hilton, we were in a hurry to get away.

When we arrived at the night club, Mansour went off, I thought at the time, to get reservations.  I walked around his car admiring it.  When he came back I said, “Mansoor, your car doesn’t have any number plates”.  He said ”You don’t need number plates if you are a member of the Royal Family”.  I should not have asked.

He had been in the night club to find that it had been booked for a wedding, but the host, realising that it was Mansour enquiring, invited us all in to join in the festivities.

There was food galore and a dance floor.  The was a strange group of musicians.  There were playing a mixture of Western pop music of the day mixed with what, we were told, was Arab pop music of the day.  We were able to dance to both.

We had a wonderful evening.

Mansour had a beautiful wife.  He was around twenty-four years of age.  He would spend around £20 a week on the British football pools.  He never won anything.  Only a few years later, we were told that Mansour had died. We could not get any details.  He was a delightful fellow and a great host.

After a few weeks in Jordan, it was time for Janet and I to go home.  Mohammed Kamal had said to me when I mentioned returning home, “Do you have to go back this month ?”  Their hospitality knew no bounds.

We had been booked on a flight from Amman via Alia.  On the way to the airport, Mansour stopped the car and got out to go into a shop.  He came back with a parcel.  He gave the parcel to me and said it was a gift and a memento of Jordan.  We could not tell what it was.

In the airport, there was a mass of people.  We soon found out that there were no first-class seats and Mansour suggested that we come back another day.  I was becoming somewhat annoyed in that whoever made our booking would have known that there were no first-class seats on board.   I was determined that we should go home, so we flew economy class.

In fact, we were with the hoi polloi for seven terrible hours with a screaming baby near us.

At Heathrow, going through customs, I was obliged to declare the parcel.  I told them how we came by it and the parcel was opened.  It was a beautiful brass vase.  They waived us through.

During the following week, I wrote my report which came close to a diatribe.  I wrote thirteen thousand words or thirty two pages.  I sent it off to Mohammed Kamal and never heard another word until one Adnan Awamleh, asked me for a copy.  Adnan was a friend of Yasar Durra and I met him while I was in Jordan.  He was a producer at Jordan TV and was very keen on getting things moving there.

Adnan said that Kamal would do nothing about my report and that he, Adnan, might be able to interest people in high places.

It is obvious that someone, somewhere, did something because a few years later, Jordan TV was being hailed for its news presentation, it variety and accuracy.

Main photo by benoitbenoit.

Additional links: Jordan 1974 part 1 – A journey into the unknown

Jordan 1974 part 2 – tales of Lawrence

Jordan 1974 part 3 – visiting Al Jafr & Ma’an

Jordan 1974 part 4 – Lunch with the King

Jordan 1974 part 5 – a visit to Petra

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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