Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Royal Automobile Club, Jordan

I tensed at the sound of heavy footsteps echoing down the corridor, the clatter of keys on steel. The door was opening to my shame. I felt sick. A surly policeman stood aside for a silver-haired man in a brown suit and heavy beige overcoat. He cast an incurious eye around the cell, brushing at his moustache with his fingers and wrinkling his nose.
   ‘Paul Stokes?’
   A smoker’s rumble. I nodded. ‘I am Ibrahim Dajani. You must come with me now.’ I stood, steadying myself against the wall. ‘What’s happening?’ He smiled. ‘You are being released. Come.’
Olives - page 9
Ibrahim Dajani is a character you’ll meet every day in Jordan, usually driving a Mercedes 500 on the way to the Dunes Club or perhaps to a meeting where nothing very much will be discussed at great length until, at the very end of the conversation, the point will be raised in an offhand way and dealt with casually whether it's a matter of mice or millions.  He’s very much of a generation, the men who grew up in the days of ‘the old King’, the remarkable Hussein bin Talal.

I’ve always been amazed at how many older Jordanians I’ve met were educated in the UK, but the two countries have long had strong ties – including the Sandhurst education of the king and his father. The British hand in the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan, as it was known, is evident from the country's borders. If you can see a dead straight border anywhere in the Middle East, you can depend on there being a Brit with a ruler and a pencil behind it.

Somewhere I’ve got a book called ‘Clangers’, a series of military bloops and mistakes. It tells of the legendary Sergeant Major Brand of Sandhurst, (where the NCOs are training second lieutenants and so have to call their pupils ‘sir’) accosting a highly amused King Hussein with “King Hussein, sir, of all the kings I’ve had pass through my hands you’re the horriblest of the lot, sir.”

King Hussein was, among other things, a radio ham and a car lover, which is why he gave his patronage to the RACJ, the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan back in 1953. On his death, his son Abdullah II took over the patronage of the club. The RAC Club is just the sort of place you’d find a well-off gentleman of Ibrahim’s generation and he is, of course, a member
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1 comment:

  1. Digging the background information about the book! Please keep it up!