Free tea sans the carpet-selling
Whilst the main reason to come to Madaba is for the Byzantine-era mosaics, it was wandering the market streets & quartiers populaire that I enjoyed most. The town centre seemed too shiny and new, rather fake, with its shops catering to the tourist crowd. Carpet anyone?
Walking back one evening, surrounded by a gaggle of young teenagers gabbling away in Arabic (and me trying to understand & reply), a mini-van pulled up. “There is a cup of tea waiting for you at my house” said the driver, his wife sat behind him.
Ten minutes later we entered a house in a southern district of the town, met the rest of the family, and enjoyed a delicious, sweet, milky, spiced local-style chai. Like most Arabic homes I have visited, they had a television blaring away, and when the Turkish pop-music came on, their seven year old son duly danced along for the benefit of everyone present.
The house had had several storeys added to it over the year as the family grew and finances permitted. He proclaimed the importance of having his family close to him; each of the storeys corresponded to one of his children and their future family. This addition of storeys meant that from the roof, there was “the best view of Madaba” with the church spires & mosques’ minarets rising up under the stars.
The Jordanians, it seems, are just as hospitable and keen to entertain foreigners as their Syrian counter-parts. And this time, there were no dodgy questions questions in the ride back.