It was snowing heavily in Alexandria, Virginia when I first wrote this. The moment reminded me of the time in the ’80s when I was in Jerusalem and Amman on government business at Christmas time. It had snowed heavily there as well, an unusual but not unknown event. People were trying to cope with the white, slippery stuff. In Amman I was staying at a very modern hotel with a large circular atrium that went way up into the distant heights surrounded by the balconies that led to bedrooms. The coffee shop was tiered around the well of the atrium. I think the hotel was the Marriott. I arrived at night. In the morning I went down to the lobby to meet the Jordanian Army driver who was to take me to army headquarters. An enormous, decorated Christmas tree filled the atrium. It must have been fifty feet tall. It looked a lot like the tree in the picture. After looking at it for a bit I went to the Qiyada. Among the people I met with there was His Highness, Field Marshal Zeid bin Shaker, Commander in Chief of the Jordanian Army (al-jaysh al-‘arabi). When we had finished our business, I told him what I had seen in the hotel. He said he must see it. We got into his car and drove back to the hotel so that he could.
The hotel had covered the tree with star shaped ornaments each inscribed with the name of one of its staff. There were stars with names of all kinds. There were; Marys, Gunters, Muhammads, Seans, Josephs, Ahmads, ‘Issas, Pierres, Ivans, Abdullahs, Muhsins, etc. There were hundreds of names.
The prince and I sat at the foot of the tree, drank coffee and chatted. He sent for the manager of the hotel to tell him what a good idea the tree was. His bedouin soldier driver sat a couple of tables away staring at the tree.
Zeid bin Shaker was one of nature’s noblemen. He was also an ‘Alid, a descendent of the Prophet, a Hashemite cousin of King Hussein, and a Muslim gentleman.
God rest you, merry gentleman. pl