Monday, April 15 2024

Royal Jordanian Flight 753 landed on time at Queen Alia Airport in Amman.
As a fashion reporter I would be covering a story for two days, which would
allow me to get to know the pink city of the Nabataeans. Being Jordan a
country with different customs and language, I preferred to stay in a
5-star hotel, unlike my usual trips. I had a reservation at the Radisson.
Early the next morning, I would be picked up to go to Petra, my final
destination. I packed the suggested clothes: light colors, comfortable
shoes, a hat, and water. I answered and sent several messages. I charged my
cell phone and went downstairs for dinner.

It was 7:30 when the front desk told me that Karim was waiting for me
downstairs. I must admit that this young man with such clear eyes, long
eyelashes, keffiyeh in the wind and his white djellaba struck me. He must
have been about 23 years old. He spoke average English and French. I got
into his jeep where a couple of Australians were already waiting and off we
went.

Everything in Petra is dazzling. You can’t count it. After the Siq, the
treasury facade, and the theater, we continued to the Monastery. The heat
was unbearable. Karim warned us:

– It is 803 steps. We can go up on donkey or by walking…

The Australians preferred the donkey. And I started the climb with Karim,
walking, while the messages were ringing on my cell phone. I looked at them
and followed. Karim said to me:

– Madame, you have done well to walk up. This is like life. You can live it
thanks to someone else’s effort or you can do it with your own effort. This
way it is more difficult, but when you get to the top your joy will be a
diamond.

– How long will it take, Karim? – I asked him. I had received a call from
the Paris agency that I wanted to answer, but not in the middle of the
stairs.

– Madame, it’s like life… you never know how long it will take to find
true happiness. It will depend on your effort at each step.

I was not satisfied with his answer. We had walked for about 15 minutes and
I already wanted to turn back. There were some tourists coming down and I
asked them:

– How many steps to go? – They smiled but did not answer. I asked the same
question to another group, but they didn’t answer either. My cell phone
rang and rang.

– Madame, don’t insist on asking, it is forbidden to say it. And moreover,
I advise you to turn off your cell phone. Nothing will happen if you don’t
answer. Now just make an effort and continue climbing – and he held out his
hand to me.

Then I knew that I was not allowed to answer. Because it was like
announcing the arrival to the goal, to what we are looking for. And there
were still many steps to go…!!! Karim was right, that long staircase was
like life. We never know when what we ask God for will happen. Nor when we
will achieve peace and holiness: it is a daily struggle.

So, hand in hand with Karim, I continued to climb. And the Jordanian with
sky-colored eyes encouraged me by saying:

– Think Madame, that each step you climb is an accumulated reward: to be
more generous, to be patient with other people’s faults… and forgive
them, to become strong in the face of adversity, not to let ourselves be
tempted by wealth… – and then he continued – to love God and follow his
path, to be prudent but daring, to know when to be silent, to know how to
wait without despairing, to visit the sick… – and he continued listing
without haste while he did not let go of my hand.

As a person educated in a Christian home, I wanted to add something. I
remembered some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I added:

– Wisdom, intelligence… My cell phone rang again. I was so embarrassed
that I turned it off.

– Well, Madame, you start to understand.

For a long time we didn’t talk. We were just climbing. I thought I would
never get there. I had done step aerobics in the gym lots of times, and
also climbed the stairs in my building, but I had never had such a hard
time. However, as I climbed, I must confess that I was thrilled: I was
making it. After almost an hour of climbing stairs we were at the top. And
it was true what Karim had said: joy and calm flooded my soul. I
arrived…! And kneeling in front of the colossus of the Monastery we
prayed to God: he as a Muslim and I as a Christian.

We drank some juices, I took several pictures and the descent began. Karim
did not take my hand nor did we talk. When we reached the bottom he looked
at me and said:

– You can now turn on your cell phone, and answer messages, but you have to
know that the world hasn’t stopped…

In the evening, already at the Radisson, after taking a bath and organizing
some photos, I remembered the young Jordanian with the clear eyes. How much
he had taught me! The world was still going on, and I had managed not only
to go up, but also to put some things in their place: my cell phone was
turned off.

I returned to Paris. The next day, when I opened the newspaper, news
shocked me: “Three attacks against luxury hotels in Jordan, one of them the
Radisson in Amman, leaving 59 dead and more than 115 wounded”. In that
moment I heard the sound of a WhatsApp message.

– Madame, this is Karim. I am fine, and you have been saved.

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