A hotch-potch arrangment of tents and bodies lay strewn across the desert sands as I quietly pick my way through the canvas latticework. I vaguely aim for the silhouette of a hill in the distance that I guess as the outskirts of Amman, Sweileh hopefully.
Row upon row of aging grey tents for as far as the eye can see, ragged, ripped and blowing in the relentless desert wind. The populace look on with confusion as I make my exodus through this hallowed land, red and white head-scarfs whipping manically at shoulders, sandy eyes following me from beyond the gloom of tattered canvas.
Jordan in the late nineties was witness to an unfolding weapons crisis across their eastern border, with most critics agreeing it was touch and go whether the historically impartial buffer would remain unscathed. With reports of daily terrorist attacks in the downtown city areas, mostly molotovs against the high cement walls of the American embassy, it wasn’t the safest place for a foreigner to march alone. Yet against all the odds I met no resistance that day, or any other day in similar circumstances for that matter, except for a small group of children shouting Beckham and waving a football at me. It was this exposure to a humbling and educational accidental experience that still inspires me today – it’s often those with the least who have the most to offer, in this case my safty.
Twenty-five years on and I’m still gingerly navigating cultural etiquette, now in eastern Africa. The archaeology was laid to rest and replaced long ago with my love of photography, opting to wield the rugged camera in place of the venerable trowel. Yet still I remain ensconced in the world of others. The aid programmes underway across Eastern Africa are both inspiring and heart breaking, and to photograph and record their stories is both a gift and burden unlike few other. I have the upmost respect for the NGO workers I have come to call friends and even more so for the Ethiopian people and famlies I’ve come to shadow in my time here so far. These stories are theirs.