A casually calculated arrangment of canvas and washing lines blow in the relentless desert wind, unsettled people strewn across the blazing desert sands for as far as the eye can see. I quietly pick my way through the aging pavillion latticework, it’s populace looking on with interest as I make my way through this hallowed land. Red and white head-scarfs whip manically at shoulders, sandy eyes tracking me from beyond the gloom of tattered canvas. I’m vaguely aiming for the silhouette of a hill that I guess is the outskirts of Sweileh, but frankly I have no idea where I am.
Jordan in the late nineties was witness to an unfolding global weapons crisis across their eastern border, a crisis which critics agreed was touch and go whether the historically impartial buffer would remain unscathed. For a while there the cascading diplomatic shitshow in Iraq lead to an increase in ‘terror attacks’ in the downtown areas of Amman – mostly Republican Guard-shaped molotovs against the high cement walls of the American embassy. It wasn’t the safest place for a very white, very English teenager to wander alone. Yet, against all Daily Mail odds I met no resistance that day, or any other for that matter, except in the shape of a small group of children waving a dusty football at me shouting Beckham. It was this exposure to a humbling, educational, and accidental experience that still inspires me today.
Twenty-five years on and I’m still in the throws of 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. 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.