03.12.2005A German Brass Band in the Middle EastTouring the Orient with a Trumpet and a NotepadAmman
Amman is a relatively young city, even more Western than Beirut, rather chic, many new buildings, traffic circles, and six times as expensive as Syria. We meet with the director of the Goethe Institute at the hotel. A humorous fellow, from Franconia, I believe, and who is married to a woman from Istanbul. She will be cooking for us tomorrow evening and that is an enticing prospect. Apparently, the head of the Jordanian secret service is his immediate neighbor and diagonally opposite lives the daughter of Saddam Hussein.
A young fellow from the hotel's security service befriends the band. "His name happens to be Jihad", Moll notes in his diary, "and he is very bright, open, and tells us all kinds of stories" The next day we take a trip to Mount Nebo with a Goethe Institute trainee and its driver. This is where the Jordanian plateau steeply falls in the direction of the Jordan Valley. It offers a breathtaking view over half of Palestine. To the left, the Dead Sea is glittering.
Monastery ruins on the site mark the grave of Moses. Supposedly, it is here that after 40 years of wandering in the desert, he stood together with the people of Israel, saw the Promised Land, and promptly died.
That evening we are given a private reception at the Goethe Institute director's home. He lives in the diplomatic quarter, full of tasteful, large modern buildings with brand new Toyota luxury jeeps and Mercedes parked in front.
On every other corner, a street is closed off and heavily armed police urge us to move on. His is also a new building, but slightly Jordanian in style, with brick arches and pillars on the balcony. The home doesn't appear ostentatious, but rather pleasantly spacious and it is tastefully furnished with old oriental furniture.
After we return to the hotel, Gellert, Marcellus, Afra, and myself throw the first proper room party of the tour. My colleagues have supplied themselves with cans of Amstel beer. I keep to Fanta and Pepsi. There was no wine to be found, and certainly not at the hotel.
A young fellow from the hotel's security service has a look in, since we left the door open. His name happens to be Jihad, and he is very bright, open, and tells us all kinds of stories. He finds Germany great, although he has never been there. He imagines it as country with a lot of work, much money, and easy living. We set him straight.
He promises to come to the concert tomorrow before his shift at the hotel begins. He has to work the night shift six times a week in order to finance his brother's studies.
The next day, I walk down the main street to have breakfast downtown. This is the old section of the city, which here means the 1930s. Some of the vegetable dealers at the local market sing little songs they probably made up themselves in praise of their wares.
The melodies are unremitting and repetitive, but sung well. The heat and the crowd start to get to me and at times I feel somewhat queasy, especially on corners where strange scents of stewed mutton bring me to the point of throwing up. But I am always relieved the next moment by the fragrant smell of cardamom or fresh fruit.
Back in the upper part of town. Freelance scribes sit in front of the courts and consular buildings at small camping tables equipped with sunshades. They properly fill out applications, forms, and any sort of paperwork for a fee, as well as offering legal advice from the sidewalk.
Later we take the bus to the concert location – King Hussein Gardens (almost all public places seem to be named after the former king). The newly built park grounds are surrounded by walls with formal entrance gates with gatehouses. Nothing here seems to be completed yet – the planted trees and bushes are much too small. The atmosphere is one of wasteland and Disney World – without the Disney.
The Amphitheater in which we are to play is massive. At least it has been completed, although it is baking hot in the brutal afternoon sun. There is not the slightest bit of shade here, so we disappear into the underground catacombs of the dressing rooms. The concert turns out to be very good.
Next stop: Jerusalem (press 7)