“Hey, Maryah! It’s Ahmed! Going to Irbid? You need a ride?” Shifting his attention to the guy riding shotgun, he jerked his thumb towards the back and switched to Arabic. “Hey, bro, get in the back.”
“No, no,” I said, also in Arabic, watching the friend jump in the back with the other twenty-something guys. Shebaab is the Arabic word for young single men like them, and when we Peace Corps Volunteers said shebaab, it was not often complimentary. “That’s all right. I’ll wait for a bus. It won’t be long. They come by all the time.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Ahmed, and I’m pretty sure he did, “but it’s not like that. These are my boys. They’ll be respectful. Just pretend they’re English blokes. Come on.” He reached across the console and bucket seat to push open the front passenger door. “Just get in.”
So I did. After all, I knew practically his entire extended family. Not only did they have a stellar reputation in two villages, but they thought very highly of me.
The boys were raucous chain smokers with a lifetime of shared inside jokes, clearly excited to have Ahmed home again. They made polite conversation about who I was, how I knew Ahmed, and what I was doing in Jordan. Then they lost interest. While they carried on in Arabic in the back, Ahmed and I chatted in English in the front.