Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sajida And The Bomb

There's a wall in our house slowly being covered with posters. We like neat poster art, and they're from places and artists that have amused us, art deco from Prague and communist era posters from Estonia rub shoulders with Swedish drinks adverts and monochrome calligraphies of the names of the dead from the 2005 Jordan bombings.

These are two of the images on that wall: stark and yet beautiful pieces I bought on the night when 'Into the Light' was staged, an art exhibition protesting and defying the 2005 Amman bombings. It took place the week after the atrocity.

My agency was one of the event's sponsors (I was, and am, terribly proud of that) and I flew in to attend it, feeling a little bit brave. My wee Britty snoot-cock at Al Qaeda. I can perhaps be forgiven: there were 16 guests in the Grand Hyatt at the time, most of the lobby was plaster-boarded off, behind the white plaster wall was still a scene of carnage. Bloody walls, smashed glass, wrecked furnishings and burned carpet.

There was a book on 'Jordan from the Air' in my room with a note from the GM. I thought it was to say, 'Thanks for being a brave wee bear and coming to our hotel even though it's a bomb site' and it was actually 'Here's to your 40th stay, Mr McNabb.'

Damn.

What was perhaps odder was that I had written the foreword to the book. It was sponsored by Jordan Telecom and they were a client. A couple of months before, I got a 'We've sponsored a book and we need a foreword from the Chairman for it' request. So I sat in that quiet room and read my own words written in another man's name in a book gifted to me by a bombed out hotel. I still have it. The book, not the hotel.

I was running an office in Amman at the time, based in the Grand Hyatt's Zara Centre. I didn't live there, but was travelling a couple of times each month and staying at the hotel. A lot of the hotel staff I knew from working on events there, having evening drinks in the lobby lounge or my morning reads of the Jordan Times over breakfast were killed in the bombing. Sixty people died in a terrorist incident that stunned what up until then had been - oddly enough - one of the safest and most stable countries in the region. A friend was standing by the reception desk, protected from the blast wave, and watched the glass doors of the hotel shatter and blow out.

For some reason, I wrote a bombing in an Amman hotel into Olives - A Violent Romance, which at the time I scribbled the scene seemed a little preposterous. The book was written before the Amman bombings...

So it's strange to see Sajida, the bomber that didn't quite go off, on my TV again. She always seemed a little confused, a little simple. Her pals detonated bomb belts packed with ball bearings, an evil payload that turned three hotels into massive games of deadly, high speed pinball. They were killed, she was caught.

ISIS (Daesh, whatever) want to swap her for a Jordanian pilot and, possibly, a Japanese guy. Jordan's said yes to the swap. A muddled, silly woman for a war hero. Deal.

But it's brought it all back for me, a strange time - one of fear for the safety of friends and a renewal of the feeling of grief for the senseless loss.

UPDATE: As we now know, this didn't end well. That confused, silly wee woman was hanged at dawn today (the 4th February) and we all watched (or in my case refused to watch) a pilot get burned to death in a killing that has pretty much united the world in revulsion.

2 comments:

Walid said...

So who will be released when the next Jordanian is imprisoned or kidnapped?

Alexander McNabb said...

Good question! But Sajida, imprisoned for 10 years now, was a pretty low value swap, IMHO...

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